The Pleasures of Solitude by John Cheever
The text under analysis is “The Pleasures of Solitude” by John Cheever. Before getting down to a close reading, the reader should bear in mind the fact that the author is a keen observer and a good psychologist; thus, shaping their understanding of the short story one should take that fact into account so as not to miss the subtleties of the characters’ portrayals and the essence of the story itself. The very first thing that the reader comes across is the title of the story that, as one can presume, performs the function of foreshadowing, at least, of two main points. First of all, the title hints that the story might be about loneliness, the state of complete alienation, and, secondly, due to the case of oxymoron “pleasures of solitude” (how can one be happy when being lonely? or what kinds of entertainment can one find when there is no one to share them with? are the questions that one can ask in order to see the practical incongruity of the expression), there might be a paradoxical situation in the story when it seems better to accept the state of loneliness than to succumb to other people’s pressure and, thus, lose one’s unique identity though solitude itself, as far as we know, possesses destructive power in its nature. Not earlier does one read till the end than all these presuppositions can only be proved or rejected. In the framework of its plot structure the story can be relatively divided into 3 main parts: exposition, climax and denouement – with intermediate parts in-between. Unlike a traditional plot division, there is no exposition in its strict sense with a detailed description of the place, time and characters. All the necessary preliminary information is given within a 2-line sentence that immediately puts the reader in the thick of the events. Developing such a brief exposition, the author underlines its insufficiency and reinforces the importance of the further events which are to depict the nature of the characters’ personality. From the very last event-phrase in the opening part start complications of the story that gradually lead to the point of greatest intense – climax with its immediate resolution. The span of the rising actions embraces several pages of the story. Such great attention attributed to complications explains their significance in describing characters’ actions for the reader to assess. The very last paragraph of the story represents climax with its denouement that serve to revile blatant truth of the characters, the dramatic irony of the event as a whole and leave the reader with food for thoughts. Another important question to answer in the framework of any close reading is “what kind of narrative method does the author employ?”, since it predetermines to what extent the information given in the story can be reliable. The short story under the analysis is written in third-person narrative with an observer-author. In this case the story is presented as a series of scenes, narrated by an onlooker who does not interfere for any comments or reflections of these events. The observer-author lets the reader see, hear and judge the characters and their actions for himself, stimulating the reader to form his own impression and make his own judgments. The story is considered to have a pictorial form, when the observer-author pictures the scenes, but he tells of what anyone might see and hear in his position without entering into the minds of any of the characters, without analyzing their motives. As everybody knows, practically no story can exist without characters. No matter whether it is a human being, an abstract thing or a supernatural power, but there should be someone or something at the core of the reader’s attention since this “someone” or “something” is a means of delivering the massage of the story, a means of conveying its innate thoughts and ideas to the reader. As far as “The Pleasures of Solitude” is concerned, on its...
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