The Swimmer Critical Analysis

Not everyone enjoys being afraid, but there are a lot of us who really enjoy the experience. Fear is an emotional response, which triggers a change in brain and organ function, as well as in behavior. Fear may occur when facing danger such as a threat or a confrontation. Fear can lead us to flee, hide, or fight. Nevertheless, sometimes fear can also be what drives us to cross our own boundary and do what we long to do. The short story “The Swimmer” by S. Butler deals with a woman whose fear for being watched by others, keeps her from doing what she really wants. Her sudden desire for fear draws her closer and ends up making her do something even more fearsome, which luckily turns out to help her being set free. The story has an all-knowing third-person narrative technique with focus on the protagonist and the setting around her. The short Story Starts by using the first five sentences to present the weather. “Three weeks of windless sun”. This establishes the overall setting for the reader.

The setting is basically described as being a hot summer day, which has lasted for three weeks, with no cooling wind, and the suns heat burning on the ground. The cooling and moving water is in contrast to the clouds and the wind. “Nothing moves except the water”. There is a longer introduction to the water but it continuous from a different perspective. This leads to an introduction of both the water but also the main character. “She sits at her desk in the back room gazing out at the river. Where it rounds the first bend there’s an eddy as the current twists out into the middle. J. S Butler is using sentences like the one above to set focus on the importance of the protagonist and the setting and thereby indirectly ailing the reader that the woman and the lake are of significance to the story. The main character is a woman who is sitting at a desk with her window open, which gives her a view to a lake nearby. Throughout the story, her job seems to be of less and less important to her; meanwhile her interest in the lake grows. This comes to show in some of her thoughts while working: “No one has passed for at least three hours”.

Unlike her work, the woman feels some kind of fascination towards the lake while working. Whether or not she is ratiocinating from her work by using the summer heat, as an excuse to take a swim in the lake is unclear at this point, but she – despite her fear of being watched while swimming – makes the decision to go down to the lake. All ready before making this decision she had put her swimwear near her, which indicates that she had had the idea of taking a swim before, but had been reluctant about actually going.

However, taking the initiative to go doesn’t mean she overcame her fear. Due to the fact that it’s a hot summer day, she defies her fear and goes into the lake. Out on the river path she takes long fast steps”. In addition, she is very aware Of the fact that if she hesitates, she might turn around and go back to her desk. In the water, she finds a swan. Its beauty amazes her and while knowing that it can be a very dangerous animal, she feels drawn by the fear. While trying to get closer to the swan, she spends a lot of time in the lake, which gradually helps her overcome her fear.

The fact that she slowly overcomes her fear the first time and her new interest for the swan, she found the courage to go into the lake once more, and once more, and once more, each time getting closer to the swan and later on close enough to touch it. The woman’s observations made from a distance indicate that the swan is dead, but also alive. “It doesn’t hiss, nor arch its wings”. This brings a somewhat mysterious element to the story. The swan of course is a symbol, and the lag of movement and the fact that the swan doesn’t really notice the woman, could suggest that it is dead already.

However, warmblood blends into the water, which indicates that the swan is alive. She thinks – and the orator describes it as if – the swan where caught up in some of the fishermen’s net, as it flew down onto the water. The swan has probably been caught up in the net for some time and has been suffering a lot. Like the woman, the swan, was probably fascinated by the beauty of the water and decided to fly onto the Water. The Woman and the swan have both been drawn towards the water, because of the heat, but the swan is more relatable to the women then one might think. The woman can relate to the feeling of being held back.

Of course, there is a entrant between being held back physically and held back by fear. Meanwhile the swan is trapped, the woman began to spend more and more time observing the swan, and be more and more attached to it. “She cannot stop thinking about the swan”. The fear she felt disappeared as if it was a decreasing exponential equation to the time she spends in the lake. As a product of this decreasing fear, the woman began to untie herself from the reluctant and fear-controlled life she had had. “Untwisting the line where the bird bound itself in its struggle”.

There are many similarities between the caught-up swan and the “caught up” woman. They are both struggling to get free and their endings have somewhat similar traits. Without the help of the woman, the swan could not get free. And without the “help” of the swan, the woman probably wouldn’t have been freed from her fear of swimming in the lake. The theme of fear in the story is expressed by the main character s development. Other subsystems such as person development, mental freedom, helping others and the beauty of nature, are all shown in the legislation the woman establishes with the swan.

Of course, the overall themes are fear and overcoming fear, but also themes such as unhappiness and maybe even the female role as the weak gender comes to show as possible themes, however these are somewhat out of focus and thereby not central themes. The similarities between the woman and the swan suggest that the narrator is describing the same situation twice but from different perspectives.

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