Home » Literature » Symbolism In The Swimmer Essay

Symbolism In The Swimmer Essay

The Swimmer is based on a man not being able to deal with the present. He is mostly in denial through every part of the story and every character he meets expresses how much he is in denial, and shows he has an alcohol problem which he is covering up the depressed state he is in, and cant face the fact his entire family is gone. The story begins with Neddy Merrill lounging at a friend’s pool on a mid-summer’s day. After Ned decides to travel home by swimming through neighbors pools is where the denial comes in to play and his world begins to change.

Ned is so energetic and cheerful in the beginning of his journey he doesn’t want to realize what’s going on around him. As he journeys he is also intoxicated from a previous cocktail party, which keeps him in a denial state of mind. Ned continues to travel pool to pool as he travels the energy and cheerfulness he started his journey with starts to decline and the story takes a turn into a deep depression state for him.

He starts to see as he travels more and more his friends that he thought was his friends start to deny him, his mistress finds another lover, and while all this is happening not only do his friends and lady turn their back on him the weather starts to change signifying change in seasons. He ends up coming to a road with a storm coming from the other side foreshadowing what to come for Ned, he crosses and try’s to enter a public pool but doesn’t work out so well for him and get sent on his way.

At this time Ned still drinking, in denial, and depressed, but doesn’t want to come to the reality of things until he reaches his house, comes to find his family is gone, his house is foreclosed and his life is in shambles. Ned Merrill’s journey is an excellent representation of the typical mid-life crisis that many middle and upper class suburbanite parents experience. It illustrates how ignorance, apathy, and an inability to recognize and accept reality can so quickly destroy lives and entire families in the blink of an eye.

Alcohol in “The Swimmer” is both a motif and a symbol in this story and is important to the overall meaning because of what it represents on several levels. As a motif, alcohol is almost like a handshake or a polite, casual gesture. It is the primary object around which all parties and social action revolve and is even mentioned at the very beginning of the story when the narrator talks about how nearly everyone “drank too much. ” Symbolically speaking, this “gesture” of alcohol is an invitation to cast aside reality, to join others in a masking of reality.

Interestingly, as the reader comes to find out, Ned masked reality completely and drinking was part of the cause. By the end of the story, his constant desire to drink, or to stop and have a drink is tragic as opposed to social and the reader sees how this culture of escapism and the associated constant use of alcohol are main themes about suburbia that Cheever might wish his audience to see. Ned feels comforted and happy when he is given a drink, whereas at the Berwanger’s party, he feels slighted by the way his drink is served.

As his journey grows more difficult, Ned wishes deeply for a drink but is often turned down, once at the Sachses’ and once at Shirley Adams’s. His desire for a drink grows stronger as he grows weaker, and the amount of alcohol he has consumed during his journey could explain the harsh, bewildering emotional place in which Ned finds himself at the end of the story. The emptiness of suburbia also applies to Ned love life. Even though Ned names his pool path after his wife, Lucinda, he is cut off from her as well by virtue of his affair with Shirley Adams.

The affair, however, also lacks genuine love. When Ned thinks about Shirley, he defines “love” as “sexual roughhouse,” which is what he looks to for comfort and warmth. At the end of the story, when Ned is actually alone and facing his empty house, the true state of his life is, for the first time, clear. The foundations were flimsy and his relationships weak. (Paperstarter, 2012) Cheever wanted the readers to see that someone like Ned can have a good comfortable life, but in the ist of that life get lost and off course and sur come to the reality of a person situation if they are not willing to accept change. Ned didn’t want to accept the reality of his situation so he continued to cope with the alcohol and which in turn drove him into depression. Depression an illness that involves the body, mood, and thoughts and that affects the way a person eats, sleeps, feels about himself or herself, and thinks about things. Depression is not the same as a passing blue mood.

It is not a sign of personal weakness or a condition that can be wished away. People with depression cannot merely ‘pull themselves together’ and get better. Without treatment, symptoms can last for weeks, months, or years. Appropriate treatment, however, can help most people with depression. (MedicineNet, 2012) Images of maps and exploration regularly punctuate “The Swimmer,” highlighting the gap between Ned perceived understanding of his happiness and direction in life and the messy confusion that eventually takes over.

When Ned gets the idea to swim home through the pools in his county, he sees himself as a brave explorer, setting off for the unknown from a home base that is stable and secure. Ned likens himself to a “legendary figure” who is making an important discovery, and as he begins his journey, he calls himself a “pilgrim” and an “explorer. ” When Ned envisions his friends’ pools, he sees them through a mapmaker’s eyes, even though the narrator tells us that Ned maps are imaginary at best—the first hint that Ned sense of direction and place is flimsy.

The lighthearted fantasies about exploring eventually disappear as Ned journey grows harder and stranger. By the end of the story, Ned has literally lost his way. He thought he was moving through familiar territory, but the home where he finds himself, dark and empty, is someplace he’s never been before. (SparkNotes, 2015) The Moment Ned realized he had gone deep into depression is when the story took a turn for the worse everyone started denying him as if in the beginning of the story they weren’t giving him drinks to be welcomed by them.

The people in the story represent Ned’s emotions and the fact that to feel happy his has to mask them with alcohol to make him feel like they all get along when reality everything is falling apart and he is constantly running from the truth which follows him until the season change from summer to fall and by then the truth about his depressing state catches up with him. Denial plays a part in “The Swimmer” signifying that Ned can’t handle his present situation at hand.

Ned journey home through the pools of his neighborhood turns into a journey through many years of his life, showing that the passage of time is inevitable, no matter how much one might ignore it. Ned has mastered the art of denial. At the beginning of the story, the narrator tells us that Ned is “far from young,” but he does his best to act young by sliding down a banister and diving headlong into a pool. The long afternoon at the Westerhazys’ pool seems timeless, no different, we can assume, from many other afternoons spent exactly the same way.

Ned idea to swim home seems like just one more idea in a series of ideas that have popped up on many similar occasions. As Ned journey progresses, we see that time is actually passing much more quickly than Ned realizes. Leaves and hedges turn yellow and red, the constellations in the sky change, and the air gets colder. Friends are not at home when he expects them to be, he faces scorn from the people he’d once scorned, his mistress wants nothing to do with him, and he learns that a friend has been very ill. All of these changes have happened without Ned knowledge.

Ned questions his memory, but he also wonders whether he has simply denied reality to a dangerous degree. His peers have acted their age and faced adult problems, whereas he has resisted. His former mistress even asks him, “Will you ever grow up? ” Only at the end of the story when Ned faces his dark, empty house does he realize that time has passed. He has tried to ignore it, but its passage has proven to be inevitable. (SparkNotes, 2015) The changes in weather and season that occur throughout “The Swimmer” mirror Ned changing life circumstances, particularly the deterioration of his comfort and security.

At the beginning of the story, Ned is warm in the sunshine, conscious of nothing but his own happiness and the pleasures of the day. As he begins his swim, the water and air are of comfortable temperature, and he can walk easily from pool to pool in his swim trunks. Shortly into his journey, a storm passes, marking a turning point in Ned plans. He is alone for the first time, waiting out the storm in a deserted gazebo; and when the storm ends, the warmth is gone. He is chilly, and the red and vellow leaves on the ground su fall-Ned feels a “peculiar sadness,” the first time he feels anything other than happiness.

Weather and season are not kind to Ned from this moment on. He gets colder, sees more signs of fall, and changes from a robust traveler into a pathetic figure by the highway. Autumn arrives in full as Ned finishes his journey, and the final pool he swims in has freezing-cold water. Just as Ned happy life has come to a close, the cycle of seasons has been completed as well, and it is clear by the end of the story that Ned is entering the winter of his life. The Swimmer is based on a man not being able to deal with the present.

He is mostly in denial through every part of the story and every character he meets expresses how much he is in denial, and shows he has an alcohol problem which he is covering up the depressed state he is in, and cant face the fact his entire family is gone. For Ned this is a fiction, but for a lot of people in the world they can relate to this story. Everyday someone either falls into a depress state of not being to handle their life day to day and cope by using other things to cover it up like Alcohol, Marijuana, cocaine, heroin, meth, etc. and mostly sometimes by being self-inflected from depression and denial of reality.

Cite This Work

To export a reference to this essay please select a referencing style below:

Reference Copied to Clipboard.
Reference Copied to Clipboard.
Reference Copied to Clipboard.
Reference Copied to Clipboard.