The Swimmer Essay

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“The Swimmer” John Cheever American short story writer and novelist. The following entry presents criticism of Cheever's short story “The Swimmer” (first collected in The Brigadier and the Golf Widow, 1964). See also, John Cheever Criticism. INTRODUCTION One of Cheever's most critically acclaimed and well-known works, “The Swimmer” (1964) is representative of his suburban stories, those which explore the grandeur and pathos of individuals living within the turmoil of a seemingly placid American suburbia. Cheever has been labeled the “the Chekhov of the exurbs” for his detailing of cocktail parties and swimming pools, hallmarks of the tranquil and leisurely cosmos his characters inhabit. Often regarded as Cheever's finest story, “The Swimmer” blends realism and myth as it follows Neddy Merrill's eight-mile journey as he attempts to swim the pools of Westchester County. The image of a former athlete who tries to regain his lost youth through physical endeavor is common in Cheever's fiction. “The Swimmer” was distilled from 150 pages of notes for a novel Cheever planned to write. Additionally, the story is believed to have further stemmed from Cheever's short story entitled “The Music Teacher,” published in 1959, which shares the cardinal image of a swimmer. In 1968, “The Swimmer” was adapted into a film starring Burt Lancaster as Neddy Merrill. Plot and Major Characters “The Swimmer” begins with suburban couples gathered around a backyard pool, nursing their respective hangovers from the previous night's cocktail party. The hero of the tale is Neddy Merrill, a youthfully middle-aged, athletic, and affluent denizen of suburbia. Neddy's desire to rise above complacently takes the form of an odd, comical quest. He decides to swim home, fifteen pools to the south. The narrative follows Neddy's journey from pool to pool, allowing the reader to experience his initial

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