Themes and Meanings

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

After this summary of creation theories, the swimmer turns to “the point of my chronicling.” This point turns out to be his tentative belief in a dimly sensed “She” that draws him “Herward,” making the goal “a mysterious being, indescribable except by paradox and vaguest figure: wholly different from us swimmers, yet our complement; the death of us, yet our salvation and resurrection.” He recalls, furthermore, his friend’s speculation that every creation had two kinds of creator: “One of which gives rise to seas and swimmers, the other to the Night-which-contains-the-sea and to What-waits-at-the-journey’s-end.” (These two creators perhaps should be interpreted as Eros and Thanatos, the life urge and the death wish.)

The swimmer explains that the only “purpose” of his journey must be some kind of merging of identities with “Her,” or so his friend had argued. However, if the “issue of the magical union” cannot remember the journey, then there is no satisfying immortality. The whole cyclical process thus becomes pointless, even anguishing eventually. Young swimmers, though, can only swim onward toward the figure that whispers, “I am all love. Come.”

The monologuist, himself by now an older swimmer, feels the attraction “Herward” as strongly as the others do, realizes its source, and appeals passionately to “You who I may be about to become.” What the monologuist begs of his progeny-to-be is nothing less than an end to life by a breaking of the cycle. He realizes that he is too caught up in Life, Desire, Love, Eros, or whatever, and cannot end “this aimless, brutal business” himself. Even as he goes flailing on to his fate, consummation with the ovum, he pleads:Whoever echoes these reflections: be more courageous than their author! An end to night-sea journeys! Make no more! And forswear me when I shall forswear myself, deny myself, plunge into her who summons, singing . . . ’Love! Love! Love!’