A Criticism of “The Swimmer” Essay

576 Words 3 Pages
John Cheever in “The Swimmer” uses much symbolism for his character and the voyage that this story must take. Neddy Merrill, the speaker of “The Swimmer” represents in the beginning of the piece the model of the American male of the time period in which the story was written. As the story progresses, however, symbolism is substituted for references to the nature of Cheever’s character. To be more specific, Neddy Merrill is the perfect example of the wealthy, suburban man of high status. As the story unravels, however he becomes none of those things and instead undergoes a transformation and tragedy that give insight, through symbolism and surrealism, the American’s male’s conception of life and legacy.

As the story begins, Neddy is
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This becomes more evident as Neddy decides to return home by swimming in all the pools from his current location. This immaturity for a man of his status and age is interesting, though as the story evolves the reader can see that his swimming is a metaphor for the life of the male breadwinner.

Cheever’s character also possesses a quality that makes him like most men of his stature. It was not enough to have money, family, and friends. Neddy Merrill wanted more and had a “modest idea of himself as a legendary figure”(Baym, 2410). The idea of a man of any time period wishing himself to have a legacy is not an odd theme to either life or literature. It is also interesting here that Neddy does not have a son, only four daughters. This may be important as there is no heir to Neddy’s fortune, so whatever was to be remembered of the Merrill name had to be undertaken by him. So unfolds the metaphorical and mystical swim.

As Neddy begins his swim, he feels empowered and felt “he was a pilgrim, an explorer, a man with a destiny” (Baym, 2410). His need to take an uncommon route is what led him to this idea of himself and the route did prove to be most uncommon. As he continues on, the passage of time seems to confuse him, as does the changing of seasons. As he plows on toward his destiny he “was laughed at, jeered at, a beer can was thrown at him, and he had no dignity or humor to bring to the situation” (Baym, 2413). So is the metaphor for a man with

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