Narrative and Psychic Distance

Topics: Narrative, Fiction, Narrative mode Pages: 2 (676 words) Published: April 15, 2006
Jeremy Edwards
Professor Cummings
English 204
21 March, 2006
Cheever's Suspenseful Use of Literary Elements
In John Cheever's "The Swimmer," things fall apart in a very suspenseful way. This is achieved by various literary elements including point of view and setting. Cheever uses these elements in a way that creates suspense that you can feel and sucks your mind into the story.

Cheever uses the third person point of view to tell this story, but more importantly he uses what is known as "psychic distance". Psychic distance refers to the mental or emotional distance between the narrator and the point-of-view characters (Steele 5). The easiest way to picture this is to think of film, where the camera can show the characters from close up or far away or anywhere in between. With first-person narration, the "camera" is always up close because the narrator is a character in the story, but third-person narrators have the freedom to move their "camera" around (Steele 5). The narrator or author can invent many compelling situations with the correct usage and variation of psychic distance.

"Had you gone for a Sunday afternoon ride that day you might have seen him, close to naked, standing on the shoulders of Route 424, waiting for a chance to cross. You might have wondered if he was the victim of foul play, had his car broken down, or was lie merely a fool. Standing barefoot in the deposits of the highway – beer cans, rags, and blowout patches – exposed to all kinds of ridicule, he seemed pitiful" (Cheever 2368). This quote from "The Swimmer" shows how Cheever can pullback from the main character creating a strikingly suspenseful situation in the story. This is an example of excellent psychic distance usage.

Use of setting can also be very important to how engaging a story is. In how many stories, after the dark night of danger is over, does the storm dissipate, the birds sing and the sun rises to signal the reader that things will be better for the...

Cited: Cheever, John. "The Swimmer." The Norton Anthology of
American Literature. Ed. Nina Baym. Norton & Company.
Steele, Alexander. "Get over first person." Writer;
Jul2005, Vol. 118 Issue 7, p28-32, 5p
Blythe, Hal and Sweet, Charlie. "More than a place."
Writer; Sep2003, Vol. 116 Issue 9, p26, 4p
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