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“Life Will Go On” Essay

1876 words - 8 pages

There is a common notion that money cannot buy happiness. This may be true for most, but not for John Cheever’s protagonist, Neddy Merrill, in “The Swimmer”. John Cheever was born May 27, 1912 in Quincy, Massachusetts. He has written many short stories for various publishers such as The Atlantic, The Yale Review and The New Yorker. In 1930, John Cheever published his first story in The New Republic; and in 1941, he married Mary Winternitz, with whom he had two children, Susan and Benjamin. Cheever served in the army during World War II; and after he wrote scripts for television series such as Life with Father. He also taught at a variety of institutions such as the University of Iowa, Boston University, Barnard College, and Sing Sing Prison. He received the Pulitzer Prize, the National Book Award, and the National Book Critics Circle Award. On June 18, 1982, Cheever died of cancer (Wilson 2). One of Cheever’s most well known short stories is “The Swimmer”. It was first published in 1964 at a time of great prosperity. This was when most of the middle and upper class Americans were enjoying the wealth and affluence of the post war era after World War II. It was during this time, when the suburbs, the setting of “The Swimmer,” grew in rapid quantity (Wilson 6). “The Swimmer” is a short story about a middle-aged man name Neddy Merrill who decides to swim home one day through the pools of all his friends and neighbors. Throughout the journey home, Neddy encounters many friends, and some conflicts, as he makes his way along the ‘Lucinda River’. Half way through the short story, Neddy’s journey becomes rough and the owners of the pools he has been crossing have begun to be rude to him. When he arrives home, he comes to find that his wife is gone along with all his belongings that were formerly in the house. John Cheever develops the theme that life continues on in his short story “The Swimmer” through the use of characterization and allusion.
The first literary element used to develop the theme in the short story is characterization. Neddy, the protagonist, is described in the story as being young, active and having a playful spirit. The short story begins with Cheever describing Neddy as being “a slender man—[who] seemed to have the especial slenderness of youth—and while he was far from young he had slid down his banister that morning.” When Neddy begins his journey, it is smooth, but then he begins to run into obstacles. Subtle at first being represented by physical challenges such as hedges, gravel paths, and highways, but then they begin to become more forthright when people that he formerly considered to be his friends begin to make his journey home somewhat harder for him by shunning him (Wilson 7). As he progresses on his journey, Neddy begins to grow more fatigued and is “struck by the loneliness of his situation” (Wilson 8). He even considers giving up his journey. Time seems to move slower as you grow older, but...

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