The Swimmer - Finished[1][2] - Enlgish 102

The Swimmer - Finished[1][2] - Enlgish 102 - Flora Vo...

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Flora Vo English 102.054 Unit Project 3 17 April 2007 Living in a Dream John Cheever (1912-1982) spent nearly two months and accrued almost one hundred and fifty pages of notes to write “The Swimmer,” which he then condensed into a fifteen page short story (Slabey 181). The setting of the story is in suburbia during the 1960s. Like the stereotypical suburbanite, Neddy Merrill conforms to the standards of Middle America, wanting to have strength and youth, to have a high social status, and to provide for his family. At a cocktail party, the main character realizes that he could swim home, and this thought gives him “the feeling that he was a pilgrim, an explorer, a man with a destiny” (Cheever 181). However, his supposed heroic swim actually negates all his dreams and reveals the truth of all his failures. In “The Swimmer,” Neddy Merrill journeys home using a network of suburban pools, attempting to live in an imaginary world, but reality is manifest in health changes, the passing of time, and the declining social status of Neddy Merril. Initially, the main character possesses “the especial slenderness of youth,” and he can also be “compared to a summer’s day, particularly the last hours of one” (Cheever 179). He is athletic and strong, although he is far from young, but the last part of the quote alludes to his condition at the end of the story. His life will darken, like the end of a summer day, and he will become old (Slabey 182). However, Ned prefers to live in his imaginary world, where everything is perfect, and he is still young. At the start of his eight mile swim, he dives into the pool, never using the steps to display his strength. Also, he prefers to hoist himself onto the “curb,” and he has contempt for men who did not do so. He swims vigorously, easily finishing the first half of his journey through the Westerhazys’, Grahams’, Hammers’, Lears’, Howlands’,
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Crosscups’, Bunkers’, and Levys’ pools. Reaching the midpoint of his journey signifies reaching middle age. His health starts to go downhill, and reality begins to manifest itself at the Hallorans’ pool because his swimming trunks feel lose, as if he has lost some weight. He is not merely tired, but exhausted because the “swim was too much for his strength” (Cheever 187). His arms are tired, his joints ache, and he feels like he could “never be warm again,” and this exhaustion contrasts with his initial vitality (Cheever 187). People must accept their eventual aging, but Neddy Merrill simply ignores it and continues his journey. His strength rapidly dwindles afterwards, which parallels his rapid aging. At Shirley Adam’s pool, he cannot even haul himself out of the pool, and resorts to using a ladder, despite his former disdain of ladders. At the Gilmartins’, he even uses the steps to get into the pool, and at the Clydes’, he frequently
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This essay was uploaded on 03/31/2008 for the course ENGL 102 taught by Professor Frost during the Spring '07 term at UNC.

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The Swimmer - Finished[1][2] - Enlgish 102 - Flora Vo...

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