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The Swimmer

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by

Dana Ng

on 7 May 2013

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Transcript of The Swimmer

About John Cheever Story Summary Themes Figurative Language Motifs - Born May 27, 1912, in Massachusetts Neddy is relaxing and drinking with a couple of friends by the pool. He realizes that there are so many swimming pools between his current location and his home, so he decides to pool hop rather than walk. At the first few pools, he is greeted warmly and welcomes, but as he moves on, the hosts become much more hostile towards him, he faces harsh weather conditions, and becomes very weak. Neddy comes to the realization that time is passing quickly and that he has lost much without knowing. - Parallel to the millions of Americans who lead false lives.
- They go through life with their eyes closed, choosing not to give notice to their hurtful behaviors and problems.
- Affairs, alcoholism, debt can eat away at one’s life and relationships leaving the one in the wrong empty and alone.
- Wealth and material items do not guarantee a happy, filled life. How does John Cheever question the American dream?

How does he expose suburbia for what it really is? - Grew up in a poor family - - Started off well academically in his younger years, where he wrote poetry for his school's journal. In his later years Cheever struggled in school possibly due to familial problems. - Cheever was embarrassed by the family's social decline and hated how his parents opened shops to sell random items in order to make ends meet. - Since then he did not get along well with his parents because he didn't feel like they cared for him. - At the age of 18, Cheever was kicked out of school for poor grades and smoking. He then wrote a story called "Expelled" about the experience and ended up winning a National Book Award and Pulitzer Prize.
- During his early 20s he spent time in NYC writing synopses of novels and as an editorial assistant, then went on to enlist in the US Army.
- Most notable works include "O Youth and Beauty!," "The Swimmer", "The Five-Forty-Eight", "The Country Husband", "The Wapshot Scandal", "Falconer", and "Bullet Park". - Won many awards for his works such as the National Medal for Literature, National Book Critics Circle Award, and Pulitzer Prizes. - Many of his stories take place in the same setting as where he grew up in Massachusetts. Some reflect on his life growing up and the struggles he endured. - Commonly featured themes are the vanishing of life/time, alcoholism, absurdity, tragedy, and criticism of the American middle class. Time - The Swimmer shows that time is inevitable, no matter how much one ignores it. Neddy is shown to have mastered the art of denial. The narrator introduces Neddy as “far from young,” but Neddy still does his best to try to act young. He slides down banisters, dives head first into pools and drinks copious amounts of alcohol. The afternoons spent by the Westerhazys’ pool seem timeless. As Neddy’s journey progresses, the reader sees that time is actually passing much more quickly than Neddy realizes.

- Changes that occur in the story include
- Leaves change colors
- Constellations in the sky change
- Air gets colder
- Friends have moved or are not home
- Neddy is shunned from those who he had once looked down upon
- His old mistress wants nothing to do with him
- He had no idea that a friend had been suffering from an illness and had surgery

Neddy questions his memory but also questions if he has denied reality. His peers have acted their age and accepted reality. His former mistress even asks him, “Will you ever grow up?” Only at the end does Neddy truly comes face to face with reality, an empty and abandoned house. Time shows to be inevitable. Neddy’s journey across the county unmasks the emptiness that lies behind the perfect and sunny façade of suburbia. Neddy seems to have a happy, full life but he is empty and isolated.
- He is isolated from others, rejects invitations, He has been out of touch with people he considers friends
- He can’t remember personal details about them
- His social world is built primarily on outward appearances and material possessions
- Has no genuine friends
- Everybody is drinking to escape- He has a mistress; not even for love “sexual roughhouse” Emptiness Alcohol Alcohol continually shows up throughout the story. Cheever himself developed alcoholism and frequently incorporated this aspect into his works.

•A motivator for Neddy
•Measures social status
•Drinking while complaining about drinking too much the previous night
•Drinks gin before he leaves on his journey
•Neddy feels comfortable and wanted when offered a drink from house to house•When the journey gets harder, there is a lack of alcohol
•His desire for a drink grows as he grows weaker
•The amount of alcohol can explain the bewildering sob fest he has at the end Maps & Direction - Neddy considers himself an explorer as he goes on this journey through the county- He believes that is path is clear and concise
- As he progresses it shows that his direction in life is scattered and unclear- He goes from familiar territory to the unknown - Neddy named the chain of pools, to swim across the county, “The Lucinda River”
- This plays on the security and the longevity of his marriage and family
- The name is ironic because this path, of love and security, brings him to an empty and abandoned home.
- His marriage was actually empty, he had a mistress- Adultery means he took advantage of the security he felt from Lucinda Irony Symbolism - Represent periods of time- Beginning: Neddy is strong and active, admired by others and feels content and happy
- The dried up pool represents an interruption in his life - As he progresses: Neddy is weaker, unwilling to dive into the pool and has to use the ladder to climb out of the pool
- He goes from warm to freezing cold
- His social status has changed
- People pity him and turn him away Swimming Pools Weather/season changes - Represent the deterioration of his comfort- in the beginning Neddy is warm in the sunshine and happy- as the story progresses the water and air are comfortable, he can swim and walk easily- torm passes- He is alone for the first time- Red and yellow leaves are on the ground, suggesting Fall- “peculiar sadness”- as the weather/season gets worse, he gets colder and colder- goes from a traveler to a pathetic, seemingly homeless man on the highway
- Autumn is in full as he finishes his travel
- The water is freezing cold, he is no longer happy
- Cycle of season closes, Neddy is entering the Winter of his life By:
Dana Ng
& Kim McKinnon fdfd - His novels often show that wealth and materials do not lead to happiness.
- Cheever sets his novels in the suburbs, northeastern United States. His characters are usually in the upper middle class and are preppy, wealthy and are snobby. Happiness is always just out of reach and alcohol plays a role in masking the truth of the characters’ lives.
- Alcohol plays a large role in his works because of the bad experiences of his home life, especially with his father who as an alcoholic. This transferred into his own family and he developed this problem. - Narrative writer on the American suburban lifestyle. He brought truth and light to the American culture. Allegory - The Swimmer is often considered an allegory about decline, the aging process, and the phases of life. This is the hidden meaning of the story, while the actual meaning is more about Neddy's home and a journey.
- an allegory is a symbol that represents characters, events of truths, or generalization of human existence.
- Allegories often have multiple meanings
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