The Swimmer


John Cheever

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Shirley Adams Character Analysis

Neddy’s former mistress. Neddy had broken up with her after what he thought was a lighthearted affair, but she had “wept,” showing that Neddy is too focused on his own pleasure to understand how badly he hurt her. After his rejection at the Biswangers, Neddy seeks Shirley out to restore his spirits. He wants not “love,” but rather “sexual roughhouse” in order to bolster his mood. Shirley (of course) is confused and hurt to see him, and she punctures Neddy’s self-delusion by telling him to “grow up.

Shirley Adams Quotes in The Swimmer

The The Swimmer quotes below are all either spoken by Shirley Adams or refer to Shirley Adams . For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
The Natural vs. The Artificial Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Vintage edition of The Swimmer published in 2000.
The Swimmer Quotes

The next pool on his list, the last but two, belonged to his old mistress, Shirley Adams. If he had suffered any injuries at the Biswangers’ they would be cured here. Love—sexual roughhouse in fact—was the supreme elixir, the pain killer, the brightly colored pill that would put the spring back into his step, the joy of life in his heart. They had had an affair last week, last month, last year. He couldn’t remember.

Related Characters: Neddy Merrill (speaker), Shirley Adams
Related Symbols: Alcohol
Page Number: 611
Explanation and Analysis:
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The Swimmer PDF

Shirley Adams Character Timeline in The Swimmer

The timeline below shows where the character Shirley Adams appears in The Swimmer. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
The Swimmer
Delusion and Repression Theme Icon
Time Theme Icon
Neddy moves on to his third-to-last pool, which belongs to his old mistress Shirley Adams. He’s momentarily excited by the prospect of “love—sexual roughhouse in fact,” and he goes... (full context)
Delusion and Repression Theme Icon
Previously, Neddy had broken it off with Shirley and she seemed crushed, while Neddy had thought it was just a lighthearted fling. He... (full context)
Delusion and Repression Theme Icon
Time Theme Icon
Shirley tells Neddy to “grow up” when he talks about his quest to swim across the... (full context)
Delusion and Repression Theme Icon
Time Theme Icon
Leaving Shirley’s backyard, Neddy feels miserable. He looks up at the summer night sky only to see... (full context)