What elements of "The Swimmer" equate to postmodernism?
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One aspect of postmodern fiction is the way that it does not yield up its meaning directly. Postmodern fiction is defined by its rejection of linear narrative and sequential plotting, combined with oblique meanings that are difficult to attach directly to the story as it presents itself. Although "The Swimmer" has a sequential narrative, what is clear is that the distortion in this narrative produces a feeling in the reader of uncertainty as the reader tries to piece together what precisely is happening as Neddy Levy embarks on his increasingly surreal journey. The ending, which somehow moves the story from midsummer to the end of autumn, leaves the reader trying to work out what precisely is going on as Neddy Levy pounds on the door of his home and is shocked, just as the reader is shocked by what he discovers:
He shouted, pounded on the door, tried to force it with his shoulder, and then, looking in at the windows, saw the place was empty.
The emptiness of the house indicates the allegorical nature of the journey and the way that normal time has been suspended during the course of this swimming adventure. There is no didactic narrator to comfort the reader with an obvious meaning, and the reader is left wondering what meaning can be attached to such a story, which offers itself up to a plethora of different meanings. The lack of clear theme or message and the way that so many different messages could be taken from this tale is one way in which this story could be viewed as being postmodern. This, combined with the elements of magical realism apparent in the surreal nature and the temporal distortion created by the journey of Neddy Levy makes this an excellent example of a postmodern short story.
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