John Cheever’s short story “The Swimmer” was published for the first time in the July 18, 1964 edition of The New Yorker magazine. Cheever originally conceived of it as a novel before paring it down from 150 pages to 12. In 1968, the story was adapted into a movie starring Burt Lancaster and directed by husband-and-wife team Eleanor and Frank Perry. The film, a surreal technicolor drama, was not received well initially, but it has since taken on cult status.
Like many of Cheever’s stories, “The Swimmer” situates its narrative in the affluent suburbs of New York, where men who work in New York City commute home by train every weekday. The central character of “The Swimmer” is Neddy Merrill, an archetypal figure of the suburbs. Through Neddy's journey, Cheever hones a sharp critique of the disaffectedness, alienation, and class pretension of the suburbs.