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American Suburbs in The Swimmer

            John Cheever's, "The Swimmer," is a short story that is highly praised for its blend of realism and surrealism. Cheever conducts a thematic exploration of suburban America and focuses on the relationship between wealth and happiness. The central theme of the story is a life that focuses on material successes and social standing results in temporary happiness. Cheever presents the story in a third-person point of view with a narrator who reveals the thoughts of the main character, Neddy Merrill, during his journey home through his neighbour's swimming pools. The reader observes the lack of genuine relationships formed by Neddy, his changing life circumstances over time, and the repetitive use of alcohol throughout his journey which shows that once the sunny facade of wealth is stripped away, Neddy is left an empty man.
             Neddy acts as though he lives a happy and full life, but the reader begins to realize as his journey progresses that he is empty and isolated due to the lack of genuine relationships he has in his life. He is living a life that is preoccupied with material successes and social standing. Neddy and his wife only socialize with the people they consider to share the same social status. For example, the narrator states that the Biswangers', "[do] not belong to Neddy's set-[the Biswangers'] were not even on Lucinda's Christmas card list," (390). Neddy makes a habit of rejecting invitations from people such as the Biswangers. Due to this practice, it becomes evident that he is out of touch with many of the people he considers his friends-he cannot even remember personal details about many of them. This is evident when he stops in at the Sachses' pool and forgets that his friend Eric had been ill (389). The reader cuts Neddy off from his relationship with his wife, Lucinda, by virtue of his past, "lighthearted affair," (384) with Shirley Adams. Neddy assumes that Shirley would welcome him openly which is evident when he wonders if she will "weep again" when he sees her.

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