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Surrealism Vs. Realism In The Swimmer, By John Cheever

691 words - 3 pages

John Cheever uniquely crafted the story “The Swimmer” by using a mix of surrealism and realism throughout the story. Most people when they read “The Swimmer” they have to reevaluate it to comprehend what is happening. The reason for that is because Cheever shifts between surrealism and realism so much that the reader does not even notice. The story starts out with Neddy being so strong and youthful, but as the story goes on he weakens and ages. When he was youthful Neddy decided to swim every pool in his neighborhood. As he ages and weakens, the pools get harder to swim and the seasons pass without him even noticing.
Surrealism and realism are complete opposites. Surrealism means “beyond reality”. It is when someone creates art or literature that used images that represent unconscious thoughts and fantasies. It basically means that there are realistic characteristics is a non-realistic environment. Surrealism is usually represented through art. ...view middle of the document...

At the beginning of the story, Ned had a family and a house. Everything changed when he started to swim from pool to pool. Every pool he swims through, the more surrealism is used and the more his life changes. An example of surrealism is throughout the story the season’s change rapidly representing the changing of seasons. “The force of the wind had stripped a maple of its red and yellow leaves and scattered them over the grass and the water. Since it was midsummer the tree must be blighted, and yet he felt a peculiar sadness at this sign of autumn” (Cheever 730). As time passed, his life became unclear. People started to tell him of his misfortunes and how sorry they were. “As he was pulling himself out of the water he heard Mrs. Halloran say, “We’ve been terribly sorry to hear about all your misfortunes, Neddy.” “My misfortunes?” Ned asked.” (Cheever 733).
Realism is very scarce in “The Swimmer”. At the beginning there was realism, but as the story progressed the surrealism became stronger and stronger. An example of realism is when Ned first starts out his journey. He was so strong and youthful. “He was a slender man. He seemed to have the especial slenderness of youth, and while he was far from young he had slid down the banister that morning.” (Cheever 726). Ned had two daughters, a wife, and a mistress before he started his journey. As the realism slowly faded and the surrealism taken over, his life progressively got worse over a course of time. What Ned thought had been hours or days turned out to be months that will change his life forever. “He shouted, pounded the door, tried to force it with his shoulder, and then, looking in at the windows, saw that the place was empty.” (Cheever 737).
There were many components that caused Ned to lose so much. Alcohol played a major part in him losing everything he had in what he thought was a short amount of time. The further he swam, the weaker he became and the more he lost. Throughout the whole story it shifts between realism and surrealism. As he swims, his life becomes more and more unclear, and when he finally stops he realizes the truth and what he has lost. Ned’s life that was once filled with happiness, youth, and love is now filled with sorrow, loneliness, and pity.

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