The Swimmer, by John Cheever

1507 Words 7 Pages
Thomas Hardy, an English novelist and poet, once observed, "Time changes everything except something within us which is always surprised by change." In "The Swimmer", the world around Ned Merrill, the main character, transforms constantly as time goes by, causing Ned's physical, mental, and social state to decline. However, although Ned Merrill experiences the inevitable - growing older - he does not fully grasp reality and the idea that time moves on, even if one is not ready. "The Swimmer" is a short story written by John Cheever, a writer who used his own experiences as inspiration for his stories - "Cheever's problems with his parents, brother, wife, alcoholism, and bisexuality have already been outlined in HOME BEFORE DARK, the 1984 …show more content…
Reading further in depth, the reader begins to realize that the swimming pools are just figurative and rather, Ned Merrill is “swimming” or traveling through stages off his life. John Cheever develops the theme of the passage of time in his short story, “The Swimmer”, through the use of symbolism, characterization, and motifs.
Symbolism is a major literary element in “The Swimmer”, with the highway being a notable symbol in the latter half of the story. The highway represents an obstacle in Ned Merrill’s life, a challenge that he has no choice but to overcome. In the story, Cheever writes, “… he [Ned Merrill] found himself unprepared…. At what point had this prank, this joke, this piece of horseplay become serious…In the space of an hour, more or less, be had covered a distance that made his return impossible” (Cheever). Literally, after swimming through pools for a while, Ned Merrill comes upon a highway – one that takes him a while to cross. Figuratively, at a certain period in his life, Ned Merrill is faced with a challenge. Merrill is finally able to overcome the challenge, but not without difficulties and discouragement. Additionally, these lines lead the reader into believing that Ned Merrill is lost and does not realize how he got to where he is. “…Neddy, who now looks pitifully exposed and foolishly stranded as he attempts to cross a divided highway….he seems unprepared for whatever lies ahead yet…