The Swimmer, by John Cheever, is a short story about a man named Neddy Merrill who decides to swim home from a party by swimming through the backyard pools of his neighbors. As he makes his way home, Neddy recalls events from his past and how they relate to his current situation.
Neddy is a middle-aged man who seems to have it all together on the surface but is actually quite troubled. He is a successful businessman but he is also an alcoholic and a womanizer. The swim home is a metaphor for his life, which is in disarray.
Neddy’s swim begins at a party where he has had too much to drink. He becomes angry with his wife and storms out of the house. He decides to swim home instead of driving, as a way of punishing her. As he swims, he recalls events from his past that are related to his current state of mind.
One event that stands out is when Neddy was caught having an affair with another man’s wife. This caused him to lose his job and led to a rift between him and his wife. The affair also caused him to develop a strong fear of being caught, which is reflected in his decision to swim home instead of drive.
Throughout the story, Neddy deals with various issues including alcoholism, adultery, and fear. The swim home is a way for him to reflect on these issues and come to terms with them. By the end of the story, he has made some progress but there is still work to be done. The Swimmer is a powerful story about one man’s journey towards self-realization.
The title “The Swimmer” is significant because Ned Merrill is swimming through his neighbors’ pools. The title foreshadows the events that will unfold in the story. The first sentence of the story states, “Ned Merrill swam home from the country club on a hot day in August” (Cheever 1). This sentence immediately introduces the reader to Ned Merrill and his typical habits. The second sentence introduces the concept of time with, “It was now four o’clock and he wanted a drink” (Cheever 1).
The time progresses as the story moves forward, which is represented by Ned swimming through different pools. The last sentence in the story introduces the consequences of Ned’s actions, “He was a little drunk and his clothes were wet” (Cheever 12). The title and first sentence introduce the swimming motif that is prevalent in the story. The second sentence introduces the time motif that is also prevalent in the story. The last sentence introduces the consequences motif that is also prevalent in the story.
The setting of “The Swimmer” is significant because Ned Merrill swims through his neighbors’ pools. The setting creates a sense of community for Ned as he swims through his neighbors’ pools. The first line of the story states, “It was now four o’clock and he wanted a drink” (Cheever 1). The time progresses as the story moves forward, which is represented by Ned swimming through different pools. The last sentence in the story introduces the consequences of Ned’s actions, “He was a little drunk and his clothes were wet” (Cheever 12). The time motif and consequences motif are both introduced in the first paragraph of the story.
The characters in “The Swimmer” are significant because they represent different aspects of life. The first character that is introduced is Ned Merrill, who is the protagonist of the story. The second character that is introduced is Louise Merrill, who is Ned’s wife. The third character that is introduced is Neddy Merrill Jr., who is Ned’s son. The fourth character that is introduced is Tom, who is Louise Merrill’s brother.
The fifth character that is introduced is Mrs. Tom, who is Tom’s wife. The sixth character that is introduced is Harry, who is the husband of Mrs. Tom. The seventh character that is introduced is Anita, who is the daughter of Harry and Mrs. Tom. The eighth character that is introduced is Mr. Elkins, who is the owner of the country club. The ninth character that is introduced is Miss Kane, who works at the country club. The tenth character that be introduced is a waiter at the country club.
The sun being out and hot is a sign of good luck and happiness, while the clouds can be seen as a sign of doom. The mention of Ned Merrill’s slenderness also foreshadows his downfall.
Ned begins his journey home by swimming through the pools in his neighborhood. He is very proud of himself for being able to do this and thinks that it will make everyone happy to see him. He is wrong. When he gets to his friend’s house, they are all out. The only person home is their maid, who doesn’t even recognize him. This is the beginning of Ned’s downfall because he starts to realize that he is no longer part of this world and that he has been replaced.
Next, Ned goes to his ex-wife’s house. The first thing he notices is that there is a new car in the driveway, which means that she has moved on. He tries to talk to her, but she doesn’t want anything to do with him. This is another blow to Ned because it confirms that he is no longer a part of her life either.
Finally, Ned goes to his old house. The pool is filled in and there is a new family living there. This is the most heartbreaking part of the story for Ned because it means that he has lost everything. The only thing he has left is his memories, which he will have to carry with him forever.
The Swimmer tells the story of a man who had everything but lost it all. Ned Merrill is a symbol of the American dream. He is successful, good-looking, and has many friends. However, he is not content with his life and eventually destroys everything he has worked for. The story is a cautionary tale that reminds us that we should be grateful for what we have because it can be taken away at any moment.
The Swimmer is a classic example of John Cheever’s use of weather to symbolize the moods or behaviors of the characters in his stories. It is also an excellent example of Cheever’s ability to create complex characters that are easy to sympathize with. I would recommend this story to anyone who wants to read some excellent short fiction.