John Cheever's "The Swimmer".

Essay by lolita76 August 2003

download word file, 3 pages 2.0

Downloaded 110 times

John Cheever's story "The Swimmer" starts off reasonably enough. The protagonist, Neddy Merrill, is lounging about the swimming pool at the home of his friends, the Westerhazys, when a peculiar thought occurs to him: there are so many swimming pools between his current location and his own home eight miles away that he can literally swim home -- with a few jogs across back yards and intervening parkways. However, what begins as a whimsical exercise soon turns into the Twilight Zone.

At his first stop, the Grahams', Mrs. Graham welcomes him graciously and notes that she's been trying to get him on the phone all morning; she's delighted he's stopped by. Mrs. Hammer, owner of pool #2, sees him in the water but "wasn't quite sure who it was." The Lears saw him in their pool as well, the omniscient narrator reports; the Howlands and the Crosscups did not, because they were not home.

It is only at the Bunkers', pool #5, that we begin to get the sense that something is definitely amiss. There is a party in full swing, to which Neddy has apparently been invited, but his wife has called in his regrets, telling them he could not come. Why would she have done that without asking him? Otherwise, all seems normal; Neddy recognizes everyone at the Bunkers' party, including the "smiling bartender he had seen at a hundred parties." Neddy, however, assiduously avoids getting entangled in talk "that would delay his voyage", and proceeds overland to his next stop.

This was the Levys', and there something really odd does happen. A sudden storm breaks through with its full fury, and Neddy takes cover in the Levys' gazebo, watching the storm lash the trees. When the rain passes, he observes that "the force of...