The Swimmer “The Swimmer” is an allegorical story of Neddy Merrill, the protagonist, and his journey home from the cocktail party that was eight miles away from his home through private and public swimming pools on Sunday afternoon that depicts his journey through life. The author presents the protagonist both directly and indirectly and tells the story in third person point of view that leads him to reveals the protagonist’s thoughts. “Neddy names his journey Lucinda River after his wife to invoke the security and longevity of his marriage and family, but his choice of names becomes ironic after the denouement”(Nydam).
Neddy’s desire to drink and the loss of memory are his internal conflicts. Despite a terrible hangover from the cocktail party that everyone there was talking about, on his journey home Neddy is still asking for a drink at every pool that he stops by even when they treat him with hostility. The more he wishes something he used to get easily, the more he is turned down. Neddy is humiliated at the Biswangers’ party where Grace calls him a gate crasher and the bartender serves him a drink rudely. “At the Sachs, he cannot recall that they do not keep drinks at their house since Eric’s operation.
This loss of memory of his also appears when Mrs. Halloran, Helen Sachs’s mother, is telling him that they have been terribly sorry for their misfortunes and he does not recall that his house is sold either”(Cheever 520). Neddy has external conflicts that are alcoholism, the affair with Shirley Adams, his old mistress, his social standing, and his wife and daughters for they left him. His social standing develops in him the art of denial of invitations from the people that he considers below him, the Biswangers for instance.
According to Cummings, the climax occurs when Neddy finds himself standing on the shoulder of Route 424 amid litter while passersby ridicule him and one throws a beer can at him. … “He had no dignity or humor to bring to the situation,” the narrator says. …Neddy could have gone back, but he didn’t (Cheever 518). The dilemma was to go back or to continue his route of adventure. He decides to continue his route that leads him to his downfall even if he is not evil.
The author goes into his mind sometimes in order to make his feelings available to the readers, “making his way home by uncommon route gave him feeling that he was a pilgrim, an explorer, a man with destiny, and he knew that he would find friends all along the way” (Cheever 515). The author also presents the protagonist directly “At the beginning of the story, the narrator tells us that Neddy is no longer young, but he does his best to act young by sliding down a banister and diving headlong into a pool” (sparksNotes). Neddy’s social standing is one of his antagonists, his own house is in a good neighborhood, the Bullet Park. The Biswangers and some other few neighbors do not belong to Neddy’s set, and they are not even on Lucinda’s Christmas Card list”(Cheever 521). Considering their social standing, the Merrills have developed the art of denial of the invitations from the neighbors whom they regard as socially inferior, for example, “where Grace Biswanger tells Neddy “you don’t seem to pay much attention to invitations” ( Cheever 522). As an allegorical story, “The Swimmer” has many symbols, and the story itself symbolizes Neddy’s journey through many years of his life.
The change in weather is symbolic. “At the beginning of the story, Neddy is warm in the sunshine, conscious of nothing but his own happiness and the pleasures of the day. … Shortly into his journey, a storm passes, marking a turning point in Neddy’s plans” (SparksNotes). The scattering of leaves depicts fall and his final swimming is in freezing-cold water. Along his journey as the moment is going on he gets colder and weaker, finally ends in winter, and his happy life is complete. Briefly, in this story “The Swimmer” the protagonist’s journey represents more than meets the eye.
It represents life problems and struggles that make him weaker and tired as life goes on where people he once rejected are now rejecting him. A climatic moment happens when he returns home he is terribly humiliated, people in the roads are throwing cans at him, and his former mistress refuses to welcome him and even to get him a drink. Heading “to the Biswangers he thinks that they would be honored to give him a drink” (Cheever 521) instead they treat him with hostility. The denouement is Neddy’s downfall where after seeing fall, autumn, and winter symbols he is alone facing the empty house that is locked.
His daughters, his wife after whom he names his journey, alcohol, social standing, and everything he considers happiness or pleasure are all gone. Works Cited Cheever, John. “The Swimmer. ” Perrine’s Literature Structure, Sound and Sense. 10 Ed. Helen Triller and Cheryl Forman. Wadsworth. Lyn uhl. 2006-327. Print. Cummings, Michael. “The Swimmer Study Guide. ” Cummingsstudyguides. 2011. Web. 31 jan. 2013 Nydam, Rebekah. “Drowing in the Suburbs. ” hubpages. n. d. Web. 30 jan. 2013 SparkNotes Editors. “SparkNote on The Swimmer. ” SparkNotes. com. SparkNotes LLC. 2007. Web. 27 Jan. 2013.