How Does John Cheever Use Dramatic Irony In The Swimmer

1148 Words5 Pages

Giovanna Calicchia
English 103
Professor Hall
16 February 2023
Just Keep Swimming
Swimming through neighbors’ pools is an unconventional way home, but Neddy Merrill chose this exact method. “The Swimmer” was written by John Cheever in 1964. The short story was published in The New Yorker magazine on July 18, 1964, and was turned into a film in 1968. It follows Neddy Merrill’s journey home through the suburbs via a river of his neighbors’ pools that he names after his wife, Lucinda. “The Swimmer” uses symbols, dramatic irony, and plot devices to show suburban emptiness.
Throughout the story, Cheever uses symbols to convey suburban emptiness. Pools are an example of this: “His own house stood in Bullet Park, eight miles to the south, where his …show more content…

With each drink, Neddy’s strength is returned, but his drinking leads to confusion and dependence. His drinking leads to his friends rejecting him, even those that he thought to be beneath him in social status. Alcohol is a way for Neddy to show his high social status and fill the emptiness that comes with it.
Another way John Cheever shows suburban emptiness is through dramatic irony. One example of this is the parallel between “The Swimmer” and The Odyssey. At the beginning of the short story, Neddy saw in his mind “with a cartographer’s eye, a string of swimming pools, a quasi-subterranean stream that curved across the county. He had made a discovery, a contribution to modern geography; he would name the stream Lucinda… he was determinedly original, and had a vague and modest idea of himself as a legendary figure” (Cheever 78). The Odyssey follows the journey of the Greek hero Odysseus returning home after ten years of fighting in the Trojan War. The dramatic irony is shown through the loose comparison of Neddy and Odysseus. Neddy sees himself as a great figure of legend, but through the …show more content…

Neddy notices “[i]t would storm. The stand of cumulus cloud—that city—had risen and darkened, and while he sat there, he heard thunder”(Cheever 80). The incoming storm foreshadows the passing of time. While Neddy makes his way down the Lucinda River, he believes that only an afternoon is passing, but he soon finds out that seasons have passed. When he reaches his home he finds his home empty and his family nowhere to be found. Neddy’s trip home was supposed to be something to fill his afternoon but took months instead. Cheever’s use of the story’s climax also shows suburban emptiness. The climax of “The Swimmer” comes at the very end, with no resolution. Neddy finally reaches his home and “[h]e shouted, pounded on the door, tried to force it with his shoulder, and then, looking in at the windows, saw that the place was empty”(Cheever 88). Cheever uses the climax to show Neddy’s delusion breaking. What he thought was the perfect suburban life was truly

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