Symbolism In The Swimmer

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"The Swimmer," An Alcoholic Journey

"The Swimmer," written by John Cheever follows the journey of the main character, Neddy Merrill and his struggles with alcoholism. Living in a wealthy community; full of golf courses, tennis courts and lots of parties, an envious lifestyle, but in the end Neddy's journey doesn't seem so desirous. Cheever uses symbolism to describe the phases of Neddy's life and reflects on how a life of alcoholism is a constant sink or swim battle. Neddy discovers the power of alcohol has destroyed his life, stripped him of his social status, and in the end leaves him alone, all while still craving alcohol.

In the beginning, Neddy is sitting poolside with his wife Lucinda and friends; Helen and Donald Westerhazy. The scene was described as, " of those midsummer Sundays when everyone sits around saying, "I drank too much last night." You might have heard it whispered by the parishioners leaving church, heard it from the lips of the priest himself..." (77). To clarify, this was an attempt to normalize
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Stopping to see all his neighbors included a drink and was described as living " a world so generously supplied with water seemed like a clemency, a beneficence." In this case, it can be seen how readily available alcohol was and beneficial for feeding an alcoholic habit. At the first stop, Mrs. Graham offers Neddy a drink, he seems reluctant "...but the hospitable customs and traditions of the natives would have to be handled with diplomacy if he was ever going to reach his destination. He did not want to mystify or seem rude to the Grahams..." (79). Notably, this could indicate that Neddy chose to drink as a way to establish his social status within his community and that it would be rude or offensive to decline a drink, in addition, it was a way for him to justify being an
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