Saturday, September 6, 2014

The Swimmer by John Cheever

It all started on a midsummer Sunday afternoon when the Westerhazys had a few friends over and they where sitting around the pool.  They was talking about how they  dranked to much on Saturday night.  Among them was Neddy and Lucinda Merrill.  Neddy was a slender man as youthful as his younger years, but he was far from being young.  He must have been still tipsy from Saturday night when he got out of bed and slid down the banister just as a kid would do for fun.  Then he decided to jog toward the aroma of fresh brewed coffee coming from his dinning room.  At the Westerhazys Neddy sitting on the edge of the pool with one hand in the water and the other hand he had a glass of gin.  Neddy wasn't a joker of any kind but he consider his self as a legendary figure who is always trying to make discoveries or have good ideas.  He decided that he was going to swim and in the town it seems like everyone had a pool or there was a public pool around.  When his wife asked him what he was doing, that's when he decided that he was going to swim all the way back to Bullet Park to his home.  Even though everyone   knew that was not a good ideal for him because  of his age and the way he was breathing in the pool, he did it anyway.  His only plan that he had was by memory or imagination  this is not a well thought-out plan.  He swam through neighbors pools and public pools as well, crossed over yards and trails.  Lancaster is a town where it seems like everyone knew each other.  As Neddy stated out on his journey he made some amazing discoveries along the way.  Some of the people in town was treating him different they where not please to see him.  The rumor was out that his wife and family had lefted him and he didn't pick up on it. Some of the neighbors had moved and he didn't even know.  Neddy and Lucinder had not been in the lamplight for awhile.  Maybe it was due to his affair he had or things was just rocky in their life.  when he foundly reached his home he saw that there was some damage from the storm, but as he approached the door he couldn't get in, so he called out and know one heard him, he looked in the window and found out that his house was totally  empty.  His wife and children packed up and moved.  What was it from  the cheating, the booze, or just signs of old age? 


  1. I see the story as a total booze trip. I think it's probably been years since he walked out of that party at the Westerhazy's. He's been in and out of Lucinda and his daughters' lives and completely dependent on alcohol to get him through. It's easier to be a socially acceptable drunk (for awhile, not forever) especially when you're an affluent, fun guy. It does however, have an expiration date - when the pools start getting emptier and he starts getting weaker, suddenly people aren't so happy to see him anymore. You tend to not realize the point when people stop finding you a charming drunk. Some never realize.

    1. I don't know that we are supposed to see the drinking as the explanation of Neddy' circumstances; I think it serves more as a motif or symbol than as an explanation for Neddy's circumstances. Remember the context of the story; it was written in 1964 and drinking was viewed very differently then. Everyone is drinking, but not everyone ends up like Neddy. The drinking seems to serve more as a marker of social status (declining status for Neddy) and a point about how people in this environment connect and relate to on another. This motif also helps to establish or explain some of the disorientation and surrealism of the story.

  2. Brenda,
    I wonder if we are supposed to see Neddy's predicament more widely as an indictment of his environment and society rather than only as personal failings of Neddy Merrill. Cheever seems interested in exploring what this life in the suburbs and its expectations do to the individual...