which the moral code depends is essential.nHis determination to “trace somenmoral chain of being” would have been anfailure had he not had a solid Christiannbase. He would have merely recapitulatednthe work of so many Americannwriters who have tried to separate man’sngood from God’s superintending providence.nCheever wrote,nThe reUgious experience is very muchnmy concern, as it seems to me it is thenlegitimate concern of any adult whonhas experienced love.n”Who will sound the alarm?” is one of hisngreat questions, and the answer is that henhimself will. He liked the German soundnof “Ich babe etwas zu sagen.” What henhad to say is succinctly stated by one ofnhis most memorable characters:nStand up straight. Admire the world.nRelish the love of a gentle woman.nTrust in the Lord.nThe complex ontology implied in thesenfew sentences is comprehensive.nriunt alerts us to the rhetoricalnproblem that Cheever faced, the samenone that other believing writers (WalkernPercy, Saul Bellow, John Updike) fece inna culture saturated with a mixture ofndefensive skepticism and its naturalnopposite, silly beliefs in frivolities.nConsider this passage from Falconer, anbook which Cheever pointed to as thenkey to his artistic efforts:nas croyants, I’m sure we share thenknowledge that to profess exaltednreligious experience outside thenecclesiastical paradigm is to make ofnoneself an outcast I truly believe innOne God the Father Almighty but Inknow that to say so loudly, and at anyndistance from the chancel—any distancenat all—would dangerously jeopardizenmy ability to ingratiate thosenmen and women with whom I wish tonlive. I am trying to say—and I’m surenyou will agree with me—that whUenwe are available to transcendentnexperience, we can state this only atnthe suitable and ordained place. Incould not live without this knowledge;nno more could I live without thenthriUing possibility of suddenly encounteringnthe fiagrance of skepticism.nHunt comments, “Cheever knows wellnthat we live in a world that seldomnadmits to [his] basic beliefe.”nOne might argue that Cheever’snstrategy was wrong, that Evelyn Waugh’snBrtdeshead Revisited, for example, isnsuperior to Falconer precisely becausenWaugh discovered that direct rhetoric isnmore effective. Nevertheless, the factnremains that Cheeverwas not describingna unique situation. He was referringnprecisely to the rhetorical problemnfaced, for instance, by T. S. Eliot innwriting The Wasteland or The CocktailnParty. In the poem and in the play Eliotnhad to devise a rhetorical strategy whichnwould startle (or shame or shock) hisnreaders into taking a fresh look at thenobvious truths of the penny catechism.nSuch a strategy takes the risk of makingnthe glass so dark that it cannot be seennthrough at all. By putting the passagenquoted above in a late work. Falconer,nCheever, however, may have beennsignaling a change in his rhetoricalnstrategy, evident also, I think, in Oh Whatna Paradise It Seems. It is paradoxically anpassage which speaks with a directnessnthat the passage itself asserts should notnbe used in fiction.nThe rhetorical strategy of hiding thenmessage is most evident in the shortnstories, even to a fault perhaps. There arenfew friends of the reader in them tondirect him to the ultimate religious basenon which the wry observations rest. Thenstories are based upon a Christian assumptionnabout the nature of things whichnmany readers and critics have unfortunatelynmissed. It would now appear thatnhis often-noted melancholy was thenresult of the contrast between what isnand what might be, a sign of a standard atnwork, not merely the result of sadnessnand nostalgia.nSeveral other truths in the canon ofnCheever’s beliefs are also likely to bennnmissed in his work. There is man and hisnoriginal sin. But that is not the wholenstory. There is also “Valor! Love! Virtue!nSplendor! Kindness! Wisdom! Beauty!”nFurther, this is a writer who is notnashamed to admire decency and whosenmark of maturity is his knowledge thatnthe piper must always be paid, so that thenwhining that passes for wisdom in thenwork of others is put in its place. Just as F.nr«cott Fitzgerald used the stars, jewelry,nand all glittering objects as images ofnwonder, so Cheever uses and loves light:n”It seems to me almost that one’s totalnexperience is the drive toward light.”nUltimately, this light is the Holy Spirit,njust as it was for Eliot. “The constants thatnI look for are a love of light and a determinationnto trace some moral chain ofnbeing.” He is a writer who sees thatnfreedom is “for” not “from,” and that wenare essentially free precisely “for”nrejoicing. When Farruget in Falconernwalks away from prison he exclaims,n”Rejoice”—one of “the strongest wordsnin the English language.” Put “Rejoice”nalongside “Life is a perilous moralnjourney” and you have the essentials ofnCheever.nHis work contains an implied politicalnphilosophy that puts many formalnmodels to shame. He salutes the flag ofnthe world: “To scorn one’s world isndespicable.” Without that fundamentalncondition, all attempts at philosophizingnare pointless. At the minimum he expectsndecency which can lead the waynfit’t’lhifi TruthsnCliarlcs ‘rnieluMrl. media ‘”critic” (ornllie “new.spaper” I ..S..-. I’odtiy. writing innlli:il slieel aboiii whal makes news news:n ivpiirii’i’s iiiiis(‘iil:ir :iiul iili<>.sni’i’:ili(.’ntonst idiiMicss iiiiikcs ihc clil’ljr<-iK clH-lMvnnIMJ joiiriijlisni MIKI .^ODII: »h:ilnlie M’lccis and wiial In- oiiiils. vh:il IKr|>liir(‘snami wlijt lir ()iil iiii’iiiiDiis.nI10U’ lie lx’)4iii.saiiil eiiiivnW’lial aboiil triiili; Inil5nNovember 1984n