The Swimmer

“The Swimmer” by John Cheever describes Neddy Merril’s
“swim” home. Neddy is a husband and a father, he is also a
drunk. The story encompasses about twenty years of his life
of alcohol which ruined not only him but also his
relationship with his family. One day after waking up with a
hangover he drinks a little and decides to swim home. It is
obvious he is a drunk because he is constantly searching for
a drink on his swim home.
Neddy was a wealthy man living in a wealthy high class
neighborhood in Connecticut. He lived with his wife and
kids. He was popular and had material possessions. He was
living the good life, maybe too good. He was well respected
and could usually be found at one of the invite only parties
in his area.
Neddy awoke from with a hangover one day and decided to
swim home via the Lucinda river. The river was composed of
the pools of people in his neighborhood. It was his version
of “pool hopping” his way home. The story seems to take
place over the course of a day but is, in fact, a twenty
year period of his life in which alcoholism takes over his
life and causes his family to desert him. Each pool he hops
symbolizes a party he attended at that house some time over
the course of the twenty years. Some pools bring back good
memories with the parties which accompanied them. some not
so good such as the public pool which wouldn’t accept him
because he didn’t have the proper ID tag, they didn’t want a
washed up drunk in their pool anyway. “Hey, you, you
without the identification disk, get outta the water” called
a lifeguard. He was becoming an outcast from society,
alcohol was ruining his life.
As the story progressed he noticed the seasons changing
and it bothered him. He was getting cold and lonely, the
way an alcoholic gets when they start to realize they are
losing everything they have, especially their friends and
social status. At the Biswanger’s party ” the bartender
served him but he served him rudely” a sign that he was not
the man he used to be. Usually if a bartender knows a man
he will have his drink ready for him with a smile. Not the
case anymore for Neddy, at this point he realized he was
losing something, his pride. Upon his return home he finds
his house in bad condition, vines growing on it, rust on the
handle of the garage door, the lights off, and nobody home.
He stands there cold and hopeless in his worn and torn
bathing suit searching for answers as to where he went
wrong. He went wrong for the past twenty years drinking
himself into oblivion.
The story of Neddy Merril is indeed a sad one. He had
everything, wealth, popularity, material possessions, a
family which cared for him, and a passion for booze which
wouldn’t go away. His status dropped, his physical
condition suffered and worst of all his family deserted him.
His swim home was in fact a long party which he seemed to
enjoy until it all caught up to him and he was left with
nothing, at the end he was as good as, if not, dead.Words
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