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Explain “The Swimmer” as a critique of modern society.

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159 | Student, College Freshman | Honors

Posted December 25, 2012 at 9:34 PM via web

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Explain “The Swimmer” as a critique of modern society.

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted December 25, 2012 at 10:00 PM (Answer #1)

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I think that one of the strongest critiques offered in Cheever's story is the idea of the shallowness in wealth.  Neddy lives in an area where affluence is so prevalent that he can swim the distance home through pools that are in his neighbors' yards.  There is an emptiness present.  The wealth and affluence with all of these pools reflects a hollowness in the people he encounters.  The garden parties, the bouncers, the rudeness all reflect a shallow condition.  Wealth has been acquired, but spiritual enhancement is empty.  There is much in way of how this parallels the modern society where the trappings of wealth are evident, but lack any substantive emotional connection.  There is not one single person Neddy encounters that actually tells him to stop swimming so they can drive him home or an individual that legitimately talks to him about why he is doing what he is doing.  The closest one gets in sincerity is with Mrs. Halloran, an authenticity that Neddy dismisses.  There is an emotional hollowness that lies at the end of Neddy's quest, something that can be connected to the modern setting. Neddy finishes his quest, accomplishing his goal, but there is a certain level of numbness and sadness that rears its head when he finds that his wife gone, his home empty.  In the final analysis, the quest that Neddy undergoes fails to cover the emptiness that is present in his own life.  This can represent the modern society's obsession with being "on the move" but actually going nowhere.  It is in this light where Neddy's quest too eerily parallels the modern quest in which individuals struggle, toil, and persevere through the end only to find that little has changed and little can be redeemed.

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