Suburban Space and Existential Crisis in John Cheever’s The Swimmer

Chenying BAI


John Cheever’s many short stories are set in suburbia, which is prosperous in economy and material resources, and becomes a symbol of status. As a landmark of American middle class, this space is not only the geological scene of the plot or the platform of characters, but also a social communication arena which is intertwined with all kinds of social interaction and conflicts, and the spiritual trauma of the middle class, exposing the crisis of existence and identification. Spatial criticism focuses on the socio-cultural attributes of space. Literary space, in turn, is regarded as a referential system with multi-dimensional denotations. This paper adapts Lefebvre’s Spatial Theory to explore the physical, the social and spiritual signification of space in the representative of John Cheever’s short story, The Swimmer. It intends to expose the living conditions of American middle class both materially and mentally during the 20th century and analyze the spiritual crisis which results from interpersonal indifference and loss of belief, so as to develop further appreciation of this novel. 


John Cheever; The Swimmer; Space; Crisis

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