Essay about John Cheever the Swimmer

1972 Words Jun 8th, 2011 8 Pages
Living in a Dream World: Fantasy and Social Hierarchy in Cheever’s “The Swimmer”

John Cheever’s short story, “The Swimmer,” describes the epic journey of Neddy Merrill as he attempts to swim his way back home. Throughout the story, readers continually question reality and fantasy while wondering whether Merrill is really experiencing what Cheever portrays or if he is simply stuck in the past. Merrill goes from house to house as he freestyles across each swimming pool along the way. As the story draws to the end, Cheever points out that Merrill’s world is not what it seems and he has really lost everything he loved. An analysis of “The Swimmer” by John Cheever through the liberal humanist and Marxist lenses suggests that the story
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His was a world in which the caterer’s men kept the social score, and to be rebuffed by a part-time barkeep meant that he had suffered some loss of social esteem” (Cheever 2049). Neddy is obviously offended by being rebuffed by some lowly barkeep. He considers himself of a higher status and power, yet by undertaking such a journey, Neddy has left himself susceptible to the very discrimination he gives to others. By dropping by without invitation, Merrill is now seen by his peers as somewhat of a scavenger, like the unwanted guest at dinner parties. In a critical essay describing ethnic origins in the story, Michael D. Byrne says: “Of the English or German neighbors in this part of the story, two have no pools and two rebuff Neddy for his casual arrogance in dropping by.” Because his actions, Neddy has turned himself into a “Wandering Jew” of sorts and his attempts to get free drinks at a party is looked down upon by his English and German neighbors. Neddy has always tried to live life to the fullest but his attempt at something unique has failed and Neddy is cast aside by society. Looking at “The Swimmer” through the Marxist lens also suggests that the story is about how high social status and wealth will cause relationships to be ruined and, eventually, lead to isolation. Neddy Merrill enjoys his cocktails and fancy dinners and thinks his life is all good. He chooses which parties he wants to go to and which to avoid. He thinks he has

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