A craft-based essay on John Cheever's short story, "O City of Broken Dreams" as it appears in "The Granta Book of the American Short Story".

Essay by doom-nationUniversity, Bachelor'sA-, November 2006

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I knew what to expect when I read the title and first two paragraphs of "O City of Broken Dreams." It's a nicely constructed story but I feel like I've read it before, though I haven't. I wasn't expecting Mama Finelli to show up at the end, but she seemed almost superfluous, as Evart's story is destined to be at least somewhat tragic from the title onward. Maybe its just Cheever's tone, but it seems like he doesn't want the reader to sympathize fully with gullible ol' Evarts' plight--he seems more like a sketch than a fully realized character. I think the story might have worked better were it told from Alice's point of view: she has as much potential for change, and is just as affected by the outcome of their precarious situation, as her husband.

All the characters but Alice and Mildred-Rose are like variations on a facetious theme.

From Bitsey's somehow threatening-yet-harmless chatter, Madge Beatty's secret debt, Leavitt's "wormy" office, Farley's butler's bitching, Hewitt's lying about the script, Evarts' own realization of "love" for Susan Hewitt, to Mama Finelli's dollar-sign eyes driving her to sue Evarts; there is a deliberate playing up of the disingenuous nature of everyone involved in show business.

I think Evarts' change is his realization of things not being as they seem, including his own relationship with Alice. I also think he ends the story a wiser character because of this realization, which I guess qualifies it as a 'good' piece of fiction, which follows the check-mark conflict thing perfectly.