The Country Husband
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We don’t see things as they are, we see them as we are”. This quote relates to the short story “The Country Husband” by John Cheever. As the quote states it is very obscure to not become biased towards certain views. John Cheever’s attitude toward Shady Hill is candid. He reveals the community by explaining the suburbs, the residents, and their social status. Through this, the reader recognizes that everything is not what it appears to the naked eye.
Cheever’s attitude toward Shady Hill is reflected through the setting and the behavior of its inhabitants. On the surface Shady Hill is the “ideal” neighborhood. It is upper- middle class suburbia in NYC during the 1950’s. The inhabitants are well mannered and educated. They can only associate with a restricted number of people who are in the norm. The key factor throughout the story is that social functions are vital. It dictates whether their status is either prospers declines. Every individual has a house with a white picket fence and a pet playing together with the children on the lawn. All in the neighborhood are friends, altogether attend parties every night, and every single one the kids are friends who attend the same school. Neighbors and particularly Julia Weed, help to prove that social status is crucial to the town. “She went through her morning mail with real anxiety, looking for invitations, and she usually found some, but she was insatiable and if she had gone out seven nights a week, it would not have cured her of a reflective look…The look of someone who hears distant music-for she would always suppose there was a more brilliant party somewhere else”.
This is a crucial example of how Julia Weed had to be at the pinnacle of her social status otherwise she would be despondent. However, the author purposely shows that Julia has achieved this status with great burden. “I’ve worked hard for the social position we enjoy in this place, and I won’t stand by and see you wreck it. You must have understood when you settled here that you couldn’t expect to live like a bear in a cave.” The author is exceptionally sympathetic with the community in that he exposes the different opinions of the town. Mrs. Wrightson who is devoted to the town is “the one who decides who goes to the assemblies.” She is someone who is envied by many for her power in other people lives. On the other hand there are individuals who detest living in the town such as Thomas Clayton. “What seems to me to be really wrong with Shady Hill is that it doesn’t have any future… I don’t think that’s healthy.” The author succeeds in showing the different emotions of the inhabitants living in suburbia.
Cheever reveals his own biases toward the town and its lifestyle in a very delicate manner. In my opinion, I believe he shows this through the diversity of the people. Beginning through an individual who has a brief section in the short story. This is Mr. Nixon who twice in the story is found screaming “Avaunt and quit my sight” to the squirrels in his bird-feeding station. He does not play a significant role in the direction of the story but comes to show how relentless acts are therefore required to fit the everyday norm. Another character who supplements to the biases of the town is Gertrude. She was an individual who stuck out like a sore thumb in the town of Shady Hill. Many believed she was the child of a bitterly divided family, where drunken quarrels were the rule. When in actuality Gertrude was stay because of her desire to be rebellious against her mother. She showed how even in the ideal town there were those who were against the odds. The last party is Jupiter the dog, who is one of the principal characters. Jupiter doesn’t seem to belong in the town of Shady Hill at all.
His behavior is one of a troublemaker, and brings trouble to anyone, breaking rose gardens, digging through trash and stealing clothes off neighbors clotheslines. The central purpose of having Jupiter in the story is symbolize what Francis really wants to be. Jupiter does what he pleases and has no desire to conform to the principles of Shady Hill. While on the other hand, Francis has to conform to the standards of Shady Hill and put his desires into woodworking. One character who truly reflects Cheever’s perspective is Clayton Thomas. He disliked Shady Hill, making him the only character in the story was true to his himself. Unlike any of the other characters he wanted to leave Shady Hill in order to make it on his own with the company of Anne Murchison.
Clayton was alienated from the community of Shady Hill, because he was the only individual in the town who did not have a father since he was killed in WWII. “The Thomas were the only family that lacked a piece; all the other marriages were intact and productive.” Cheever made Clayton be seen as an individual who was maturing and was realizing that he had to overcome his obstacles sooner or later. Clayton Thomas wanted “to be able to dream big dreams about the future. I think people ought to be able to dream great dreams.” In conclusion, as the quote states “We don’t see things as they are, we see them as we are” the individuals in the story prove to make it accurate. In the short story “The Country Husband” by John Cheever there are several individuals who demonstrated that Shady Hill was not the “ideal” community that it appeared to be. John Cheever revealed that the truth is the only path to follow. As exposed in various ways throughout the short story, the truth comes back to haunt you.