The five-forty-eight

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The Five-Forty-Eight

John Cheever was an award winning American author of the twentieth century.

Cheever's short story entitled "The Five-Forty-Eight" portrays a struggle of good vs. evil. In Cheever's short story, he examines the themes of sin, deception, and redemption, as the reader sees the story of a young woman (good) seeking revenge for the evil done to her. Sin is connected with evil in many ways throughout the story. Deception is obvious throughout the different characters of this tale. Although some characters do not play a large role in the story, they all act together to create the bigger picture. Redemption is usually the last step in a story that contains some sort of evil. It epitomizes the main point of the story, which is the conquering of good versus evil. In "The Five-Forty-Eight", Cheever suggests that there are always consequences to evil actions.

The Webster's dictionary defines evil as "that which is morally wrong." Sin is often connected to evil, as Cheever explores in this story. Although sin is something apparent in this story, it is something that is also present everywhere. Blake has some distinct morality issues. He is self-absorbed, manipulative, and shallow and has isolated himself from his friends and family. Blake sacrifices his relationships to give into his sexual desires, which is our first indication of his evil streak. He sleeps with Mrs. Dent, his secretary, and proceeds to fire her. His sin is apparent in that he does not think twice about letting her go. The only reason he does this is to make himself more comfortable. He cares about no one but himself. He is so incredibly shallow and self-involved that he married his wife for her beauty alone; he has no attraction to her in her old age. He does not even pretend to love his wife. This is stated clearly when he says "the physical charms that had been her only attraction were gone". (Cheever) Sin is something present in every aspect of life.

Deception is something that affects almost every character in the story. If it were not present, then sin would have no foundation. It is all connected. In one of the flashbacks of the story, Blake remembers his many indiscretions with ease. Every one of these moments where he so easily cheated signify his sin, combining it with deception. Blake's wife is slightly deceived into thinking that anything she says to her husband will stop him from treating her so poorly. When he tells her he will not talk to her for two weeks, she cries and begs him to reconsider. He is in no way phased by her clamorous pleas. Miss Dent is deceived into thinking that Blake might actually care about her. Deception aids Blake in his conquests of the previous women he has cheated with, as well as with Miss Dent. Blake deceives even himself into believing that Miss Dent does not have a problem. He convinces himself that she is just a shy woman with some insecurities. This shows his true heart. He would rather avoid the obvious so as to get his way in the end.

As in many of Cheever's stories, depicting the struggle of good over evil, one character saves the day. Miss Dent is a device in Cheever's story which refuses "to acknowledge the finality of evil". She sets out to change Blake and make him human, instead of evil. Her mission is completed as soon as Blake "stretched out on the ground weeping". All she wanted was for him to feel the pain and sorrow which he had inflicted on her through his immoral actions. Mrs. Dent walked away before she killed him, which again shows how genuine she was in her attempt to conquer evil, and not kill. She was successful in conquering evil. The good prevailed. Cheever personified good and evil in "The Five-Forty-Eight" to encourage us to understand the relationship. Cheever's preoccupation with sin and deception is played out in the story. Blake shows his redemption by first feeling a sense of regret. Without regret, redemption is not possible, because the character must actually feel some sort of sadness over what is occurring.

Cheever's story is a classic tale of good versus evil. Sin is connected to evil, and therefore must be eradicated in some way. Deception is connected to the evil in the story "The Five-Forty-Eight". Without deception being involved in the story, sin would have no place. All the evil is somehow connected. Sin is portrayed through the evil of Blake's character and his actions. Deception is shown throughout the whole story because every character maintains a deceptive persona. The story is ended with redemption somewhat portrayed through Blake's character. He regrets what he has done, although he knows he cannot do anything about it all now. Regret is really all he can do. It is as far as he can go for the moment. Miss Dent got what she wanted. She now has a peace whereas before all she had was uneasiness and sadness. Cheever very clearly proves that all evil actions have consequences. With Blake, his consequence did not go as far as death, but sadly, that is not always the case.

  1. Bloom, Harold. "GEORGE W. HUNT ON THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN VILLAINY AND FORGETFULNESS." John Cheever. By George W. Hunt. Philadelphia: Chelsea House, 2003. 59-60. Galileo. Web.
  2. Cheever, John. "The Five-Forty-Eight." 317-25. Print