The Swimmer by John Cheever

Submitted by: Submitted by

Views: 1157

Words: 818

Pages: 4

Category: English Composition

Date Submitted: 09/13/2011 05:33 PM

Report This Essay

English Lit


Professor Early

Liquor plays a key role in the life of Neddy Merrill. John Cheever’s short story “The Swimmer” seems to be an elaborate personification of the stages of inebriation and memory suppression. In the pages of this novella-turned-short-story we see the continuing decline of the world through the eyes of the inebriated. In his various stages of drunkenness, Merrill’s surroundings mutate from friendly and realistic to harsh and surreal.

Cheever himself, during the creation of “The Swimmer” was an alcoholic, which critics have noted, set a darker tone upon his work. We see elements of this in Neddy himself who has a minimum of five drinks during the time of his trek through the backyards and swimming pools of his community.

On a Sunday afternoon in midsummer, Neddy Merrill is found at a neighbors poolside. Such Sundays, it seems to be understood, exist for the purpose of lounging about complaining and comparing stories all involving the phrase “I drank too much last night”(66). Neddy begins his adventure for no other reason than that of a boyish whim, which seems to match his physique. With his enthusiasm and youthful qualities there seems little reason anything should prevent him from completing his mission.

He swims the first several pools without much trouble, stopping at the occasional party for catered food and, of course, more booze. “Oh, how bonny and lush were the banks of the Lucinda River ”(68) he remarks, referring to the chain of swimming pools he has affectionately named after his wife. He is well-received by friends and neighbors wherever he ventures and usually invited to stay for further drinking and merriment.,

The atmosphere in which Neddy is reaching his state of impairment should be noted as well. Swimming pools alone are generally a solid indicator of a comfortable income, and there are enough of them in an eight mile ‘path’ that our protagonist is convinced he can ‘swim’ home. At one point it is...