The Swimmer by John Cheever

Only available on StudyMode
  • Download(s) : 183
  • Published : January 24, 2012
Open Document
Text Preview
Mina Hanna

ENGL 2130-010

Ms. Kilgore

The Swimmer by John Cheever

Oct 06, 2011

The Swimmer by John Cheever

Neddy’s journey home through the pools of his neighborhood turns into a journey

through many years of his life, showing that passage of time is inevitable, no matter how

much one might ignore it. Neddy has mastered the art of denial. At the beginning of the

story, the narrator tells us that Neddy is far from young, but he does his best to act

young by sliding down a banister and dividing headlong into a pool. The long afternoon

at the Westerhazy’s pool seems timeless, no different, we can assume, from many

others afternoons spent exactly the same way.

As Neddy’s journey progresses, we see that time is actually passing much more

quickly than Neddy realizes. Leaves and hedges turn yellow and red, the constellations

in the sky change, and the air gets colder. Friends not at home when he expects them

to be, he faces scorn from the people he would once scorned, his mistress wants

nothing to do with him, and he learns that a friend has been very ill. All these changes

have happened without Neddy’s knowledge. Neddy question his memory, but he also

wonders whether he has simply denied reality to a dangerous degree. His peers have

acted their age and faced adult problems, whereas he has raised.

Morshed 2

The pervasive consumption of alcohol throughout the story sharpens the distortion

of time and Neddy’s sense of unhappiness. The drinking, serving, and desire for alcohol

become significant motivators for Neddy as well as a way to measure his social

standing. At the beginning of the story, everyone is complaining of having drunk too

much the night before, but they have gathered companionably at the Westerhazys’ pool

to drink again. Neddy drinks gin before he decides to swim from pool to pool, and his

swim home is marked as much by fresh drinks as by new swimming pool. At the

Bunkers’ party, Neddy feels comforted and happy when he is given a drink, whereas at

the Biswangers’ party, he feels slighted by the way his drink is served.

As his journey grows more difficult, Neddy wishes deeply for a drink but is often

turned down, once at the Sachses’ and once at Shirley Adam’s. His desire for a drink

grows strongly as he grows weaker, and the amount of alcohol he has consumed during

his journey could explain clearly the harsh bewildering emotional place in which Neddy

finds himself at the end of the story.

Morshed 3

The pools that Neddy swims through as he makes his way home represent periods

of time that Neddy passes through. At the beginning of the story, Neddy is strong and

active, feels deep contentment with his life, and is admired by his friends. Warm is the

sun, he feels like a legendary figure, as though there is nothing he can’t accomplish.

As he progresses from pool to pool, however, Neddy changes. Physically, he grows

weaker, unable to pull himself out of pool without a ladder and unwilling to drive in as he

once did. Instead of being warm, he eventually feels chilled to the bone. Around him, the

sunny summer day grows increasingly cooler, and a storm passes. The trees,

meanwhile, lose their leaves, and the constellations change to those of autumn. His

standing in his social circle has changed as well. Once respected and given to snubbing

those who are not part of his group, he is now snubbed by Grace Biswanger and the

bartender at the party, Which Neddy is not aware that he has suffered. A lot has

happened as he has been moving from pool to pool.

Neddy has named the chain of pools the “Lucinda River”, invoking the security and

longevity of his marriage and family, but his choice of name becomes sad and ironic

when he winds up at his dark, deserted home. Neddy has taken Lucinda, just as he took

his comfortable life, for granted. We...
tracking img