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The Fleeting Of Social Status Essay

847 words - 3 pages

Historically it has been viewed that one's place in society is fixed. This concept included the notion that not only was it impossible for one to move up in society, but also that it was difficult for one to move down the social ladder. The American dream, of course, promotes the idea that one can move up in the social ladder. However, many fail to realize that one can plummet from highest social class to the bottom, without even realizing how or why. John Cheever's The Swimmer, examines and reveals this problem through conflicts of attitude between the narrator and the viewpoint character, Neddy Merrill. The narrator conveys the attitude that social status is fleeting through the use of irony and shifts in time. Neddy's attitude, however, is to cling to his social status through denial, over-rationalization and an arrogant sense of invulnerability.

The narrator uses irony to show that his attitude of social status is impermanent. Neddy Merrill's journey across the county by way of swimming pools is described as that of an expedition, with Neddy as the explorer. "Making his way home by an uncommon route gave him the feeling that he was a pilgrim, an explorer, a man with destiny..." However, the actual destiny of Neddy is the opposite of what is described in this passage. The narrator is consistent in building Neddy's image as one of extreme importance and high social order, which makes it ironic when the reader and Neddy discover that in reality his social status is at the very bottom rung.

In addition to the use of irony, the narrator plays with the perception of time. In Neddy's world time is fixed; in the real world, time has passed. John Cheever does this through multiple concepts of time. The narrator describes memories or lack there of, that are inconsistent with Neddy swimming home in what the reader perceives as a single day. For example, Neddy does not remember a neighbor's surgery and does not remember selling his house. An additional concept of time that Cheever distorts has to do with the weather. The reader is told that this "swim" across the county begins on a warm summer day, however, there are numerous instances where the weather is not consistent with this initial description. At one point a storm rolls through during Neddy's journey, "The rain had cooled the air and he shivered." The changing weather, specifically cool rain, is not consistent with the journey taking place in a days time. The...

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