In John Cheever’s short story, “The Enormous Radio,” the enormous radio shows how technology can have a negative impact on the average American family. Just like so many other American families, Jim and Irene Westcott are described as “the kind of people who seem to strike that satisfactory average of income, endeavor, and respectability” (Cheever 228). With their old radio no longer working, Jim buys a new one that picks up conversations of the residence in the apartments around them. Their seemingly comfortable life is turned around by the intrusion of this new radio.
The Westcotts are in many ways average. They had hopes and dreams that they believed were within their reach. Jim and Irene Westcott appear to be happy and content with their life. They have two children that Irene takes to the park and plays in the nursery with often. Irene cares very much about how she is viewed by other people. She is a proud lady and she chooses her “furnishings and colors as carefully as she chose her clothes” (Cheever 229). Jim Westcott cared deeply about how his wife Irene felt. “I wanted to make you happy” (Cheever 234), was what Jim said to his wife about buying the radio. Ironically the technology of this particular radio had the opposite effect.
Even in the 1940’s technology was advancing and beginning to take over the average American family. Take the Westcotts for example, “They spent a great deal of time listening to music on the radio” (Cheever 229). Although they only were a middle class family, with a middle class income, they felt they had to have a radio to enjoy life. Jim even said that the $400 he spent on the new radio was “a good deal more than I could afford” (Cheever 235). Regardless of the time and money the radio took away from the Westcotts they still wanted their music.
Unfortunately, the Westcotts, like many other Americans got more than they bargained for once they began to hear the conversations of their neighbors on the radio.