The Swimmer John Cheever Analysis

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It is fairly easy to discern the boundaries between dreams and reality; however, in fiction, the lines between the two are not always so easily distinguishable. During the 1920s, many artists made this relationship between dream and reality the central focus of their works, giving birth to the artistic movement known as “surrealism” (Vaneigem 96). One such work that embraced this surrealistic approach is John Cheever’s short story, “The Swimmer”, in which the author creates a reality which grows increasingly questionable as the story develops and as more information is conferred upon the reader. The protagonist, Neddy Merrill, is confronted by a progressively harshening reality that matches neither his memories nor his perception thereof.…show more content…
Through foreshadowing, Cheever presents the dissolution of reality into the surreal. The protagonist’s mental and physical collapse acts as a good indicator that not everything is as it seems. Neddy Merrill is first perceived as a clear-headed, youthful man with high social and financial status; the narrator explains that Neddy had “the especial slenderness of youth—and while he was far from young he had slid down his banister that morning” (Cheever 383). Early in the story, invigorated by a feeling of self-aggrandizing vitality, Neddy devises a brilliant plan to swim through the pools of his neighbors in order to get home. After swimming the length of the first pool, Neddy easily “hoist[s] himself up on the far curb—he never use[s] the ladder” (Cheever 384), exemplifying his strength and stamina. Throughout the first few pools, Neddy seems to have no difficultly swimming their…show more content…
The first few conversations Neddy has with his neighbours go very smoothly. In fact, it is not until half way through the story that Neddy encounters the Hallorans, the first couple that present the reader with real insight into the divide between Neddy’s thoughts and reality. Mrs. Halloran sympathizes, “we’ve been terribly sorry to bear about all your misfortunes, Neddy” (Cheever 388). Neddy expresses his confusion and Mrs. Halloran continues, “why, we heard that you’d sold the house and that your poor children…” (Cheever 388). The comments only worsen as many remarks are made about his financial situation, and Neddy is even looked down upon by the bartender, “to be rebuffed by a part-time barkeep meant that be had suffered some loss of social esteem” (Cheever 390). As Neddy becomes aware of the truth regarding his social standing, so too does the reader begin to notice the surrealistic nature of the narrative. Neddy Merrill is most shocked when he reaches the house of his old mistress, having expected to be received with warmth and joy, he is instead accosted with a bevy of accusations and insults. Every comment that confuses Neddy gives the reader a clear indication that Neddy’s perception of reality is not accurate, all the while foreshadowing an unfortunate ending and a growing sense of

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