The Swimmer John Cheever Analysis

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In “The Swimmer,” John Cheever portrays the declining emotional state of Ned Merrill, a man who lives in a suburban neighborhood with his wife and kids. In the story, Ned decides to go home from his friend’s house by swimming through every pool in the neighborhood, a strange journey on which he interacts with many of his neighbors. In this paper, I will argue that Cheever uses the irony of Ned’s “great adventure” swimming in the neighborhood pools to criticize the stifling suburban lifestyle of the 1950s. This portrayal is important because Cheever uses it to argue that the suburban lifestyle cultivates externally driven, shallow people, which was especially relevant during the 1950s post-war when the mindset of society was shifting from the protestant work ethic to consumerism. Prior to this time, hard-working, limited-play lifestyle was the norm, but after the war, leisure time and an emphasis on shopping emerged. With this shift came a change from self-driven to others-driven people in a sense that people only wanted something because other people had it. Because there was such an abundance of affluence with relative income equality, this competitive buying created a situation in which everyone…show more content…
In Ned’s town (and most American suburbs in general), people experienced an existential crisis because they felt that since they had relatively the same amount of money as their neighbors, they had nothing setting them apart. Why should identity be found in money? Cheever suggests that identity should be found in meaningful relationships with friends and families, activities, and other aspects separate from finances because, as shown by one of the financially equal but socially ostracized families in the story, financial stability doesn’t really have as big of an effect on social status as Ned and his neighbors believed it
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