”Reunion” is a short story, written by John Cheever. John William Cheever was an American short story writer and novelist, who lived 70 years from May 27, 1912 to June 18, 1982. He is known worldwide as “the Chekhov of the suburbs” and for his many short stories and novels.1
The short story “Reunion”, which I want to analyse and interpret, was originally published in in 1962 in The New Yorker.2 The text is a short act with few persons, the environment is non-detailed and the story have one conflict, which all are characterising a traditional short story.
The story is about a boy named Charlie, who is traveling from his grandmother’s in Adirondacks to a cottage on the Cape and is going to be between trains for an hour and a half in New York. He grabs the opportunity to visit his father, who he had not seen since his mother divorced him three years ago. As Charlie arrives to the Grand Central Station, he meets his missing father, and together they walked on to a nearby restaurant.
Charlie was happy to finally see his father, and as they walked together, Charlie proudly wanted the whole world to see them. At the restaurant the father could not behave himself because of his dissatisfaction with the service, and they ended up leaving to eat at another restaurant. At the second restaurant they ordered a drink and where having a good time with each other, but the good time ended early, once again because of the fathers bad behaviour. This time he was unsatisfied with the waiter, who did not wanted to give Charlie another drink, because of his age. They went to another restaurant again, where the father also started arguing with the waiter. They walked into the fourth restaurant and the same happened. All the restaurant trouble had made the time pass, and Charlie had to catch his train without a successfully restaurant visit. The father wanted to give Charlie a paper to read in the train, and at their way back to the station, they stopped by a newsstand. The father began discussing with the man at the newsstand, and Charlie ended up saying goodbye to his father to leave the station on the train, unhappy, disappointed and without any food or paper.
The main characters in the story are Charlie and his father. Charlie is a boy, who wishes to have a father to look up to and be proud of, but got the complete opposite. Charlie is under 21, because he cannot be served alcoholic drinks in the restaurant. From what Charlie tells in the beginning, we know that the father is big and good-looking. I think of him as a stressed businessman with too many things going on at the same time and maybe a little abuse of alcohol. The reason to my thoughts is, that his wife divorced him, he have not had time to see his son since, his secretary is answering his messages and he cannot behave himself in the restaurants.
In the story there is a development between the father and Charlie. To begin with their relationship is good and they are both happy to see each other. But as the father’s behaviour is getting worse throughout the story, Charlie begins to realise, that he feels disappointed and unhappy about his father and his behaviour. This negative development is clearly shown at the end of the story, where Charlie ends up leaving his father with an empty feeling.
The text is easy to read and it is easy to understand the language. The narrator is Charlie, and he tells the story from his own point of view. The story also tells about Charlie’s thoughts and feelings, for example his excitement and happiness about seeing his father in the beginning. The writer is also using direct speeches between the father and the different waiters and Charlie to show and underpin the father’s bad behaviour.
The story takes place in New York, USA and the action takes place on the Grand Central Station, the 4 restaurants, the streets they are walking trough and the newsstand. The story is, like I said earlier, from 1962, but I think, that it is timeless, because it is a story, which could have happened today as well. I would even say, that the story fits 2013 better than 1962, because it is more normal and frequent to be divorced and have a busy and stressed life. There are some different themes appearing in the story. One of the themes is stress. It is clear, that the father is very stressed about something. It could be his failed marriage, his job or just his insecurity about not being a good enough father to Charlie.
That leads us to the next theme; bad parenting. Charlie has not seen his father since the divorce three years ago, and that is of course not good parenting by neither of the parents. It is of course the father’s problem, but the mother could maybe also have had a bad influence in the situation.
I think the two themes reminds a lot of each other. In this story stress leads to bad parenting. The father’s own life is stressed, and that is making his behaviour to other people bad. His bad behaviour to other people is making him a bad parent, because Charlie obviously does not like being with his father, when he acts in that way.
With these two themes, the main theme and the message of the story appears. I think, that John Cheever wants to remind people of the importance of treating other people in the same way, that you treat your nearest friends and family. Because in the story it is the father’s bad treatment of other people that courses his bad relationship to his own son. That leads to the message: no matter how busy and stressed you are, always remember to treat other people in the same way, that you will treat your own family, or else you will loose the ones you care about.
“Reunion” and “Living with strangers” have a lot of the same aspects. “Living with strangers” has a narrator, who describes the life in New York, where strangers does not care about you and are living their own stressed life. The narrator is from another culture, a smaller city, where it is normal to talk and care about other people, and she does not like the way the people of New York treats each other. The narrator’s situation is very similar to the narrator in “Reunion”, Charlie, who does not like his father’s behaviour.