Student Question

Identify an example of hypocrisy in Cheever's "The Swimmer."

Quick answer:

Neddy finds that the neighborhood in which he lives is just as hypocritical as any other realm of his life. In the suburbs, it is clear that the community shares experiences, but this is about all they share. Thus, hypocrisy exists in Neddy's community because while they are sharing an experience, they are not really caring for or helping one another.

Expert Answers

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I think that one of the most interesting examples of hypocrisy that is present in the short story would have to center on the neighborhood in which Neddy lives and stages his quest.  On one hand, the neighborhood seems to represent the suburban community sprawl in post- World War II America.  One of the fundamental attractions to such a setting is the togetherness and sense of community evident.  The suburb is seen as a refuge from the alienating and isolating condition of the city.  Yet, Neddy finds that there is just as much alienation in the suburb as there would be in the city.  He finds the same aloofness, coldness, and even rudeness that he would find in any other realm.  While the suburban draw is the community of togetherness, there is as much alienation and isolation in this setting just as in any other realm in America.  As the story opens, there is a clear indication that the shared experience is a part of the community. Even the experience of being hung over is something in which the community shares.  Yet, this is about all that is shared.  Neddy's journey reveals a community that is isolated and not really concerned with others, so long as individual parties are not disrupted and individual agendas are not dislodged.  In the community in which Neddy lives, stages his quest, and finds some of the greatest pain, hypocrisy exists.

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