Characterization In John Cheever's The Swimmer

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On July 18, 1964, The New Yorker published a short story entitled “The Swimmer” (Wilhite 215). Edited thoroughly and heavily compacted from its original form, “The Swimmer” represents John Cheever 's most acclaimed and recognized work. The protagonist of the famous and momentous short story, Neddy Merrill, undergoes a watery journey of self-exploration, acceptance, and tragedy while swimming in various pools as he makes his way home from a party. Slyly and allegorically, the short story dramatically demonstrates the possible density of the literary technique called characterization. Containing many cliffhangers open to the reader 's individual self-interpretation, the short story effectively uses the strong power of language to illuminate…show more content…
The first pool visited by Neddy is Ms. Graham 's, whose land borders that of the Westerhazys '. Through the adroit usage of a similar name, Cheever furtively identifies West Chester, Pennsylvania as a semi-autobiographical inspiration influencing the setting of his masterpiece. Ms. Graham excitedly and felicitously greets Neddy, promptly offering him an alcoholic beverage. Quickly and purposefully, Neddy swims the length of Ms. Graham 's pool and leaves the harmonious scene eager and motivated for the long journey ahead. After successively swimming through a few of the neighbors ' pools, Neddy hears the noise caused by the festive scene taking place at the Bunkers '. The leisurely, relaxed, and comfortable atmosphere at the Bunkers ' inspires Neddy to feel warmhearted and effervescent, inducing the muse, “Oh how bonny and lush were the banks of the Lucinda River!” (Baym 1180). However, the acknowledgment of thunder resounding in the distance metaphorically warns of coming troubles for Neddy. Nevertheless, Neddy causes the alert reader to feel ambivalence concerning the impending storm when he asks, “... why did the first watery notes of a storm wind have for him [Neddy] the unmistakable sound of good news, cheer, glad tidings?” (Baym 1181). Shockingly, the water imagery present in the previous line accurately demonstrates Neddy 's sanctimonious, self-righteous, yet auspicious perspective. Due to the identification of his appreciation of raging storms, the clever reader induces that Neddy usually encounters storms in his life, yet somehow compensates for the impending negativity by embracing positivity. Additionally, Neddy appears to be losing a proper orientation of time, because his muddled mind fails to accurately recall when Mrs. Levy purchased the Japanese lanterns. Masterfully and innovatively, Cheever bends the definition of time, leaving the reader constantly questioning the true amount
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