Essay on John Cheever the Swimmer

1951 Words8 Pages
Living in a Dream World: Fantasy and Social Hierarchy in Cheever’s “The Swimmer”

John Cheever’s short story, “The Swimmer,” describes the epic journey of Neddy Merrill as he attempts to swim his way back home. Throughout the story, readers continually question reality and fantasy while wondering whether Merrill is really experiencing what Cheever portrays or if he is simply stuck in the past. Merrill goes from house to house as he freestyles across each swimming pool along the way. As the story draws to the end, Cheever points out that Merrill’s world is not what it seems and he has really lost everything he loved. An analysis of “The Swimmer” by John Cheever through the liberal humanist and Marxist lenses suggests that the story
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Everything eventually changes, yet Neddy Merrill denies himself this fact. During his water journey, however, Merrill begins to see how futile his efforts really were, “The force of the wind had stripped a maple of its red and yellow leaves and scattered them over the grass and water” (Cheever 2046). Merrill, who began his journey on a beautiful summer day, is now faced with the fall season and begins to see time in full force. For Neddy, time represents an enemy, something that he wishes to control. “Time, despite Neddy’s attempts through repetition to stop it, has not been standing still. Nature is in constant motion” (Blythe). Merrill’s journey has led him to realize how useless his repetitious lifestyle has been. He now questions his worth and wonders where his life is taking him. Merrill is a broken man and has fallen to his lowest point. Looking at “The Swimmer” through the Marxist lens suggests that the story is really about how easily social statuses can change under different circumstances and how blinding hubris can be. Neddy Merrill is clearly a man of means in the story. For one thing, it is clear he can afford to spend time during midday to enjoy the afternoon by the poolside. Living in an upper-middle class suburban neighborhood has given Neddy many benefits. But his extravagant lifestyle takes a turn for the worse once he starts his journey home. As Neddy swims home, cold and half-naked, he begins to “crash”
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