Allegory In The Swimmer, By John Cheever

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. Out of his depth
In the short allegory, ‘The Swimmer’ (1968), John Cheever explores the grandeur of the title character, Ned Merrill, a posh middle-aged man on the brink of alcoholism who lives in a world devoid of spiritual meaning and filled with materialism. Throughout the story, Ned’s path or more aptly put, his seemingly journey of self, pool by pool, is one that is indubitably complex – it resonates with the concept of uprooting himself from a semblance of idealized ‘reality’ that he created, into an epoch of incredulity whereby he begins to realize that with every stroke comes disillusionment. This paradigm shift, due to Neddy’s spontaneous and irrational idea of swimming home, leads to an existential crisis whereby the course of his trajectory in life and social identity are questioned extensively. Ned’s journey towards the truth, that he has tried to avoid/deny, is marked by kindness of his friends, the weather, condition of his body and his memory which wavers. Subsequently, throughout the ‘Swimmer’, the themes: passage of time and appearance versus reality are explored, and as a result contribute to Neddy’s realisation of what he has lost.
On a Sunday afternoon in midsummer, as revealed at the beginning of the ‘Swimmer’, we, the readers, take a dip into the surreal and initially, are only shown glimpses of what is on the shallow surface of Neddy’s life. From the start, we are thrown into the illusion of Ned’s world: a place full of grandeur and contentment.

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