Essay about Allusion and Symbolism in The Swimmer, by John Cheever

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John Cheever does not merely state the theme of his story, he expresses his theme, as a good writer should, in a variety of metaphors and analogies coupled with powerful imagery. In The Swimmer, Cheever writes and underscores his primary theme of alcoholism in many ways, such as his use of autumnal imagery and the color green. However, there is also some very prominent symbolism and allusions that serve to highlight the theme while also augmenting the artistic and poetic nature of the story. One very important use of symbolism is in the “perverted sacraments” as originally pointed out by Hal Blythe in 1984. Along side these symbols, Hal Blythe, along with Charlie Sweet, later discovered a clear allusion to Ponce de Leòn in …show more content…
This quest on which Merrill has embarked is what the allusion to Ponce de Leòn centers around. This allusion was first brought to attention by Charlie Sweet, in collaboration with Blythe Hal in 1989. Throughout the narrative, Cheever makes many parallels from Merrill's journey to that of an explorers, but it is never made explicit which explorer he is referring to, if any. However, Sweet and Hal made a compelling argument for it to specifically be a parallel to Ponce de Leòn. Ponce de Leòn was an explorer, famous for his fabled quest to find the fountain of youth, a very similar mission to Merrill's. Merrill is trying to swim back to his old life, his life before it was wrought asunder through his alcoholism, and this is akin to Leòn's search for the fountain of youth, an elixir to restore his earlier life (“An Historical Allusion”). However, the parallel does not stop there, Hal and Sweet offer one more brilliant connection between to the two men and their journeys. Ponce de Leòn discovered Florida on a Sunday, known as “Flowery Sunday.” Not only does Cheever's story take place on a Sunday, but he makes numerous references to various flora throughout the short story (“An Historical Allusion”). It is fairly clear that this allusion was intended by Cheever and

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