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

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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. By drawing on his personal life and by using a wide range of writing techniques, Cheever depicts and documents the protagonist Neddy’s physical and mental demise and journey towards death, while still relating the plot to many other works. In doing so, Cheever ultimately addresses the negative side of the human condition.

John Cheever was born on May 27th, 1912 in Quincy, Massachusetts to parents Fredrick and Mary Cheever. Growing up, Cheever lived a life that was perpetually characterized by various hardships. For one, the Cheever family fell victim to a financial crisis in the mid-1920s when Cheever’s father lost his job due to the demise of the New England shoe and textile industry. This, coupled with his poor performance in any other academic subject besides writing, spurred the then eighteen-year-old John Cheever to go live with his older brother, Fred Cheever, in Boston. The brother’s relationship would soon grow stronger and stronger as they spent more and more time with each other. As a result of their close relationship, Cheever soon started to draw inspiration from Fred. Literary crit...

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... the emptiness of suburbia, Cheever ultimately highlights the negative aspects of the human condition.

In conclusion, John Cheever’s short story, “The Swimmer,” is an all-encompassing piece of fiction that deals with the heavy topic of life and time. Incredibly, Cheever drew inspiration from his own life and mixed specific, personal elements into the work. This tactic proved successful, as it has given “The Swimmer” the capability to portray a bleak, yet accurate depiction of the human condition. Cheever sheds light on the parts of life that most people much rather ignore than face. In essence, Cheever used his abilities intelligently and as a result, gave the literary world the wonderful story that is “The Swimmer.”

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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