The Country Husband | Study Guide

John Cheever

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The Country Husband | Symbols


The Weed House

The suburban home of the Weed family symbolizes false appearances. The home is "larger than it appear[s] to be from the driveway." While it looks tidy, the family that lives there is in chaos and conflict. The living area inside is "divided like Gaul into three parts," referring to the description of Gaul by Julius Caesar and paralleling the fight between Francis's three youngest children upon his arrival. The house is quite literally picture perfect as the family poses in front of it for their yearly photograph. Just as immaculate is the family dressed in their best, but internally they are in conflict. Julia and Francis are lonely, the children are fighting, and Francis is lusting after the babysitter. The house represents the facade of order and respectability required by the social conventions of upper-middle-class, white 1950s suburban society. Behind that facade, there is conflict equivalent to an undeclared war.

Jupiter and Gertrude

The retriever and the peculiar wayward little girl are symbols of freedom from the constraints of social expectations as well as the consequences of rebellion. Neither one acts the way the community thinks they should. Both refuse to stay in their own homes, instead wandering wherever they please. The dog Jupiter happily swipes steaks off neighbors' grills, and Gertrude Flannery is just as likely to be found suddenly in a bathroom next door as walking a baby that doesn't belong to her. Her appearance suggests that she has no parents, although she does. Jupiter and Gertrude relish their independence from convention, but as a result neither is welcome in Shady Hill. Francis suspects that someone will eventually poison the obnoxious dog, and people are forever repeating the instruction "Gertrude, go home." The author seems to suggest that defying social convention comes at the cost of rejection from the community.


The bracelet that Francis buys for Anne Murchison represents unfulfilled dreams. Francis is an impulsive man. When Anne cries in his car, he immediately pulls her to him, although the physical intimacy is inappropriate given his marital status and her age. On a whim he spends his lunch break buying her a bracelet at a jewelry store. The fact that he never gives Anne the bracelet is an example of how he fails to bring his whims and hopes to fruition. He realizes that he can't have Anne because of the scandal it would bring and because of Clayton Thomas, and he also doesn't seem to be able to leave his marriage. The bracelet is a symbol of what scholar James Schiff describes as Cheever's portrayal of "aspirations ... continually denied."

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