Describe the difference between Neddy's experiences before and after the storm in "The Swimmer."

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booboosmoosh eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In John Cheever's short story, "The Swimmer," before the storm, Neddy is strong and youthful in his mannerisms. He is confident, and elated by the beauty of the day by the pool. In the midst of this confidence, he decides that he will "swim" home, and so he sets off. As he continues on his journey through the yards—and pools—of his neighborhood, he meets many people.

He visits a number of places on his way where people are thrilled that he has stopped by and want to give him a drink. They are happily surprised to see him and want him to stay and visit. Without being rude, Neddy separates himself each time before he can be deterred from his goal of traveling home, and he resumes his journey.

Soon he notices that the clouds are heralding the arrival of a thunderstorm. Neddy is not at all concerned: he loves thunderstorms and the downpour of rain that flows through the trees.

After the passing of the storm, his surroundings change dramatically. He finds himself trying to cross a littered highway while travelers jeer at him in passing. He next finds himself in a public, chlorinated pool. The experience after enjoying such beautiful pools before, unsettles him. There are signs with rules and people rudely slamming into him as he tries to swim. He is told to leave, and is only too happy to do so.

He visits one set of neighbors who welcome him, but speak about the "misfortunes" in his life that he was unaware of: financial woes, problems with his daughters, the selling his house. He is not sure what they are talking about, but now he begins to suffer self-doubt: his confidence starts to falter.

Neddy starts to feel weak, needing a drink. He stops at a friend's home and realizes that the man has been seriously ill, though Neddy is welcomed graciously enough. Neddy is concerned that he was unaware of what his friend was going through, and promises to call soon. He moves on to another home where a party is thriving. The hostess is not really "his kind of people," but he stops and asks for a drink.

Of all the people he has met on his journey, this is the first time he has been shunned. The hostess is rude to him, and then the bartender as well; the bartender's behavior he takes as a personal slight.

As he continues, Neddy feels weaker and weaker. He cries. He is cold and only wants to go home, get changed and have a drink. The journey has lost its appeal. However, when he reaches his house, it is locked, in disrepair, and empty: not just of people, but furniture as well. It has been vacated: he has vacated it.