Denial and Alcoholism Exposed in The Swimmer, by John Cheever

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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. Cheever suggests that alcoholism is a destruction of life through the use of symbolism, imagery, and characterization. Throughout the story Cheever’s character, Neddy, describes the various colors of each pool. Starting at the Westerhazy’s, their pool is “a pale shade of green” His first stop, after deciding about his adventure, is at “sapphire-colored waters” at the Bunkers’ (298). Some pools later he comes across the Welchers’ where “he found their pool was dry” (300). The next waters described are “murk” and “opaque gold” (301). The last one Neddy comes across has “a wintry gleam” (303). The narrator describes Neddy as “a slender man—he seemed to have the especial slenderness of youth…far from young…” (297). He has already started drinking at the Westerhazy’s and the youthful description portrays the beginning effects of alcohol—as though he can accomplish anything he wishes. The sapphire water gives the impression that the Bunkers’ are well off and Neddy can help himself to their bar. When he arrives at the Welchers’, he finds they have packed up and drained their pool. This hints at a look at reality where alcohol doesn’t cure anything and foreshadows tha... ... middle of paper ... ...membering made him wonder how much time has truly gone by. His drinking problem has been to the point where he doesn’t remember important things that are hard to be forgotten, such as losing his money, his house, and his wife and children. Neddy’s life took a downward spiral due to his drinking problem. The alcohol took over his life and became his main focus. John Cheever foreshadowed Neddy’s misfortune through the use of symbolism, imagery, and characterization. Unfortunately again for Neddy Merrill, he doesn’t realize his dilemma until after he has already lost everything he has. Works Cited Cheever, John. “The Swimmer”. Literature and the Writing Process. Ed. Elizabeth Mahan, Susan X Day, and Robert Funk. 6th ed. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice, 2003. 297-304. Scott-Kemmis, Judy. "The Color Gold." Empowered By Color. N.p., n.d. Web. 04 Mar. 2014.
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