Study Guide

The Swimmers

by Joyce Carol Oates

The Swimmers Summary

Summary (Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

Sylvie looks back at a sequence of events that occurred in 1959 when she was thirteen years old and observed the relationship between her uncle, Clyde Farrell, and Joan Lunt, a mysterious new woman in town.

Clyde and Joan meet when both are swimming one early morning at the YMCA. Clyde admires Joan’s style of swimming even before he sees her up close. Although they swim together in the pool, they do not speak to each other. The next time he sees her at the pool, he introduces himself. Strongly attracted to each other, Clyde and Joan soon begin spending most of their time together.

Clyde is a good-looking man, an athlete, with well-defined shoulder and arm muscles, who had been a boxer in the Navy and has worked as a truck driver, factory foreman, and manager of a sporting-goods store. He likes to gamble at cards and horses. Although he is powerfully attracted to women, no one expects him to marry.

Joan Lunt is a good-looking woman with dark eyes, thick dark hair, and a thin scar at the corner of her mouth. She has been in Yewville about a month when she meets Clyde. She lives in a tiny furnished apartment and works at the most prestigious department store in town. The townspeople perceive her as arrogant because she is independent and values her privacy. She attends church but leaves without speaking to anyone, and she drinks alone at the Yewville Bar and Grill. She remains a mystery to the townspeople, who grow suspicious of her.

Sylvie’s relationship with Joan also begins at the YMCA pool. One day after...

(The entire section is 638 words.)