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Distinguishing Characteristics on the Writings of Cheever and Joyce James Joyce and John Cheever were two influential writers of the late 1800 's and early 1900 's. James Joyce was an Irish author that wrote various short stories, novels, and poems. In Dubliners, he is noted for his epiphanies and objective correlatives. John Cheever, is an American short-story writer and novelist whose work is known for his portrayals of the average middle-class American. His works include ironic comedies and the displaying of his imagination.
Both writers are duly noted for their short stories. Their unique styles of writings are respectably different to a point. They are similar in the way they display their descriptions, and differ in the way they present the outcome of their story. In the short stories of James Joyce, one is surely to notice his direct and sharp epiphanies.
In the story "An Encounter", two schoolboys of 11 or 12, decided to skip school. There was a third but he bailed. They arranged to go along the Wharf Road until they came to the ships. Then they were to cross with the ferryboat and walk out to see the Pigeon House. When they reached the quay, the boy narrating the story, looked amongst the sailors by the Norwegian Vessel to see if any of them had green eyes, " I came back and examined the foreign sailors to see had any of them green eyes for I had some confused notion. " (p. 23). He had a great interest in people with green eyes, for he saw them as erotic, and thought they possessed great auras.
He was disappointed to find none. The boys continued on their walk, reaching the Pigeon House, when greeted by an old man. The way he talked and the things he talked about scared the boys, and therefore led them to conclude that he was just a "queer" old man. While the man was talking he began to get this great sentimentality in his voice and the one boy looked up at him, "As I did so I met the gaze of a pair of bottle-green eyes peering at me from under a twitching forehead" (p. 27). The epiphany shown here is rather drastic, for the boy has a loss of innocence.
He always had the perceived notion that men with green eyes were rather amazing. This old man disproved his theory and led the boy to disappointment. Epiphanies like these make the reader go "oh"ah" as they read on. A noticeable factor in Joyce's works, are his descriptions of Dublin and its characters.
In A Little Cloud, Little Chandler gives great descriptions of the things he sees. By doing so, we are exposed to vast imagery that helps us in getting the mood of the story, "He turned often from his tiresome writing to gaze out of the office window. The glow of a late autumn sunset covered the grass plots and walks. It cast a shower of kindly golden dust on the untidy nurses and decrepit old men who drowsed on the benches" (p. 71). This particular scene gives a mood of the story right away.
Following this observation he shows us the condition of the character, "A gentle melancholy took possession of him" (p. 71). This disposition presented puts you in the character's frame of mind, which Joyce did by exposing us to the character's feelings with a sense of reality. John Cheever's writings are described, often through fantasy and ironic comedy, the life, manners, and morals of middle-class, suburban America. Cheever's work often portrays individuals who yearn for self-expression within a society whose values make it difficult to achieve this freedom.
A chief example of his ironic comedies is O Youth and Beauty. Cash Bentley is the main character, whose yearning for his youth and self expression. His yearning leads to the flaunting of his track skills, by hurdling furniture during parties. This gives him a chance to show the youth still in him.
During one of his performances he injures himself and is very disappointed. Cash recovers and begins his habit once again. One night he begins moving the furniture in his house and tells his wife to fire the pistol for him to begin. While telling her about the safety on the gun, his impatience drove him to begin his hurdling before she figured it out. "He hurdled the sofa anyhow. The pistol went off and Louise got him in midair. She shot him dead" (p. 218).
The irony in this is great because his wife was very against violence. When giving her children Life magazines, she would scan the articles and cut out any "mayhem, disaster, and violent death" shown in them. This story was actually funny to some of us and it's clearly seen why it's an ironic comedy. Cheever's descriptions like Joyce's can include objective correlatives, although not to the extreme of which Joyce uses.
For example, in The Enormous Radio, Cheever's gives the description of one main character in the story, "He wore his graying hair cut very short, he dressed in the kind of clothes his class had worn at Andover, and his manner, was earnest, vehement, and intentionally nave" (p. 33). This like Joyce gives you a good idea about the character but also includes a significant point in the personality of the character. The fact that the character, Jim Westcott, is intentionally nave is shown specifically in the story. He chooses to ignore his financial and family problems, and does so by telling his wife that everything is alright, and that their family is nothing like the ones she hears on the radio.
Another big point of description Cheever always points out is how average his characters are. Jim and Irene Westcott, previously mentioned, are described with this tone, "Jim and Irene Westcott were the kind of people who seem to strike that satisfactory average of income, endeavor, and respectability that is reached by the statistical reports in college alumni bulletins" (p. 33). He always goes into detail of how average they are by presenting a statistic, "went to the theatre, on an average of 10. 3 times a year" (p. 33). He does this only to go on and give the prime examples of the lives and general behaviors of the average American and their morals. When looking at these two writers we obviously see unique writing styles, for they are both different. They use the same skills; description, originality, and imagination, and create two different types of writing styles.
Cheever used his imagination and created characters which may already exist in the world, for they are average. Joyce also used his imagination to collaborate on a place, which he already knew, Dublin. The main character usually had some representation of himself that showed his stream of consciousness. Both writers are similar in that they always have concrete conclusions to their stories, but differ in the way in which they show them.
Joyce shocks us with his epiphanies and Cheever does the same with his ironies. The ways in which they present their denouements are different and make for the differences in their writings. Bibliography:
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