John Cheever is an American short-story writer and novelist known for his portrayals of the average middle-class American. The settings for many of Cheever's short stories are upscale suburban neighborhoods. Very similar to Scarborough, a northern suburb of Westchester County where he lived with his wife and three children. This was a world of well-kept lawns, country clubs and commuter trains. Two of John Cheever's masterpieces that reflect this environment and the people within it are "The Swimmer" and "O Youth and Beauty!" At first glance the stories may appear very different although after analyzing John Cheever's development of human character the protagonists will be shown to be very similar. .
"The Swimmer" takes place in a very wealthy suburban neighborhood. The kind of neighborhood where parties that flowed with alcohol occurred almost every night and money came and went. The story begins on a hot summer day after a night of drinking; Neddy Merrill decided to swim home across the backyard pools of his neighbors. As he swims through each pool the reader realizes that Neddy is actually travelling through periods of his life. He encounters neighbors that were once friendly but now have turned against him, suggestions of his financial ruin, and ultimately returns to find his house empty. .
One of the most important aspects of writing fiction is characterization. A writer must have a considerable amount of skill to create characters that are realistic and believable. John Cheever does an excellent job creating characters that the reader can relate to. There are two ways an author can describe a character in literary fiction, indirectly or directly. In "The Swimmer" the protagonist is Neddy Merrill. Cheever describes Neddy directly to the reader when he states:.
"He was a slender man--he seemed to have the especial slenderness of youth--and while he was far from young he had slid down his banister that morning and given the bronze backside of Aphrodite on the hall table a smack, as he jogged toward the smell of coffee in his dining room.