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Water Symbolism In The Swimmer

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In “The Swimmer”, Neddy Merrill at first sight is displayed as a man living a normal ‘country club’ life however as the story progresses we see him slowly unraveling.

There is a sense of community amongst the characters and that their lives are interlinked; “We all drank too much last night,” to the point where they share the same diversions.
Alcohol is a predominant theme in the text, and seems to be a central aspect in Neddy’s life; “Neddy Merrill sat by the green water, one hand in it, one around a glass of gin.” The use of water and alcohol is important because they are entangled; one is hardly ever mentioned without mentioning the other.

The water symbolizes alcohol and his addiction, he feels compelled to swim across the county
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Each house Ned stops at could also symbolize different stages in his life; from the Westerhazy’s through to the Tomlinson’s he is somewhat happy, however when he reaches the Levy’s the storm rolls in, which marks the point of no return or rather where his life ‘falls apart’.

We see him in a state of denial at the Biswangers’ house when Grace Biswanger reveals that “They went for broke overnight” and Ned’s reply was that “She was always talking about money.” Essentially dismissing and disregarding anything she says because it is characteristic of her.

Ned is also in a state of denial because he is ostracized, he is kicked out of the public swimming pool “… get outa the water.” And also at the Biswangers’ where he is called a “gate crasher” and his only consolation becomes the water and alcohol.
The alienation of Ned drives him towards a downward
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