Sunday, September 7, 2014

The "Untamed"

One interpretation of the pools vs. river debate surrounding The Swimmer comes up when you think about what he wanted to name his "discovery".  The Lucinda River, named after his wife we know so little about - in fact, Ned doesn't seem to know much about her either.  There isn't much discussion on their marriage until towards the end when you meet his mistress and start hearing more about his transgressions.
It is a common masculine trope of man discovering land, invented something new, just being the first at something.  This becomes particularly hard in more modern literature because the idea of charting new terrain is almost impossible in the modern world.  It is still however a very attractive dream.  Ned gets the bright idea in his head that he's going to discover these uncharted waters, that he's figured out a route not used before, and he'll name it after his wife.  Choosing to name it Lucinda seems more on ceremony rather than any real respect, like naming a ship.  He acts like he's taming the wild river and when really he's flopping from backyard pool to backyard pool.  I see a man who expected a lot from himself and his life.  What he got was an upper middle class suburban lifestyle with a woman who was a person, not a goddess, and a home that was a house, not a palace.  He liked the idea of Lucinda (representing what his life was "supposed" to be) and the idea of charting the unknown river.  What he got was something most of us do, but he couldn't accept that.  


  1. What I took from the story was that Neddy was so festered with alcoholism, that he couldn't know his family. He couldn't even save his life from falling apart. I agree with you on the name. Why name it after his wife? Could it be that this is his subconscious, indicating he knew all along he was losing touch with Lucinda, and this is sort of his drunken way of trying to impress her/win her favor? It's interesting. This story is so ambiguous, yet leaves so much room for interpretation.

  2. Yes! And I would add that in that masculine trope (the original version of the American Dream I would add), the land is often personified as female... The explorer elements also seem to add to the surrealism of the story and elevate it from just a story about one man Neddy, to almost an epic journey.