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Many Theories From Literary Critics: John Cheever’s The Swimmer

1211 words - 5 pages

“The Swimmer” is one of John Cheever’s most notorious short stories. John Cheever’s main character is a middle-aged, suburban man, named Needy Merrill. While sitting at his neighbors, the Westerhazy’s, pool, Needy decides that he will take a journey through his neighborhood swimming pools. When Needy first starts off his journey he feels young and enthusiastic; he is then greeted in a joyous manner by his neighborhood friends. Apparently, Needy is a well-known and respected man. As his journey progresses, he starts seeing red and orange leaves; he then realizes that it was fall. In the middle of his journey he starts to endure some turmoil, but he does not let that stop his journey. As his journey ends, Needy starts to come encounter with some people who constantly mention his misfortune and struggle with his family. Needy does not remember any of the turmoil that had been going on in his life, and starts to wonder if his memory is failing him. Towards the end, many of the people that came encounter with treated him rudely. Needy then realizes that something must have went wrong in his life. When Needy arrives home, he sees that his house is empty and that his family is gone. At the beginning of the story, Needy Merrill is unable to understand that he has moved and that he is experiencing financial problems. However, by the end of the story, apparently he has been in a state of self-denial. (Champion) In the story Cheever doesn’t begin the story by letting the reader know of Needy misfortune. In fact, he portrays Needy to be successful and well-liked by neighbors. Cheever never tells the reader what happened to Needy throughout his life; he creates a change in mood to help the reader infer what really happened. Critics have pointed out several techniques Cheever uses in “The Swimmer” to underscore its main theme.( Blythe& Sweet 557) Perhaps, Needy did not really go through this and it is all a dream. Did Needy’s journey in “The Swimmer” symbolize a spiritual experience? Many literary critics suggest that there are plenty logical theories about “The Swimmer”.
One theory suggested, “The Swimmer” consists of Needy’s dream or imagination. “The Swimmer” is split into two sections; that is realism and surrealism. The first half of the story is more of a realistic scene for someone of Needy’s social standing. The second half of the story could be Needy’s own psychological fantasy, which he could have been dreaming of his future. (Blythe and Sweet 415) One part of Loren Bell’s dream theory was that perhaps, Needy feel asleep by the pool while drinking with his neighbors and slipped into a dream. Bell states” Debilitated by his hangover and his swim, warmed by the hot sun and cold gin, his deep breathing resonant with heavy snoring sounds.” When Cheever states ,“and now he was breathing deeply, stertorously as if he could gulp into his lungs the components of that moment…seem to flow into his chest.”, suggests that Needy had fell asleep by the pool. (Bell...

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