Opinions & Views

Missing Pieces

George W. Hunt: John Cheever: The Hobgoblin Comapny of Love; Wm. B. Eerdmans; Grand Rapids, MI.

The Rev. George W. Hunt, S J., liter­ary editor of America, has written a valuable study of the fiction of John Cheever, one that will remain a source of lasting value for future critics and scholars to consult. However, I have reservations about Hunt's study, all having to do with his methodology. For example, the technique of comparison is applied in too many instances without profit. Any literary work can be com­pared to any other, and any literary work can be criticized by placing any philo­sophical system as a grid over it. I do not mean, of course, that comparison is not vital. Analysis and comparison are the basic tools of any critical method. The value of comparison depends, however, upon a kind of tact, the ability to deter­mine when it fits and when it is essential. Hunt writes of a relationship between Kierkegaard's philosophy and Cheever's fiction, which seems accurate, but which is without real substance.

The principal virtue of Hunt's study is its general thesis: Cheever's religious faith is central to an understanding of his work. Hunt makes it quite clear that Cheever was a traditional believing Christian who described himself as a "liturgical...

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