The Swimmer

Parallels in John Cheever's "The Swimmer"

In “The Swimmer”, John Cheever's protagonist embarks on an epic journey that challenges readers' perception of the world around them. As Neddy embarks on his journey down the “Lucinda River”, Cheever paints a strictly realist portrayal of suburban America. Yet as the story progresses, Cheever changes the environment around Neddy to convey a different message. By using multiple parallels between the mythic and the modern, the surreal and the real, and the American Dream and the American reality, John Cheever forces the reader of “The Swimmer” to question the status quo.

Ancient epics normally begin by invoking a muse who aids in the storytelling and remains separate from the normal text. Cheever's "muse" is no mythic ideal; rather, Cheever begins with an isolated section that emphasizes the consumption of alcohol. Nearly every character believes that he or she "drank too much." Alcohol, not a religious figure, is what helps the characters along. The contrast is evident when Cheever writes that it was heard from “ the lips of the priest himself, struggling with his cassock in the vestiarium...”. In this instance, Cheever is using the contrast between the mythic and modern cultural themes to show the...

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