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Transcript of Five-Forty-Eight
By John Cheever
An apathetic business man, Mr. Blake, is leaving his workplace when he notices a woman he knows, Mrs. Dent, is waiting for him
He enters a bar on his way home to evade her, and reminisces about a past experience. He hired Mrs. Dent as a secretary, and one late night they went to her apartment and slept together.
However, Mr. Blake fires her the following day and cuts off all contact with her
The memory ends. Mr. Blake leaves the bar and goes on the five-forty-eight train to get home, but Ms. Dent sit next to him.
Ms. Dent reveals a firearm and coerces Mr. Blake to get off the train at the Shady Hill stop.
She takes him to an abandoned field and tells him to put his face in the dirt, and then simply walks away.
Mr. Blake, surprised by his survival, walks home unchanged.
Imagery & Symbolism
1. Would you have fired Miss Dent???
2. If you were Miss Dent, you would have killed Blake???
3. Is revenge ever justified???
The entire story is driven by suspense.
In the beginning, the author makes it clear that Mr. Blake knows the woman who is following him, but their relationship is unknown until he reminisces while at the bar.
When Mr. Blake is held at gunpoint by Ms. Dent, suspense is strongly built by Ms. Dent's unpredictable and seemingly insane behavior. When they are in Shady Hill and she commands him to kneel and put his face in the dirt, the reader definitely thinks she will shoot him.
Although the story is recounted in the viewpoint of Mr. Blake, the story is told in a way that makes the reader side with Ms. Dent.
Mr. Blake is a critical, apathetic person while Ms. Dent is searching for a genuine love connection throughout the story.
Ms. Dent is greatly affected by Mr. Blake's actions (hence her name being Ms. Dent, signifying a "dented" human being), and her brutal actions at the end are a redemption from his influence on her life.
Blake is portrayed as a completely cruel and selfish individual.
He distances himself from everyone in his life.
"He had marked them as rich, poor, brilliant or dull, neighbors or strangers…” (Cheever 84).
The story takes place on a rainy day in New York City during the 1950's
The author chose this setting because it evokes gloom and foreshadows the bad events to come.
The business world of the 1950's was cut-throat and overbearing, explaining why businessmen like Mr. Blake were so apathetic and insensible to others.
Mr. Blake's appearance is similar to the gloomy setting, shown by the quote,
"His raincoat was the pale buff color of a mushroom. His hat was dark brown; so was his suit...there was a scrupulous lack of color in his clothing" (Cheever 82).
When Mr. Blake is held captive in the train and is showing evident signs of distress, the fact that no one notices shows that others shared his personality.
Imagery is used to describe Miss Dent, Miss Dent's apartment, and when Blake is held at gunpoint
"He saw a dark woman - in her twenties, perhaps - who was slender and shy...figure was not much, one of her stockings was crooked, but her voice was soft and he had been willing to try her out..." (#80-81)
Miss Dent's Name: Miss Dent is a damaged individual and her name represents her damaged state
Miss Dent's Handwriting: Symbolizes Miss Dent's damaged mental state
The Volcano in Miss Dent's Dream: Symbolizes the build up of anger within Miss Dent
The Rose: Symbolizes an emotional attachment; Blake did not have an emotional attachment with anyone, and throws away the rose
"I have always had a gift for dreams. I dreamed on Tuesday of a volcano erupting with blood..." (#86)
The structure was important in adding suspense to the story
The symbols were important in adding another layer to the characters
John Cheever often writes about sin and redemption
From the story, the reader is able to learn that redemption is always possible in some way, and that to move on in your life, you must seek redemption
Very shy and overly sensitive
damaged goods - "Ms.
Desires a human connection
"Oh I’m better than you, and I shouldn't waste my time or spoil my life like this” (Cheever 89).
"Redemption allows us to move on"
Ms. Dent believes that she has committed a terrible mistake which leaves her traumatized and broken.
"Sometimes I think you’re the only obstacle between me and my happiness…"(Cheever 87).
She gets her redemption and closure at Shady Hill.
She does what Blake did to her: She forgets him completely.
She regains a portion of her "sanity"
“Now I feel better… Now I can wash my hands of you, I can was my hands of all of this…” (Cheever 89).
Point of View
The point of view is 3rd person limited
The reader is aware of what Blake thinks of others
"He felt too contented and warm and sleepy to worry much about her tears..." (#81)
If the story were in 1st person, with Blake as the narrator, he would most likely not write how he actually feels
3rd person limited allows for an unabridged story with no bias