The Swimmer by John Cheever

Topics: Wealth, Short story, Life Pages: 2 (633 words) Published: October 8, 1999
John Cheever's story "The Swimmer" depicts a protagonist
, and the society that has nurtured him, as lacking in seriousness and responsibility. Neddy, the bewildered protagonist, represents a society satirized for centering its values on social status and materialism. During the course of Neddy's journey, the illusions he has constructed about his life are stripped away, and in the process the truth behind his society is realized. In unveiling the tragedy of Neddy's existence, Cheever reveals the unworthiness of an unexamined life. The tragedy of Neddy's presence leads to his own demise. Through an unique usage of tone, Cheever foreshadows the misfortunes of the protagonist. Stereotypically, the author hints at the fact that that wealthy people loaf around and indulge themselves with alcohol to rid themselves of their problems (368). In a mocking manner, almost setting Neddy up for his failure, the day begins beautiful and everyone is happy, but a feeling of confusion soon follows (368). Significantly, by exemplifying the point of view, Cheever allows the reader to see Neddy from two different perspectives. According to Neddy, "his life was not confining and the delight he took in observation could not be explained by its suggestion of escape" (368). The bystanders view of Neddy, however, depicts him as "close to naked," as they "wondered if he was the victim of foul play, had his car broken down, or was he merely a fool" (371). This is the only moment in the entire story where a perspective other than Neddy's is offered, indicating that Cheever wants to maintain an emphasis on the bewilderment of Neddy. In addition, elements of symbolism throughout the story exhibit the troubles of Neddy. The water, a symbol of the unconscious, represents the thoughts and actions of Neddy. Alcohol, a means of escape, lies as a threat to Neddy's existence because he feels that "whiskey would... carry him through the last of his journey" (373-74). The storm represents a change...
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