Comparing John Cheever’s The Swimmer and The Five-Forty-Eight

1264 Words 6 Pages
Comparing John Cheever’s The Swimmer and The Five-Forty-Eight

Two stories by John Cheever, The Swimmer and The Five-Forty-Eight (5-48), will be explored in terms of how the characters, genre and point of view in these stories give rise to classic fiction.

The Swimmer is of a suburban man, Neddy Merrill, who decides to return home from work by swimming eight miles through all of his neighbors' pools along the way. At each pool he encounters a former mistress, distant and unfriendly neighbours and other symbols of a bitter, frustrated life. To Neddy, this is his epic day's journey. However, when he arrives home, his family has left him. The swimmer has made it home; but too much has changed.

While 5-48 is about the protagonist,
…show more content…
Countless references to Ned’s dependence on alcohol as a “pick-up”, an affair with Shirley Adams and in the end he loses everything-his home, family and possessions; making Swimmer a poignant masterpiece. Here, unlike 5-48 where the emphasis is on clear character development, Neddy recounts his entire life in just a short time while swimming. Both stories are told in a third-person, male point of view narrative; Blake being followed, his relationships with his neighbours who are in 5-48, firing Dent, while in Swimmer it is also similar as we discover how Neddy life has revolved.

Another significance is the way Cheever uses vivid details to add colour, variety to the plot and theme. This is highlighted eloquently in both 5-48 (e.g. “Mrs. Compton fleeting smile” and then goes on to explain why it is fleeting and his adverse relationship with her) and Swimmer (e.g. “the naked Hallorans and their dark water had depressed him” even though they were “friends”, implying that Ned’s relationships were superficial).

While similarities are abound in both stories the way the main male characters are portrayed accurately tell the themes of each story. Blake is shown to be the incorrigible character cheating on his wife many times and preying on weak women and displaying contempt for those who merely broke “sumptuary laws” (e.g Mr Watkins wearing “his corduroy jacket”). Similarly Dent is the victim and she triumphs by gaining revenge on Blake, when she forces him to the
Open Document