Fiction Literary Terms in John Cheever’s short story “The Swimmer”

Submitted Assignment, 2014
4 Pages, Grade: 1,3


Fiction Literary Terms

Define these literary terms on the basis of John Cheever’s short story “The Swimmer”.

Allegory:The progression of the seasons is an allegory for Neddy’s personal life. At the beginning of the story it is a midsummer Sunday. Neddy has a good relationship to his family and no financial trouble. However, with the change of his life comes the change from summer to autumn. Just as Neddy does not realize his own downfall, he does not notice the transition from summer to autumn.

Allusion:“First there were the Grahams, the Hammers, the Lears, the Howlands and the Crosscups. He would cross Ditmar Street to the Bunkers and come, after a short portage, to the Levys, the Welchers, and the public pool in Lancaster. Then there were the Hallorans, the Sachses, the Biswangers, Shirley Adams, the Gilmartins, and the Clydes.” p.727. All these names refer to real life families, which were part of the American upper class.

Ambiguity:In this story, time seems to be ambiguous. What appears to be a single day, turns out to be several weeks, if not months (“Leaves were falling down aournd him and he smelled wood smoke on the wind. Who would be burning wood at this time of year?” p.733).

Archetype:The upcoming storm is a sign for Neddy’s problems. He know the storm is coming, but instead of fearing it, he anticipates it (“Why did he love storms, what was the meaning of his excitement when the door sprang open and the rain wind fled rudely up the stairs, why had the simple task of shutting the windows of an old house seemed fitting and urgent, why did the first watery notes of a storm wind have for him the unmistakable sound of good news, cheer, glad tidings?” p.730). He does not realize its possible power of destruction. People are trying to confront Neddy with his problems, but similar to the storm he fails to realize the extent of his own downfall.

Bildungsroman:Through swimming, Neddy develops from the carefree, rich person to a man that has not only lost his wealth, but also his family. It seems that, til the very end, everyone but Neddy matures (“Good Christ. Will you ever grow up?” p.736).

Epiphany:“Then it occurred to him that by taking a dogleg to the south-west he could reach his home by water.” p.726. After this realization, Neddy starts to swim through the county, which is his main activity throughout the story.

Epistolary Novel:

Euphemism:“We’ve been terribly sorry to hear about all your misfortunes, Neddy.” p.733.

Instead of clearly stating what Neddy’s hardships are, Mrs. Halloran just vaguely says misfortunes. Even though, Neddy does not know what she is talking about, she tries to veil their true extent.


Excerpt out of 4 pages


Fiction Literary Terms in John Cheever’s short story “The Swimmer”
University of Frankfurt (Main)
Writing I
Catalog Number
ISBN (eBook)
File size
513 KB
The Swimmer, John Cheever, Fictional, Literary, Terms
Quote paper
Anne Sander (Author), 2014, Fiction Literary Terms in John Cheever’s short story “The Swimmer”, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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