Metamorphoses Summary (John Cheever)

John Cheever


(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

“Metamorphoses” consists of four related sketches. In the first, Larry Actaeon is a partner in the New York investment-banking firm of Lothard and Williams. One day he charges into Lothard’s office to find Lothard and another partner, the stunningly beautiful Mrs. Vuiton, naked. From that point, “Some nameless doom seemed to threaten his welfare.” Going into a bar to kill time before a directors’ dinner meeting, he is almost attacked by a dachshund belonging to one of the regular customers. The bartender tells him that the dog is there every day but has never so much as barked at anyone. Arriving at the apartment house where the meeting is to be held, Actaeon is mistaken for a delivery person by the elevator operator. At the dinner meeting, no one seems to notice this boisterous, energetic man who is accustomed to commanding attention. The conductor on Actaeon’s train home thinks that he recognizes the banker as a waiter. Arriving home, Actaeon is set on and apparently killed by his dogs.

Orville Betman, in the second sketch, is a singer in television commercials: “Whatever he praised in song—shoe polish, toothpaste, floor wax—hundreds and thousands of men and women would find his praise irresistible. Even little children heeded his voice.” Betman falls in love with Victoria Heatherstone the first time he sees her, and he tells her that he wants to marry her. She eventually succumbs to his pursuit of her but cannot marry him because she thinks that her invalid father, an Anthony Trollope scholar, will die if she leaves him. When the old man has a stroke, is told by his physician to...

(The entire section is 662 words.)