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20100401-930 Pynchon and Cheever (Group 1)

Page history last edited by Stephanie Firth 10 years, 4 months ago

Summary

Class began with defining “canon” and watching the 1968 movie trailer to “The Swimmer.”  We discussed the major differences between the trailer and the actual story:

  • Trailer focused more on the romantic relationships more than the book
  •  In the book he seems like he is loosing his mind and in the trailer he seems happy
  •  In the story he never asks anyone to come along 

Then we compared the story to The Odyssey with the idea of someone trying to get home by water.

  • Frequent stops, sirens, gods acting on Odysseus, Circe, Cyclops
  • Gods acting on Odysseus
  • Exploration/Adventure that took a long time  

 

We agreed that the story can be classified as a mock epic, as it seems to be poking fun at the traditional epic because Ned's qualities undermine that of a hero's. Ned is the man performing a legendary task using his strength; however, Ned loses his strength: he is unable to jump out of the pool and cannot summon the strength to dive in. 

 

We also discussed where the story changed from Ned being adventurous to losing his desire to continue. Opinions seemed to vary, for there were a few places that the change would seem plausible. Next, we discussed the two possible endings to the story since Cheever leaves it somewhat unclear. Most likely, either Ned was crazy and in denial or perhaps things really did happen as they were described in the story.

 

We finished class by briefly discussing the stories that we have read thus far and where they fall in relation of city vs. country. Cheever's "The Swimmer" brings forth the addition of suburbia to the list. 

 

Word Count: 274

 

Passages

"He took off a sweater that was hung over his shoulders and dove in. He had an inexplicable contempt for men who did not hurl themselves into pools...He hoisted himself up on the far curb--he never used the ladder--and started across the lawn" (2249-51).

     Here the reader is exposed to a strong man, who despises weak men.  However, Ned eventually is too weak to dive in or hoist himself, which leads to the story possibly being a mock epic.

 

"Was his memory failing or had he so disciplined it in the repression of unpleasant facts that he had damaged his sense of the truth?" (2253)

     This sentence causes the reader to question Ned as a narrator and whether or not Ned is crazy.  If Ned is crazy that would explain why the story does not have a definitive ending.

 

"ALL SWIMMERS MUST TAKE A SHOWER BEFORE USING THE POOL...Neddy remembered the sapphire water at the Bunkers' with longer and thought that he might contaminate himself--damage his own prosperousness and charm--by swimming in this murk" (2254).

     The public pool is a symbol of what Ned has been reduced to; he has to swim in a dirty pool when he is used to wealth and pristine waters.  Now, after unknown misfortunes, Ned is not really welcome at the clean pools.  He is already damaged in the social world.

 

Key Terms

Canon-what is decided to be included in the study of literature; "the club" 

 

Post Modernism-Indeterminate 

 

Comments (1)

Brian Croxall said

at 11:40 am on Apr 21, 2010

Your notes for our discussion of Cheever's "The Swimmer" are pretty good. You cover the day's main points--the mock epic aspects, the representations of class, and the ending--throughout the whole of the notes. I think you could have made it more clear that the undermining of the epic character is a facet of postmodernism, where authors and readers become skeptical of such simple metanarratives such as heroism. It's also important to note that while postmodern stories frequently have indeterminate endings that defining postmodernism as "indeterminate" is not especially helpful.

You've included some good passages, but you could have done a bit more to explain the importance of each of the passages. For the second, for example, Ned's being crazy doesn't explain why the story lacks a definitive ending. In fact, it's the reader's uncertainty about Ned's sanity that makes the ending indeterminate. Knowing that he's crazy solves the problem. But we can't know for sure whether he is or isn't. Does that make sense?

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