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Denial And Alcoholism Exposed In The Swimmer, By John Cheever

944 words - 4 pages

The Swimmer, a short story by John Cheever, tells the tale of Neddy Merrill and his decision to “swim” all the way home. It is an odd sort of an idea, and he fancies himself an adventurer exploring a new river. The river is really made of swimming pools that stretch across town, which collectively he believes will lead him home. Along his journey however, startling occurrences take place, leading to the conclusion that Neddy’s water-filled journey isn’t what it seems. The “swim” Neddy takes is really hinting at an alcohol problem that he is in denial about, and the affects it has had on his life.
The story itself is riddled with occurrences that tell the reader that the “swim” is not what it seems. The first comes in the introduction itself, which describes the atmosphere of a party. The first seven lines show that the people there, including Neddy, have drank more than they should have. The choice of swimming home also hints that something may not be quite right. Any sober person would consider the idea of swimming pool to pool to get home ridiculous. The author also brings the reader in by showing his dizzy and fantastical thoughts on the matter. Neddy describes himself as a legendary figure, and that he wasn’t a fool or practical joker (l. 29-30). When he thinks this, the author is telling the reader that Neddy is already blind to his own faults, and believes he is in his right mind, when really it is just the opposite.
Neddy doesn’t believe that he has an alcohol problem, but the events that take place on his “ swim” claim differently. When he meets people along his journey, the things they speak to him shock him. The fact that he is oblivious shows the affects of alcohol on his life. His first encounter was when he arrives at the house of the Welchers to find that their pool was empty and that the house was for sale. He can’t remember when he had last talked to them or that they were moving, even though his wife was good friends with them (p. 10). The second event comes when he reaches the Halloran’s pool. They are outside and are downcast when they see him, mentioning that they were sorry for his misfortunes and start to say something about his children gone and his house sold (p. 17). Neddy is taken aback by this, and is ignorant at the fact that there has been a time lapse during his “swim” and that he could make such a choice that would lose him his house and family. The pool he visits next also shows a time lapse, as his friend is recovering from a surgery 3 years ago that he has no memory of (p. 21). Next,...

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