The Swimmer Questions and Answers
by John Cheever

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Analyze the depiction of the American family in "The Swimmer," "A Small, Good Thing," and "Average Waves in Unprotected Waters." Do characters accept an appropriate level of moral responsibility for their actions in these narratives?

All three stories depict the American family by examining devastating yet sadly common life events. Characters in all three stories seem unable to understand the impersonal nature of tragedy and choose to portray themselves as victims rather than taking responsibility for their actions.

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All three stories depict the American family by examining devastating yet sadly common life events. Characters in all three stories seem unable to understand the impersonal nature of tragedy and choose to portray themselves as victims rather than taking responsibility for their actions. In John Cheever’s short story, “The Swimmer ,” Ned Merrill is in denial about the end of his marriage and estrangement from his children. He takes a day to joyfully visit his neighbors, hatching a plan to swim across all of their pools in a pathetic attempt to recapture his youth by swimming home. Through his various interactions with neighbors the reader learns that Ned is in denial about the break-up of his marriage and estrangement from his children. This is due, at least in part, to an affair he carried on with a young woman in town. Instead of taking responsibility for his actions and accepting the consequences of his actions, he reverts to a fantasy in which he attempts to recapture the vitality...

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