Like Father, Not Like Son

A Disenchanting Reunion

John Cheever, an American born writer from Massachusetts, was among the many who struggled during the Great Depression of the 1930’s. At 17 years of age, Cheever published one of his very first works, known as “Expelled.” After travelling through Europe with his brother, Cheever eventually came back to America and settled in New York, where he got married and worked as a writer and editor for numerous movies and newspaper companies (“John Cheever,” Encylopedia.com). In 1962, Cheever’s highly appraised short story “Reunion” was first published in The New Yorker.

“Reunion,”  is voiced in Richard Ford’s podcast, and tells the story about a young boy named Charlie who reconnects with his father at a train station in New York, after three years apart from each other. Due to time constraints, Charlie and his father decide to find a place to dine near Charlie’s train stop. By associating with each other, Charlie quickly discovers the type of man his father is, and learns the reason they have spent so many years apart from one another.  

By modelling themes of disappointment and rudeness throughout the story, Cheever successfully mocks the idea that reconnecting with a loved one will result in a positive or pleasurable outcome. From the beginning of the story, Charlie is excited to meet with his father and restore their relationship. After initially meeting his father, Charlie states “I wished that we could be photographed. I wanted some record of our having been together” (Cheever, 45).  However, Charlie soon realizes that his father is not the man he expected him to be, as Charlie does not get much of a chance to speak and actually connect with his father. The father does most of the conversing throughout the story, often yelling at waiters rather than speaking with his son. Speaking impolitely and in an ill-mannered fashion also portrays that the father is a jerk and does not care much for other human beings, which could be the reason why he had avoided seeing his son for quite a few years.  

Furthermore, alcoholism plays a role in the rudeness depicted by Charlie’s father. Sitting down and having a drink with another person usually symbolizes people connecting with one another, but in “Reunion,” alcoholism disconnects Charlie from his father, leading him to be dissatisfied with the time they spent together. Interestingly, Charlie’s dad’s name is not revealed by Cheever at any point. Since the story is told in Charlie’s point of view, the father remaining nameless could represent Charlie’s opinion regarding his father, as one who is no longer an important figure in his life.

Listening to Richard Ford tell the story “Reunion,” was a different and unique way of learning and understanding a work of literature. Though many people prefer the traditional method of having a book in their hand and reading the actual text, listening to the story as a podcast helps add emotion and comprehension that may often be missed or overlooked while simply reading a book. Additionally, listening through the podcast can help one focus and not have one’s mind wander elsewhere, which may happen to someone when they are reading a text that they may find difficult to engage with.

Works Cited

Cheever, John. “Reunion.” The New Yorker, 27 Oct. 1962: 45. Print.

“John Cheever.” Encyclopedia of World Biography. Encyclopedia.com, n.d. Web. 02 Feb. 2017. http://www.encyclopedia.com/people/literature-and-arts/american-literature-biographies/john-cheever

“Richard Ford and Deborah Treisman read John Cheever.” The New Yorker Fiction Podcast from Condé Nast Publications, 10 May 2016, http://www.newyorker.com/podcast/fiction/ reunions

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Author: ssingara

I am a first year university student at Simon Fraser University in the Faculty of Business.

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