The Swimmer

by: John Cheever

Important Quotations Explained

1. He was not a practical joker nor was he a fool but he was determinedly original and had a vague and modest idea of himself as a legendary figure.

This quotation, which appears in the third paragraph of the story, reveals the rosy, self-satisfied view Neddy has of himself and his world. Neddy has achieved all the trappings of success and is surrounded by friends and family. He takes comfort in the privileges that his social standing affords, content to know that he is a respected member of society. In this quotation, he reveals his self-perception: he is “original” and sees himself as a “legendary figure.” This idea is delusional at best, especially because Cheever writes that Neddy has a “modest” view of himself—envisioning oneself to be legendary certainly does not suggest modesty. As “The Swimmer” progresses, we see that Neddy’s worldview is indeed faulty. His friends have become distant acquaintances, his family has disappeared, and he has grown weak. At the end of the story, Neddy is no longer original or legendary. He is simply cold, alone, and confused.