20100401-930 Pynchon and Cheever (Group 1)


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:

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


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



"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