To what extent does "The Swimmer" express some form of postmodern fiction?

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M.P. Ossa | College Teacher | (Level 1) Distinguished Educator

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According to R. Stevenson, et al, the elements of post-modern fiction in literature include the following characteristics:

  • playfulness with language
  • experimentation in the form of the novel
  • less reliance on traditional narrative form
  • less reliance on traditional character development
  • experimentation with point of view
  • experimentation with the way time is conveyed in the novel
  • mixture of "high art" and popular culture
  • interest in metafiction, that is, fiction about the nature of fiction

In Cheever’s "The Swimmer," there is no doubt that the way Cheever treated the passing of time between the swimmings is essential because it also brings out the theme of the inevitability of change. It is also non-traditional in terms of narrative, which is a characteristic of post-modern fiction. Also, the use of pop culture in the form of the snobby, rich, white, preppy character almost gives us a discomforting sensation that we are surrounded by very hip, but very dislikeable people.  The language is also used without restraint, as we see the use of expletives galore, and there is no traditional character development: Neddy is arrogant, continues to be arrogant, and will remain in an arrogant denial about what happens to him all until the end. There is no roundness of character development, and there is no lesson to be learned. Things just are what they are. That is the most important aspect of post-modern literature, and all of its elements are very much present in the story.

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