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Symbolic Meaning In John Cheever’s, The Swimmer

1051 words - 5 pages

In John Cheever’s, “The Swimmer”, on a hot summer Sunday ,while sitting by the pool with his wife and neighbors, as they all complained about their hangovers, a man of higher status named Needy Merrill decides to get home by swimming through the pools in his county. 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 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. In “The Swimmer “, John Cheever uses setting to symbolize the meaning of the story.
One way Cheever uses setting symbolically, is by creating a season and weather change in the story. Cheever writes that when Needy realizes that the leaves are changing colors, he becomes sad. “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 252) At the beginning of the journey it was a hot summer, gradually it turned into a dreary fall. The season and weather change represents how fast a person’s life can change before their eyes. When the journey started off, the weather was comfortable and Needy spirit was full of happiness and energy. Then, when the weather became dark and cold, he became sad. Toward the end, the pools began to get icy cold and he couldn’t take it anymore, showing that his life was at its wits. The weather was a representation on how his life had took its turn for the worse.
Another way Cheever uses setting symbolically, is by using the swimming pools to represent the cycle in which his life went. Cheever writes that Needy started realizing his social score had went down, when he had arrived at the Biswangers party and was treated rudely.” The bartender served him, but served him rudely. His was world in which the caterer’s man kept the social score, and to be rebuffed by a part-time barkeep meant that he had suffered some loss of social-esteem.”(256). The first few swimming pools Needy visited, he was well-respected by his friends. Towards the end, his friends started treating him like an outcast and bringing up his misfortune. As he went through the different swimming...

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