Alcoholism in The Swimmer, by John Cheever Essay examples

Alcoholism in The Swimmer, by John Cheever Essay examples

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“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.

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