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"The Swimmer" by John Cheever
Transcript of "The Swimmer" by John Cheever
One of the major symbols in "The Swimmer" are the swimming pools. The swimming pools represent the passing of time. As Neddy swims through each pool, each pool represents a part of his life. Neddy continues to swim through these pools and thinks he is the same man that started the journey in the Westerhazys' pool, but he has encountered many misfortunes in his life. He is not willing to admit that there has been some problems in his life, so he denies they exist. He cannot see reality, and creates a delusion where everything is right in his world. When he is at the Hallorans' pool, he finds out some of his problems and wonders, "Was he losing his memory, had his gift for concealing painful facts let him forget that he had sold his house, that his children were in trouble, and that his friend had been ill?” (Cheever 536).
Neddy's Empty House
Neddy is still living in his delusions as he is swimming through the swimming pools. Neddy thinks if he can get home, he will find his daughters playing tennis and his wife waiting for him. However, when he arrives home feeling much differently from the beginning, his delusions are shattered by how his house looks. It is abadoned and neglected, but “He shouted, pounded on the door, tried to force it with his shoulder, and then, looking in at the windows, saw the place was empty” (Cheever 539). Even though throughout his journey his friends were telling him of his problems, Neddy must come face to face with reality. If Neddy had accepted the issues in his life, he could have been able to fix his problems and lead a better life. Since he created a fake reality, he ends up losing everything, and finally sees the truth.
Another way to tell that time is passing is by the nature components around the pool. The leaves change colors, which represent the passing of the seasons. The summer season represents the good times in Neddy's life, where everything is going the way he wants it. As he starts to swim through the swimming pools, his life starts to get worse. A storm happens where he must wait for it to pass at a neighbor's pool. After the storm, the different problems in Neddy's life become apparent, as the season changes to fall. The fall season represents how Neddy's life is getting worse, even though he cannot see it. At the end of the story when Neddy is facing his empty house, the season is starting to change to winter. The winter season represents how badly Neddy's life is going to continue to get worse, since he does not have his delusions anymore.
Arp, Thomas R., and Greg Johnson. "The Swimmer." Perrine's literature: Structure, Sound, and Sense, Ninth Edition. 9th ed. Boston: Michael Rosenberg, 2006. 529-539. Print.
"The Swimmer" is about a man named Neddy. He is at his friends pool, the Westerhazys, with his wife. He then decides to go home by swimming through switching from one neighbors' pool to the next. As he goes through each pool, the landscape around Neddy changes as he changes. As Neddy encounters different friends, he starts to realize that he has forgetten different facts, like his friend having an important surgery. Neddy dismisses all doubt from his mind about his forgetfulness and continues on in his journey. In the end, Neddy arrives at his house to find it deserted and empty.
Summary of "The Swimmer"
The main theme for "The Swimmer" is accepting the passing of time will lead to a better life rather than denying its passing and the problems that come along with it. Neddy denies the passing of time throughout the story to keep his seemingly perfect life, even though he has many problems occurring throughout his life.