Journey Through Suburban Life in John Cheever's The Swimmer
"The Swimmer," by John Cheever, illustrates one man's journey from a typical suburban life to loneliness and isolation. This short story is characteristic of John Cheever's typical characterizations of suburbia, with all it's finery and entrapments. Cheever has been noted for his "skill as a realist depicter of suburban manners and morals" (Norton, p. 1861). Yet this story presents a deeper look into Neddy Merril's downfall from the contentment of a summer's day to the realization of darker times.
The story begins with a scene of midsummer, with the laziness of those who can afford to lounge near the pool, those with money who are able to joke about having "drank too much" (Norton, p. 1862). Typical of suburban lifestyle are the nightly parties and social events surrounded by cocktails and lush poolside conversations. "It was a fine day" and "The sun was hot" give us a sense of this careless abandon for those whom work is not necessarily an 8 to 5 regularity (Norton, p. 1862).
Neddy, himself, is compared to a "summer's day" and carried "the impression of youth, sport, and clement weather" (Norton, p. 1962). Cheever gives us an impression that Neddy belongs to the "jet set," his daughters playing tennis, himself and his wife enjoying an afternoon poolside with friends. His idea of swimming from pool to pool to reach his home is unusual, and perhaps a bit eccentric, not something an ordinary person might do. His reasoning is that "a long swim might enlarge and celebrate its [the day's] beauty" (Norton, p. 1863).
Neddy likens himself to a pilgrim, an explorer, by taking such an unusual route home, and he imagines himself a sort of hero with "friends all along the way; friends would line the banks of the Lucinda river" (Norton, p. 1863). The first few pools he encounters stay within the characteristic suburban lifestyle, being offered drinks and refreshment, "like any explorer, that the...