Search this website "The Swimmer" by John Cheever: Summary and Analysis Growing older is one of the hardest challenges we face in life, and if that obstacle is dealt with in a rash manner, and without much thought it can lead to feelings of helplessness, denial, confusion, and resentment. John Cheever addresses this issue in one of his most noted works, "The Summer". This article gives you its summary and analysis. When we possess all the luxuries in the world, we often lose sight of things that are important, like responsibility and relationships. Such ignorance often leads a person to feel helpless, angry, confused, and resentful. And when this happens, we assume that the easiest way to deal with it is through denial or repression.
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Neddy, a seemingly energetic and cheerful husband and father, decides one summer afternoon that he will swim his way home from a cocktail party through the array of public and private swimming pools scattered throughout his neighborhood.
Through increasingly strange encounters with his neighbors and resurfacing ideas of some serious life problems, the once-vibrant Neddy begins to transform into a tired and confused older man. Neddy is slowly forced to acknowledge the fact that his married adult life may actually be one enormous lie. As the story comes to a close, Neddy arrives at his house only to find that it has been abandoned, his wife and children nowhere to be found.
It illustrates how ignorance, apathy, and an inability to recognize and accept reality can so quickly destroy lives and entire families in the blink of an eye. The journey starts off smoothly one summer afternoon, with Neddy being well received by his neighbors.
He helps himself to drinks at every stop and chats with the hosts for brief moments before moving on to the neighboring pools. However, things slowly begin to change. Neddy realizes that the pools are becoming colder and increasingly more difficult to swim through. This transition illustrates that Neddy is changing — he is growing weaker, older, and the journey is no longer as easy as it started out to be.
It reveals how things can start out easily in a marriage and then deteriorate both physically and emotionally. During one part of the journey, Neddy is forced to take cover in a gazebo while a storm passes. The narrator explains: "Since it was midsummer the trees must be blighted, and yet he felt a peculiar sadness at this sign of autumn.
He wondered if the Lindleys had sold their horses or gone away for the summer and put them out to board. He seemed to remember having heard something about the Lindleys and their horses but the memory was unclear. Depression or some other type of psychological illness could be distracting Neddy, rendering him incapable of separating his memories from the reality which surrounds him.
Midlife crises are generally said to be experienced during the ages of 40 and 60, and Neddy is probably somewhere in this age range. It is said to be a time when people are typically emotionally unsatisfied in their lives. They can be depressed and in need of psychotherapy, and experience a variety of feelings including unhappiness, boredom, confusion, uncertainty, anger, doubt, a desire for new relationships, and a need to change.
As Neddy carries on with his voyage, the weather continues its gradual transition from a bright and cheery summer afternoon to a cooler, stormy autumn eve and Neddy quickly loses his gumption and grows tired of the trip.
His neighbors begin discussing his debt and his broken family, while Neddy is dazed and confused and completely unaware of what they are talking about. At one house, he encounters a woman with which he has apparently had an affair. The woman tells him that if he is there for more money, she will not give him any.
Neddy is baffled, and leaves this house to the final chapter of his journey. The return home is the most climactic event in the story. Upon arrival, Neddy notices that his house is locked and that it appears weathered and damaged.
He finds nothing and no one there — his family has somehow abandoned him without him even noticing. Neddy is left as a bewildered and exhausted man with everything he once cared about gone. Throughout the trip it was clear that he enjoyed drinking, perhaps a bit too much, and this could have been the catalyst which sparked the beginning of the end for Neddy. He clearly had some sort of financial mishap that quickly ate away at the comfortable lifestyle he and his wife and children were previously accustomed to living.
The extramarital affair also illustrates a disconnect between himself and his wife. Extramarital affairs, alcoholism, gambling, and debt, all these activities gradually eat away at relationships every day. The common midlife crises that people claim to experience have the power to rip families apart. Unfortunately for Neddy, he is too late in recognizing how painful his actions are to his family.
Sufferers of midlife crises are seeking to reinvent themselves and find new methods of satisfaction in their lives. Neddy allows his behavior to manifest so greatly that he ends up accomplishing just this - he becomes an entirely different person, albeit a poor, homeless, and abandoned one.
The Swimmer by John Cheever – into a suburban darkness
On a whim, Neddy decides to return home by swimming through all the pools in the neighborhood, which he names "the Lucinda River" to honor his wife. He begins the journey enthusiastic and full of youthful energy and, in the early stops on his journey, his friends enthusiastically greet him with drinks; it is readily apparent that he is well-regarded, and has an upper or upper-middle-class social standing. Despite the ever-present afternoon light, it becomes unclear how much time has passed: at the beginning of the story it is clearly midsummer, but eventually all natural signs point to the season being autumn. Some old acquaintances Neddy encounters mention his financial problems, although he does not remember having such misfortunes. He is patently unwelcome at several houses belonging to owners of a lower social class. His earlier, youthful energy gradually declines, and it becomes increasingly painful and difficult for him to swim on. Finally, he staggers back home only to find his house decrepit, empty, and abandoned.
His father was a prosperous shoe salesman, and Cheever spent much of his childhood in a large Victorian house , at Winthrop Avenue,  in the then-genteel suburb of Wollaston, Massachusetts. In the mids, however, as the New England shoe and textile industries began their long decline, Frederick Cheever lost most of his money and began to drink heavily. To pay the bills, Mary Cheever opened a gift shop in downtown Quincy—an "abysmal humiliation" for the family, as John saw it. A year later he won a short story contest sponsored by the Boston Herald and was invited back to Thayer as a "special student" on academic probation. His grades continued to be poor, however, and, in March , he was either expelled for smoking or more likely departed of his own accord when the headmaster delivered an ultimatum to the effect that he must either apply himself or leave.
The Swimmer (short story)