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The tone of "The Swimmer" is ironic. Nothing is as it seems, and the opposite meanings of events and situations are emphasized. The hero, Neddy, is old, disoriented, alienated, and worn, not at all like the traditional hero of lore. His attempt to revive his youth and gain notoriety by swimming home across the city through a series of pools is not the significant endeavor he believes it to be, but a meaningless task. Neddy's homecoming is uncelebrated, cold, and empty, not triumphant as he had hoped.
The ironic tone contributes strongly to the development of the primary themes of the story, which are that traditional values of wealth, poplularity, and athletic prowess are fleeting and hollow, and ultimately unsatisfying in their superficiality.
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