Review of John Cheever's Short Story 'The Swimmer'

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The story ‘The Swimmer’ by John Cheever is described as the swimming journey of Neddy in the neighborhood, as an active and optimistic father and husband. “It was one of those midsummer Sundays when everyone sits around saying, ‘I drank too much last night’”. Despite joining a cocktail party, he agreed that he would swim his way home through different swimming pools. Throughout his journey, it changes him from a young man to an aged, poor man whose life is in a terrible condition. When he arrives at his home, he discovers that his children and his wife have left him. The illusions he has created about his life are taken away during Neddy’s journey, and the reality behind his society is realized in the process. Cheever shows the indignity of an unquestioned life by revealing the tragedy of Neddy’s life. The failure of Needy’s presence leads to his own death. However, I believe Neddy’s considerably fictional life reflects the hardships that most middle-aged individuals go through.

In the beginning of the story ‘The Swimmer’, John Cheever draws readers by understanding and sharing common values. The story starts by “one of those Sunday afternoons where everyone is drunk'; however, the reader may not really understand what a Sunday afternoon is like than the belief of the narrator does. The purpose of his first paragraph is perhaps the main theme of Cheever’s role: alcohol. Everyone in town on Sunday is complaining of having drunk too much from the cocktail party the night before. Although, the neighbors gather and met at the Westerhazys’ pool to drink again. The author believes that wealthy people hang around and enjoy by relieving themselves of their problems. Neddy seems to live in a fantasy world and chooses to drink more, where he makes friends and seeks to swim around the neighborhood. Alcohol is an escape path, lies as a danger to the life of Neddy because he believes that “whiskey would…carry him through the last of his journey”. Readers realize that alcohol is an essential part of the characters’ lives and is an integral role in the neighborhood. However, the widespread intake of alcohol reflects of time and Neddy’s feeling of unhappiness.

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While the story’s actions cover many hours at the most, Neddy appears to age rapidly. The reader is affected by Neddy’s strength, persistence, and youthful energy as he begins his adventure along what he considers the Lucinda River (named for his wife), and he becomes an adventurer and legendary hero. The author tells us the pools through which Neddy swims as he makes his way home reflects periods of time through which Neddy crosses. A storm comes through and Neddy seeks safety. He notices when the rain crosses, “the force of the wind had stripped a maple of its red and yellow leaves and scattered them over the grass and water”. Neddy notices the changing of the seasons where he is unable to slow down his aging process. The changing seasons make Neddy doubt his understanding of the passing of time and rethink the things he ignored or decided to forget about in his life. Needy feels the world surrounding his change as he begins to swim. “Since it was midsummer the tree must be blighted, and yet he felt a peculiar sadness at this sign of autumn” shows that Needy has problems understanding a sense of time. For instance, “What had become of the constellations of midsummers”, suggests Neddy has been looking at a different time period. Overall, the hardest moment for Neddy comes when he feels his energy and optimism fading away.

In the story, ‘The Swimmer’ by John Cheever, the protagonist, Neddy, points out that he has watched time pass through his hands and realizes his true age. Neddy lives in a world of misunderstanding about what is actually going on in his life. Neddy actively leaves out the “misfortunes” of his life for many years, allowing him to lose those memories. After accomplishing his journey, Neddy eventually arrives tired at his house only to find it lonely. “He shouted, pounded on the door tried to force it with his shoulder, and then, looking in at the windows, saw that the place was empty”. Neddy finds out he has lost his money, his children, and he no longer lives in his home. He attempted to recover everything that he lost but ended up with failure, allowing the reader to question whether the action was epic or ridiculous. For so long. Merrill had lived in a fantasy world where he didn’t even realize what happened to his family and house. Although, by drinking and partying he attempted to hide his troubles, but he cannot get away from them. The conclusion makes his unhappiness know, as Neddy is abandoned with nothing but bits of memories that he has worked too hard to erase. At the end, Merrill is left with no family, house, and no future.

At the beginning of the story, Neddy began his journey youthful and enthusiastic who feels happy with his life and is treated with respect by his peers. Neddy Merrill seems to live in a dream world but is not. Therefore, in the story as he drinks alcohol excessively, parties, and continues to float around the neighborhood. He is an old man, unhappy man who has lost his way badly. Overall, it concludes the protagonist on his journey back home struggles through the impacts of swimming, friends, family, and alcohol in different settings.

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Review of John Cheever’s Short Story ‘The Swimmer’. (2022, December 15). Edubirdie. Retrieved July 15, 2024, from
“Review of John Cheever’s Short Story ‘The Swimmer’.” Edubirdie, 15 Dec. 2022,
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