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.
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.
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).
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).
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’,