Very often people have dreams and desires concerning their lives. Most people envision how they will have a good job and raise a family. Some people manage to do this, and they end up living their fantasy. Others are not as fortunate, and they have to contend with whatever comes their way. As people go through the motions of life, they are carried away with all that is happening and they begin losing focus on the most valuable things to them.
They neglect their partners, parents, or children, but they only realize the consequences of what they have done when it is too late for them to make any amends. Such is the story of Ned Merrill, in John Cheever’s story “The Swimmer”. Merrill has a wonderful life in the beginning of his marriage. However, as time passes, he encounters problems but he chooses to ignore them, realizing too late that he has no family left since his wife and daughters have abandoned him.
Merrill does not realize the changing circumstances in his life as he is busy living the ideal life, and he chooses to downplay and ignore problems whenever he encounters them.
Merrill is a typical American man living in the suburbs. He enjoys the company of his neighbors and friends, who often invite him to their parties. He enjoys mingling with people, who seem to have adopted a drinking culture. In the beginning, he drinks in almost every home he visits.
However, things begin to change for him as he realizes that he no longer has the youthfulness and energy that he used to enjoy. Neighbors no longer welcome him to their homes, and there is much discussion among different people concerning his financial problems. Merrill does not understand what his neighbors are saying about him. He chooses to ignore the negative signs coming to him, including the storm that he encounters. This illustrates Merrill’s personality in refusing to deal with the problems as they happen. He refuses to see things as they are, and he instead chooses to live in his fantasy world, where he will not encounter any problems
Cheever uses symbolism in the story to explain the passage of time in Merrill’s life, and the changing situation in his personal and family life. The story begins in the midsummer. People are enjoying going to parties, drinking and having fun. This represents the happy moments in Merrill’s life and marriage. There are seemingly no problems in the summer, and this shows the lack of problems in Merrill’s life. The mention of his youthful stature in the beginning is symbolic. Just like youth does not last long, neither does his happy married life, for it ends soon enough for him. The autumn begins right in the middle of summer, and Merrill cannot understand this. This shows the beginning of the fall in Merrill’s marriage. The new fall season is not a pleasant one for Merrill. It is an illustration of the problems that begin to appear in his life. However, just as he ignores the changing seasons, he ignores the changing situation in his life. Merrill begins feeling old, and he loses his energy. This symbolizes the changed nature of his life and especially his marriage, both of which have become lackluster and lifeless
Merrill chooses to ignore his problems rather than deal with them. This is symbolized in the presence of the storm in mid summer. After the storm passes, Merrill chooses to continue swimming in his neighbor’s swimming pool. He does not seem to realize any consequences of the storm. This symbolizes his lack of commitment towards dealing with the problems he is facing in his life. He has financial and marital problems, but he chooses to ignore them. He is concerned about his forgetful nature, wondering if his memory was failing or he had “disciplined it in the repression of unpleasant facts that he had damaged his sense of truth”. However, despite this thought, he does not explore it further, rather choosing to avoid facing the unpleasant truths that had happened to him. He seems oblivious of his life situations, and he cannot understand the misfortunes that the Hallorans are talking about. “My misfortunes?…I don’t know what you mean.”
Merrill’s story is not an exception in his county. The author begins by showing how the people live in affluence. They can afford to have swimming pools in their homes, tennis courts, hold parties, and some even have horses on their property. Merrill was a wealthy man, belonging to the upper class in the society. He chose whoever he would socialize with, and he and his wife did not attend all the parties or dinners that they were invited to, unless the person inviting them was of the same social class. Because of this, they had declined to honor the endless invitations by the Biswangers because the Biswangers invited every person to their parties irrespective of their profession. His fortunes change, and Grace Biswanger describes how he “went for broke overnight-nothing but income.” As he swims in different pools, he begins noticing several changes that are telltale signs of his neighbor’s financial situation. Merrill notices that the riding ring in one of the neighbor’s house was “overgrown with grass and all the jumps dismantled” and there were no horses. In one house, the swimming pool was drained. The Welcher’s home, much like Merrill’s home, is abandoned, and there is a sale post on it.
Merrill is a man living in a fantasy and chasing a dream. He does not seem to realize what has happened to his life. He does not remember any changes that occur in his life. He has a happy beginning and he initially enjoys his life, but this does not last for long. He makes decisions that do not favor him, but which end up messing his marriage and his family. He swims through life, failing to deal with the consequences of his actions.