What does "The Swimmer" have to do with the journey of life?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Cheever's "The Swimmer" can be read as an allegory for the life cycle.  Note from the very beginning of the story when Neddy quickly dives into the Westerhazys' pool and scoffs at using the ladder to get out, how heroic and brave Neddy seems as he sets out on his unique journey.  He appears to be a man in peak physical condition and the height of youth and strength.  Even the imagery Cheever uses - that of the summer and the sun high in the sky - early in the story reinforces this. 

However, once Neddy is trapped at the Levys' house by the storm, the imagery begins to change to that of fall - the leaves fade, the air grows colder, and their is an emptiness about the homes.  There is a change in Neddy too.  Instead of vigorously navigating the Lucinda River, he begins to show his true age.  He is tired and struggles to continue, even resorting to having to use a ladder to get out of a pool.

Ultimately, when Neddy finally arrives home, he appears to be a ruined man.  He is confused as to why his wife is not there to meet him.  He also doesn't know where his daughter are or why the house is locked and vacant.  He seems almost like a senile old man.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
Soaring plane image

We’ll help your grades soar

Start your 48-hour free trial and unlock all the summaries, Q&A, and analyses you need to get better grades now.

  • 30,000+ book summaries
  • 20% study tools discount
  • Ad-free content
  • PDF downloads
  • 300,000+ answers
  • 5-star customer support
Start your 48-Hour Free Trial