"He was far from young", (Cheever 1), is how John Cheever describes the main character Neddy Merrill in his story "The Swimmer." While Neddy is far from young, his actions say otherwise. On a hot summer day, Neddy decides to take an adventure across the seemingly perfect suburb back to his home only to find that it is empty. Cheever is expressing the inescapable of aging with his use of symbolism in swimming pools, alcohol, ladders, and the empty house.
Along with multiple symbols in The Swimmer, one can also see reoccurring themes. The nonexistence of a utopian society is a theme that can be seen in this short story. "He seemed to see, with a cartographer's eye, that string of swimming pools, that quasi-subterranean stream that curved across the county" (Cheever 1). While everything seems to be perfect in the suburb, along Neddy's journey one can see all of the problems that the town is actually facing. Problems in the county include having to sell the house, social class issues, and denied invitations.
The use of swimming pools as a symbol directly associates to the theme of the inevitability of ageing. Each swimming pool is a symbol of a period of time that Neddy passes through as he swims across the pool. "The stars had come out, but why should he seem to see Andromeda, Cepheus, and Cassiopeia? What had become of the constellations of midsummer?" (Cheever 12). The changing of the assemblage indicates that the time period has changed. One can see further examples of this time change with the leaves being yellow and red and then later being stripped from the trees. While only a day is passing for Neddy, seasons are changing around him.
Symbolism can also be seen in alcohol. The consumption of alcohol shows the unhappiness and emotional instability of Neddy. "He needed a drink. Whiskey would warm him, pick him up, carry him through the last of his journey, refresh his feeling that it was original and valorous to swim across the county" (Cheever 9).