Alcoholism in The Swimmer, by John Cheever Essay examples

Alcoholism in The Swimmer, by John Cheever Essay examples

Length: 1140 words (3.3 double-spaced pages)

Rating: Better Essays

Open Document

Essay Preview

“The Swimmer” by John Cheever is a short story about Neddy Merrill and his journey through alcoholism. Alcoholism plays a detrimental role in Neddy Merrill’s life because it has been ruined due to his dependence on this awful substance. The author symbolically presents the stages of alcoholism, its effects on the alcoholic, as well as how the alcoholic’s family and friends change towards Neddy.
The pools that Neddy swims through, as well as the people and situations that Neddy encounters represent the different stages of his drinking. In the beginning of the story, Ned is at a small gathering that includes his wife at the Westerhazy’s pool. The author states that Neddy is ordinary because even a priest can drink too much. (Cheever 1) At this pool, in this early stage, Neddy feels relaxed and accepted. He is in the early or adaptive stage of alcoholism. The early stage is difficult to detect by anyone, including his neighbors. Neddy doesn’t see any problem with his drinking and would laugh at anyone who insinuated that he had a drinking problem. A huge cloud in the west serves as a warning. Even though Neddy’s home is south he chooses to go southwest to avoid oncoming danger. Neddy chooses to move forward with his drinking and decides it makes him feel good so he does it more and wants to avoid the warnings. When Neddy leaves the comfort of routine drinking, he feels strong, like “a man with a destiny” (Cheever 2). He crosses the soft grass feeling great enjoyment and pleasure while drinking which means he is moving into the next stage of drinking which is the middle stage of alcoholism. He still feels in control.
At Mrs. Graham’s, the owner of the second pool, she reaches out to him and welcomes him with a drink. ...


... middle of paper ...


...d his own ruin. His family is gone, and the thunderstorm that he headed towards has knocked a gutter “over the front door,” (Cheever 12) blocking his entrance.
Through symbolism the author shows us how Neddy goes from social drinking to destitution. Each stop at a neighbor’s pool gets progressively harder, but he keeps on. Neddy ignores these signs and becomes beaten and finally alone. This truly is a sad journey of a man who destroys himself through alcohol. As the story ends, Neddy realizes that he is alone. Will he change? Get help for his alcoholism? The author leaves us hanging, but at this point we know he is alone, everyone has abandoned him. Neddy has followed the stereotypical footsteps of an alcoholic.




Works Cited

Cheever, John. "The Swimmer." The Northon Anthology American Literature. 8th ed. Vol. E. New York: W.W. Norton, 2012. Print.

Need Writing Help?

Get feedback on grammar, clarity, concision and logic instantly.

Check your paper »

Essay on Denial and Alcoholism Exposed in The Swimmer, by John Cheever

- The Swimmer by John Cheever begins at Helen and Donald Westerhazy’s pool when Neddy Merrill makes the decision to journey eight miles home by swimming through a series of pools, he calls the “Lucinda River” (297) and walking when unable to swim. While he making his way back home, he stops at fourteen old friends’ houses and drinks before continuing on if possible. By the end of Neddy’s journey, he is exhausted and comes to the realization that he has lost not only his house but also his wife and daughters, and also his so-called friends and even a mistress....   [tags: The Swimmer Essays]

Better Essays
845 words (2.4 pages)

Denial and Alcoholism Exposed in The Swimmer, by John Cheever Essay

- The Swimmer, a short story by John Cheever, tells the tale of Neddy Merrill and his decision to “swim” all the way home. It is an odd sort of an idea, and he fancies himself an adventurer exploring a new river. The river is really made of swimming pools that stretch across town, which collectively he believes will lead him home. Along his journey however, startling occurrences take place, leading to the conclusion that Neddy’s water-filled journey isn’t what it seems. The “swim” Neddy takes is really hinting at an alcohol problem that he is in denial about, and the affects it has had on his life....   [tags: The Swimmer Essays]

Better Essays
733 words (2.1 pages)

Allusion and Symbolism in The Swimmer, by John Cheever Essay examples

- John Cheever does not merely state the theme of his story, he expresses his theme, as a good writer should, in a variety of metaphors and analogies coupled with powerful imagery. In The Swimmer, Cheever writes and underscores his primary theme of alcoholism in many ways, such as his use of autumnal imagery and the color green. However, there is also some very prominent symbolism and allusions that serve to highlight the theme while also augmenting the artistic and poetic nature of the story....   [tags: alcoholism, The Swimmer Essays]

Better Essays
746 words (2.1 pages)

The Effects Of Addiction On The Swimmer By John Cheever Essay

- Anyone can be addicted to something. Addiction is where someone takes a substance that can be pleasurable but leads to compulsion and interference of what the person’s ordinary life, relationships, and health. Once a person is addicted to something, there is no stopping it. There can be causes to how an addiction starts. Depression is a major cause of addiction. When someone suffers from depression, they are at their lowest part of their life. Like addiction, depression affects how people live their life....   [tags: Alcoholism, Addiction, Alcoholic beverage]

Better Essays
1864 words (5.3 pages)

The Swimmer, by John Cheever Essay

- Thomas Hardy, an English novelist and poet, once observed, "Time changes everything except something within us which is always surprised by change." In "The Swimmer", the world around Ned Merrill, the main character, transforms constantly as time goes by, causing Ned's physical, mental, and social state to decline. However, although Ned Merrill experiences the inevitable - growing older - he does not fully grasp reality and the idea that time moves on, even if one is not ready. "The Swimmer" is a short story written by John Cheever, a writer who used his own experiences as inspiration for his stories - "Cheever's problems with his parents, brother, wife, alcoholism, and bisexuality have alr...   [tags: The Swimmer Essays, Literary Aalysis]

Better Essays
1507 words (4.3 pages)

The Swimmer By John Cheever Essay

- In the story “The Swimmer,” author John Cheever successfully shares the reality of alcoholism using symbols and imagery relating to his main character, Neddy Merrill. Merrill’s social status declines the further his journey goes. In addition, the pools Ned swims through represents the different stages of drinking. Cheever unfolds Ned’s life by connecting it to the “The Lucinda River,” named after Ned’s wife (727). The river starts out steady for Ned, much like the beginning stages of alcoholism, as his journey progresses, the current sweeps him away causing Ned to become delusional in his waking life....   [tags: Drinking culture, Alcoholic beverage, Alcohol]

Better Essays
1009 words (2.9 pages)

John Cheever's Personal Connection to The Swimmer Essay example

- Why do people read literature. The definition of literature is a writing of some sort in which expression and form are characteristics or features of the writing. It can come in the form of poetry, novels, biographies, or essays. There are a couple of main reasons people usually read literature. People usually read for an escape from life, to learn something new, to confront human experience, or simply for pleasure. One of the more popular of those four is to confront human experience....   [tags: The Swimmer Essays]

Better Essays
1489 words (4.3 pages)

John Cheever's The Swimmer Essay

- The setting of “The Swimmer” is in the suburbs, describing the aquatic adventure of Neddy, an energetic and cheerful father and husband. After attending a cocktail party, he decided that he would swim his entire way home through various swimming pools. Through his adventures, the protagonist makes a great discovery that his marriage life is a great lie. The journey from the cocktail party to his home converts him from a vibrant man to an old impoverished man whose life is in a major crisis. As he arrives at his house, he finds his children and wife have abandoned him....   [tags: Midlife Crisis, The Swimmer Essays]

Better Essays
760 words (2.2 pages)

The Passage of Time and Life in The Swimmer, by John Cheever Essay

- Having written a multitude of short stories and novels, author, John Cheever, has showcased his incredible writing abilities multiple times throughout his career. Even as a child, Cheever outwardly expressed his desire to write. As proven by his longstanding career, Cheever’s thirst for writing remained with him throughout his entire life. In perhaps his most famous piece of work, “The Swimmer,” Cheever’s impeccable writing ability is showcased brilliantly. Although originally set out to be a novel, “The Swimmer” has grown to become a widely recognized and analyzed short story, one which both readers and literary critics alike admire....   [tags: The Swimmer Essays]

Better Essays
2335 words (6.7 pages)

Bourgeois Suburban Life Exposed in The Swimmer, by John Cheever Essay

- “The Swimmer”, written by John Cheever, is a story about the life of a middle-aged man living in a bourgeois American suburbia. I chose to write on “The Swimmer” based on its universal themes of the American Dream and life and hardship in suburbia. The story is very true to the lives of many Americans living the American Dream today. Keeping up with the Jones’ is part of this dream and can turn into the nightmare of Neddy’s life if denial, escapism, and alcoholism become too much a part of the American Dream as it did for the protagonist....   [tags: The Swimmer Essays]

Better Essays
658 words (1.9 pages)