Ned is the protagonist of the story. He embarks on a great adventure: to swim eight miles across the county to his house, a route through his neighbors' pools.
Neddy Merrill's wife. She is in the first scene and does not appear after that except as the namesake of the "river" through which Neddy swims.
Donald and Helen Westerhazy
The Westerhazys are friends of the protagonist. The story begins at a pool party at their house.
A neighbor through whose pool Neddy swims on his way home. She is quite friendly to him and wants him to stay and talk.
Mrs. Bunker is a neighbor who is very excited to see Neddy as he swims by. She had been very upset that he had declined her invitation to her pool party. Neddy accepts her offer of a drink but manages to slip away at the first opportunity.
Although Neddy never interacts with the Levys, another neighboring family, as they are not home, he takes shelter in their gazebo to wait out the storm.
The Welchers are another neighboring family that keeps horses for leisure riding. Neddy is surprised to see an absence of horses when he swims through their pool. He recalls hearing something about what happened to them, but cannot remember.
To Neddy's utter disappointment and surprise, the Welchers have drained their pool. Neddy also notices that they have put their house up for sale, and he is shocked by this as well.
Mr. and Mrs. Halloran
The Hallorans are an elderly, married couple who are friendly to Ned. They have the habit of being naked in their pool. Mrs. Halloran is the first one who points out that something has gone terribly wrong in the protagonist's life; she expresses her sympathy for the situation. Ned, however, disregards her statement because he doesn't know what she is talking about—he has suppressed the memory.
Helen and Eric Sachs
Helen is the daughter of the Hallorans, and Eric is her husband. Ned asks them for a drink, but it turns out that they have had none in the house since Eric's operation three years ago. Ned notices Eric's scars and is surprised that he has forgotten about such an event.
Grace is holding a pool party as Neddy reaches her door. He expects a drink from her, imagining that she will receive him gracefully because she invites him and Lucinda to dinner all the time. To his surprise, Grace is very rude to Neddy, calling him a "gate crasher." He orders a drink at her bar, but the barkeeper is rude, too. Neddy cannot imagine why he is being treated this way, and he puts it behind him.
Shirley is Ned's former mistress. She was heartbroken when he ended their relationship, but she receives him with great displeasure this time around. She even declines to give him a drink, telling him that she has company. Neddy sees a young man with her as he swims away.
Neddy's daughters go unnamed throughout the text. Neddy also never interacts with them directly. Yet they loom large in the story. Neddy imagines them playing in tennis at the start of the story, and in the end, he wonders if they joined Lucinda for dinner. Throughout the middle, they figure as a symbol of Neddy's fall from grace.
The Swimmer Questions and Answers
The Question and Answer section for The Swimmer is a great
resource to ask questions, find answers, and discuss the novel.