How does Neddy Merrill relate to the world in which he moves? Why does he decide to swim home?

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Neddy in John Cheever's "The Swimmer " relates to his world as one who is entitled to its largess and friendship without thought of giving much, if anything, in return. We learn he slid down the banister that morning and slapped the backside of the bronze Aphrodite statue—actions...

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Neddy in John Cheever's "The Swimmer" relates to his world as one who is entitled to its largess and friendship without thought of giving much, if anything, in return. We learn he slid down the banister that morning and slapped the backside of the bronze Aphrodite statue—actions that reveal his confidence of ownership. After his swim, he breathes heavily, as if to "gulp into his lungs the components of that moment . . . the intenseness of his pleasure." This suggests his hedonistic attitude—he is taking in but not giving back. When he does imagine himself contributing to the world, he considers his trivial offering to be on a par with that of great men of history who actually experienced hardship in order to serve a greater goal.

Envisioning how he might swim the eight miles to his home, he believes "he had made a discovery, a contribution to modern geography; he would name the stream Lucinda after his wife." He imagines himself "a pilgrim, an explorer, a man with a destiny." These fantasies are ironic in that they reveal that he is indeed the opposite—someone who has not benefitted his world or his neighbors in any noteworthy manner. Indeed, as the story progresses, his sense of entitlement becomes clearer, especially when he interacts with Shirley Adams, a former mistress whom he still expects to show him love. Her name is a pun and a symbol—he thinks of himself as Adam, the most important or only man on the planet, and thinks she is "surely" Adam's.

Neddy decides to swim home more or less on a whim: "it occurred to him." Once the thought enters his mind, his sense of entitlement and his high opinion of himself carries it along. He knows that he will find friends all along the banks of "the Lucinda River." These friends will be there to give him what he needs—he isn't thinking about how he might benefit them or enhance their lives. He imagines this trip will bring him friendship and accolades and will confirm his abilities. Of course, it does just the opposite as his trek reveals more and more of who he truly is until he arrives home a lonely and broken man.

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In John Cheever's "The Swimmer," Neddy Merril relates to the world in a very detached way. Teddy considers himself to be one of value, and he decides to swim the county like a “pilgrim, an explorer, a man with a destiny." Because of this elevated sense of self, Neddy becomes detached and disillusioned with the world around him, and consequently is unable to form real connections with the other members of society. He views the world around him very much in the way one watches a film, and he sees his life play out and fade before his eyes by the story's end.

Neddy's elevated sense of self has not only detached him from the world around him, but it has caused an almost mythical sense of self where he believes he can conquer anything. Neddy begins his journey with "the intenseness of his pleasure” and the “youth, sport, and clement weather…seemed to flow into his chest” so much that he fancies himself an explorer, one fit to swim an entire county's worth of swimming pools. However, though Neddy considers himself a “legendary figure," he has really “gone for broke overnight," and his vainness and detachment result in his being alone.

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