Inferno In Stanley Cheever's The Swimmer

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In Stanley J. Kozikowski article, “Damned in a Fair Life: Cheever’s ‘The Swimmer’”, infers that The Swimmer is a “spiritual allegory in the fashion of Dante” (367). He also argues that Cheever’s story is autobiographical on Neddy’s part and “reveals itself as an uneasy pilgrimage to hell” (367). Kozikowski draws very specific sections and details of The Swimmer and presents the parallels in Inferno, such as: the attitudinal similarities between Neddy Merrill and Dante the pilgrim, the likeness Cheever’s multiple pools and their environments share with the different circles and rivers of Dante’s hell, and references some of The Swimmer’s speech and characters that uncannily reflect that of Inferno. Kozikowski takes The Swimmer bit by bit,…show more content…
I have no real objections to this idea, but there is something that feels off. Even though I can make the connections between The Swimmer and Inferno, it vaguely feels like Kozikowski is grasping for straws at times. For example, his comparison of Neddy’s public pool episode to Dante’s crossing through the Styx marsh in the circle of discontent has solid grounds and appears to be an echo of Dante through Cheever in every right. From the murky waters that threaten each hero, their development of loathing for those in such filth, their concern of contamination, the “twin beacons” of Dante and the lifeguard towers of Neddy that shelter “sentinels who seek to detect and repel intruders” (370). The resemblances are undeniable.
Also, when Kozikowski argues that Grace Biswanger is likened to Medusa, for “she refers to Neddy as a ‘gate crasher’ (610), evoking the image of the ‘gates of Dis,’ [in Dante’s Inferno]”. His delivery in this sequence causes me to become a believer in his theory. Everything else he argues juxtaposed with these arguments seem weak, as if they’re just scathing by as passable links, if barely
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