The Swimmer, John Cheever

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Mindless Aging
In the short story, The Swimmer, by John Cheever, the main character, Neddy, figures out he has let time slip through his hands and comprehends his true age. Neddy lives in a world of denial about what is really happening in his life. Over many years, Neddy successfully blocks out the “misfortunes” (48) of his life, causing him to forget these past memories. The removal of these memories causes Neddy’s concept of time to be surreal. Along his journey, Neddy figures out he has lost his wealth, his children are in trouble, he had an affair with his mistress, and he no longer lives in his house. His unhappiness is made known by the ending of the short story, when Neddy is left with nothing but pieces of past memories he has tried so hard to forget. Neddy discovers he is unable to slow down his aging through the inevitable passage of time by the changing of the seasons, his voyage along the river, the flaws of his imagined map, and the conversations he shares with his neighbours.

The changing seasons cause Neddy to question his sense of time passage and reconsider the memories in his life he has forgotten or chosen to forget about. Neddy describes the setting as “a clement midsummers day” (43), with the “massive stand of cumulous cloud so like a city in the distance” (43). The summer weather associates Neddy to his youth and “the intenseness of his pleasure” (43). Neddy also celebrates the fact that “his life was not confining” (44), presenting his life as one of freedom and optimism. As he proceeds to swim, Neddy senses the environment around his changing. “Since it was midsummer the tree must be blighted, and yet he felt a peculiar sadness at this sign of autumn” (46), reveals that Neddy is having difficulties distinguishing a sense of time. “What had become of the constellations of midsummer” (50), reveals Neddy has been living in a different time frame, one where he is better off. Neddy worst moment occurs when he feels his strength draining...
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