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Miss Dent of ‘The Five Forty-Eight’

When the representation of gender differences transcends in the story, the issue of chauvinism is likewise discussed and is notably anticipated. John Cheever’s illustration of a stereotypical suburban relationship between the male executive boss and his female secretary, who always give us the connotation of being vulnerable and defenseless, could be seen as the depiction of a common thing that is happening in the real world of the social class. To know more about Miss Dent’s personality and their story, we have to understand and analyze first the character and intention of his boss Blake.

Blake, as described in the story, is consistent for being a bigot sexist. It results to a more nasty personality of Blake which other people also perceives. Blake’s character is an open book which more people in his surroundings knows everything about him especially his intention why he marries his wife and that was just because of her beauty. His character could be compared that of the vulture who always have its eye on its subject, looking for ways to victimize it. Recently, it is his secretary Miss Dent, who caught not just his attention but also his evil desire.

Thus, Blake plans to seduce her and be a sexual object of him. He successfully makes it happen as what he wants it to be. Afterwards, Blake intentionally abandons Miss Dent alone in the issue with the personnel department in their office without any second thought. Miss Dent on the other side depicts an image of an exposed prey to her predator Blake. Although Miss Dent’s character seems to be lunatic and mentally ill, audience of the story could have sympathy on her for being an emotional and sexual prey of his boss.

Considering Miss Dent’s behavior, lifestyle, and her day-to-day interaction with his boss, we could perceive her not as a criminal or a lunatic but more of a heroine. When Miss Dent gets involved with Blake, it is neither her intention nor her dream of having any intimate relationship with her boss. However, due to the fact that Blake is consistently seducing her, and being so emotionally weak, she gets caught and literally, the intimate moment with him, a night before everything goes upside down to the two of them, happened as planned.

Furthermore, the so-called intimate relationships get nothing to do with her being a secretary, and when she has to be unnecessarily be fired off in their office, right there and then, Miss Dent prepares her next step through the battle Blake has started. The determination to gained back the dignity and self-respect that Blake has ruined urges Miss Dent to follow Blake to the train. Her gunpointing suggests not killing Blake although her intention was to take revenge.

Rather she, wants to give him some sort of lesson that due to her being misunderstood is not transcended throughout. Why must we view Miss Dent as a heroine instead of a lunatic and criminal then? It is simply because Miss Dent is a representation of every female victim by male chauvinism and hypocrite society, and the act of reclaiming the dignity stole in her brings victory to every woman in this brutal world.

R E F E R E N C E Cheever, John. The Stories of John Cheever: The Five Forty-Eight. New York: Random House, 1978.

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