While reading John Cheever’s “The Swimmer” you will notice that there is a large amount of symbolism that the reader is introduced to. To every reader that symbolism will represent something different. For some it will remind them of trials they have gone threw, and some will be reminded of others they have known in the past.

The symbolism in “The Swimmer” was so thick that I wasn’t originally sure which of the numerous trains of thought I should ride on. (I know more symbolism) I finally decided that the thing that stuck out the most in my mind when reading this story was the basic financial events each of us goes through in life. The pools in the story seamed to represent these events, and the journey seemed more like a timeline. Some of the pools were nice and clean giving the reader a sense of relaxation and prosperity (Cheever, 2010). The first one was even a green color. One was dirty giving me a feeling of dirty money, and one was empty A.K.A. no money and even disappointed Neddy.

            The highway to me represented a financial choice. It was risky, and even though Neddy was not prepared for it, and was ridiculed for even the thought of crossing it, he had his mind set on it (Cheever, 2010). He did not want to go back and be content with what he had. It could also represent a cross road in Neddy’s life. A time where he was forced to look at his life and choices he had made. He is unprepared, and standing there in his swimsuit he is ridiculed and judged by others. He does not take it as a warning however, and continues on his journey.

            Neddy, to me, represented all of us. The unknown in the future is something we all face and we never really know how it will turn out. It is pointed out that Neddy made some wrong choices in life, and that may be the reason for how he turned out in the end. Another possible reason for the poor outcome for Neddy is the large amount of alcohol that was apparently a large part of not only Neddy’s life, but his neighbor’s lives as well.

            One of the questions often asked is what the decision to name the street after his wife might have meant. At the beginning of the story I suppose this would be a nice gesture. The stream was a source of happiness for Neddy. It appeared beautiful, was lined with friends, and gave Neddy a sense of purpose. At the end this could be a representation of what had caused his unhappy life. The financial problems combined with a mistress, and alcoholism would cause huge problems in any ones life.

            In conclusion, I am sure that if you read this story you will be able to interpret the story in another way, but that’s part of what makes it so good. Thanks, and happy reading-



Cheever, J. (2010). The Swimmer. In D. G. X.J. Kenedy, Literature 6th ed. (pp. 200 - 2007). New York: Longman.