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Psychoanalytical Criticism Of The Swimmer By John Cheever

1854 words - 7 pages

In the short story The Swimmer by John Cheever, one of the dominant themes is the passage of time. In this short story time seems to pass as reality does with us unaware of its passing. The main character is the protagonist hero, Neddy Merrill who embarks on a traditional theme of a homeward journey. The scene opens on a warm mid-summer day at an ongoing pool party with Neddy and his wife Lucinda. The pool is “fed by an artesian well with a high iron content, was a pale shade of green.
They are at their affluent suburban friends Mr. and Mrs. Westerhazy’s house. Here he is grounded in reality. Neddy “sat by the green water, one hand in it, one around a glass of gin”. His pleasure seeking Id is in full force. The green color symbolizes wealth. The gin represents social lubrication. Neddy was “breathing deeply, stertorously as if he could gulp into his lungs the components of that moment”. It is here that I suspect he has already entered a dream state, and began his spiritual journey to the underworld. Cheever uses an archetypal narrative pattern that he is going on a quest, a type of night water journey that is suggests the depth of a spiritual allegory. This is the last time he will see his wife or children.
archetypal figures: smacked the bronze backside (libido) of Aphrodite (Greek Water Goddess of love and beauty – vain and unfaithful like Neddy)
Then he has a vision of home, "where his four beautiful daughters would have had their lunch and might be playing tennis" and sees himself as free to be an explorer. In starting his journey he walks away from reality and enters a fantasy world where he is a great explorer about to conquer the Lucinda River that he names after his wife. In reality he ignored his wife, engaged in adultery and lost her. The maps he makes up for his journey are imaginary. He starts his journey with his ego intact he is strong, energetic, and decides upon a courageous action that will prove his self-worth. Although youthful in his actions, he was “far from young” and “ might have been compared to a summer's day, particularly the last hours of one” and “had a vague and modest idea of himself as a legendary figure”. His motivation is to become legendary. This suggests that he is going through some form of a mid-life crisis and is a forshadowing of things to come. To be “embraced and sustained by the light green water” suggests that water is an essential element representing a life giving force.

First there were the Grahams, where he was happily greeted . He received a drink, (a break from reality) and was rescued by the distraction of others so that he could “slip away”. Once gain he did not want to deal with reality. He did not want to be friendly or linger. He went down a thorny path to a vacant lot. This symbolizes a downward, painful, and empty turn in the story.
the Hammers, “Mrs. Hammer, looking up from her roses, saw him swim by
although she wasn't quite sure who it was”. She did not recognize him, he was a...

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