This study guide will help you analyze the short story “Reunion” by John Cheever (1962). You can also find a summary of the text, as well as inspiration for interpreting it and putting it into perspective

John Cheever (1912-1982) was an American novelist and short-story writer. His fiction often explores the duality of human nature and his characters’ inner conflicts. The short story “Reunion” was initially published in The New Yorker, and later in the collection The Stories of John Cheever (1978). Cheever, who has dealt with alcoholism for a great part of his life, explores this problem in “Reunion”. 

Excerpt from the study guide:

Charlie’s father is also an angry man who finds it hard to control his impulses. He constantly argues with waiters and restaurant staff, which makes him change venues four times. He is also a show-off, which is exposed when he rudely speaks Italian: “ ‘Oh, come off it,’ my father said. ‘You understand Italian, and you know damned well you do. Vogliamo due cocktail americani. Subito.’ ” (p. 2, ll. 64-65). Moreover, he is impolite. Although he uses polite expressions like “per favore” (p. 2, l. 61) and “kind sir” (p. 2, l. 78), he does it ironically and arrogantly, to show off his status and contempt for people he considers below him. 

In his relationship with Charlie, the man is distant but, at the same time, trying to impress his son. He briefly asks Charlie about baseball (p. 1, l. 39) but does not go into more personal details. However, he seems genuinely sorry that they could not spend more time together, but unaware of what Charlie truly needs from him: “ ‘I’m sorry, sonny,’ my father said. ‘I’m terribly sorry.’ He put his arm around me and pressed me against him. ‘I’ll walk you back to the station. If there had only been time to go up to my club.’ ” (p. 2, ll. 73-75). The man fails to connect with his son and, instead of taking advantage of their last minutes together, prefers annoying a newspaper seller. 

Overall, the father’s rude and condescending attitude is closely connected to his alcoholism. The narrative reveals from the beginning that the man’s interaction with Charlie was their last (p. 1, l. 4), which is mostly the cause of his terrible behavior. In the end, he shows Charlie that he is not the father Charlie imagined and that he is unable to connect with his son. 

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