John Cheever & Suburban Life

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5 April 2006
John Cheever and the Suburban Life
The average person from suburban America can be either valiant, pathetic, or both. This is the description of an American suburbanite according to John Cheever, an American novelist and short story writer during the fifties, sixties, and seventies. Cheever, an award winning writer, balances hope, uncertainty, and anxiety in his stories’ characters. In Cheever’s “The Swimmer”, the main character, Neddy Merrill, incorporates this description into his actions. The actions of Neddy Merrill can be compared to those of Francis Weed, the main character of Cheever’s “The Country Husband”. “The Swimmer” and “The Country Husband”, however different the plots of each may be, each analyze the suburban life of a middle aged, middle class man. John Cheever uses metaphors and his unqiue writing style to show the lives of men living in “suburbia”. As a reflection of John Cheever’s own life, the characters of both short stories depict the life of a man living in suburban America. A suburb, although defined as the area surrounding a city, can also be used in the description of a social class. In John Cheever’s “The Swimmer”, Neddy Merrill lives in a suburb outside of Westchester County, New York, and is indeed a suburbanite. He is a middle-aged man who is trying to find his way through life, but his life is one big metaphor. William Peden, an American critic, describes the story; “Neddy Merrill’s plan to ‘reach his home by water’ hovers somewhat uneasily between realism and metaphor, it is nonetheless unforgettable…” (Peden 100). Metaphorically, Neddy’s quest to swim in the pools throughout his county can be compared to a river. “He seemed to see, with a cartographer’s eye, that string of swimming pools, that quasi-subterranean stream that curved across the county” (Cheever 187). As one would swim down a river, Neddy is swimming through the series of pools in his county. The stream of pools throughout his county, which he...
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