Essay on family relationships in Swimming-Fiction-Short Story



The book written by Peter Selgin can be regarded as a lively and insightful book that respects its readers' intelligence. Along with that, the book offers a reader a clear and crisp guidance on the family life. The main idea of the book can be summarized as the difference between the imaginary and the real world. The main thesis of this paper is the crisis of family relationships that comes as a result of human inability to understand the interests of its counterpart. The story itself is very deep and philosophical. It shows the crisis of human relationships.

The story is focused on the description of the trivial story of two people: Frank and Dorothy. For a long time these people are staying in marriage. The whole story in described in the following words: “every August for the past twelve years Frank and his wife, Dorothy, had come to the small lake in northern New Jersey, less than an hour’s drive from New York City. Theirs was one of a dozen cabins dotting Lake Juliet’s wrinkled shore.” (p.1) Being long time together the couple started to lose the intimate feelings to each other. In other words, the relations started to lose their romantic nature. “…Frank would swim and she would cook her breakfast. It was one of their many routines in a marriage that often seemed to consist of nothing but routines. Sometimes, standing on the float as he did now, Frank smelled, or imaged that he could smell, bacon frying.”  (p.2) From this passage one can see that the main hero of the story grew rather bored with everyday life routine. As a result, he was passionately craving for changes that somehow would have change his life into something that is more interesting than the everyday routine he has to live in. Sometimes Frank even thought that his wife was not a proper choice for him. I would say Frank got very pessimistic of his family life that tuned out to be very grey and not interesting. The everyday routine overwhelmed him. As a result, he lost the very feeling of happiness. In other worlds, his present life brought no satisfaction for him. The feeling of tiredness slowly fell upon him. He wanted his wife to look different but he couldn’t change things are they were. “Dorothy’s arms holding the heavy skillet, the flesh of her triceps pillowy and dropping. She had been a good-looking woman once, her Irish features square ad strong. But she had let herself go. Her once slim waist was gone, and her arms and legs had lost their tone.” (p.5) The lovely smile of Frank’s wife (the only thing that remained) seems to no longer attract her husband. Frank became a different person - a person that was looking for changes. And these changes came when Frank met a young person named Juliet. In the story Juliet is being described with the help of the following words: “She had dark eyes and a round, pleasant face framed by hair just beginning to turn gray in places. She looked at him. She wrote a red sweater.” (p. 6) Slowly, the other woman manages to attract Frank attention. Her strong body and a good figure serve to be a contrast to the Dorothy lumpy body. Moreover, the women seems o have much in common with Frank: she shares his interest in swimming (that is the main reason why the author gives the story name - A swimming story). Juliet (the other women) likes to swim. Also, she is eager to share the interests of Frank, thus making a sharp contrast to his wife, who seems to lose any interest in Frank. As a result, the relationships between Frank and his wife became “old and outdated”. They have nothing to share. In one moment Frank felt that he have been living with a stranger. “Each time Frank looked at his wife he felt increasingly disturbed and unhappy. What after all, did they have to do with each other anymore, he wondered, aside from being husband and wife? Maybe I should let myself go too, he told himself as he nibbled on a strip of bacon. I should have aged with her. Instead, I let her go ahead without me and now look: we’ve lost each other. Haven’t we? ” (p.11)

Perhaps the situation described is a mid-life crisis. The situation is typical for a wide majority of families where the people get used to each other. Not all the people are optimistic about aging. Not many want to hear that they will be grown-up soon. Still, the majority are compelled to face the situations like this. The same story happened to Fred and his wife Dorothy. The behavior of men has suddenly changed. He suddenly started paying more attention to his intimate feeling and to his look. In the case described we are dealing with the story of a very handsome man, who is aging but keeps himself in good shape despite his age. As a contrast we see his wife who is aging and pays no attention to herself.

Frank does not have any incentive to stay with his wife who shows no will no stay with him.  The relations came to the point when there is a strong need to introduce changes. These changes must be taken by Frank, who is very eager to change the situation. When he meets the other one who shares his interests in life (swimming) he seems to forget that he has an elderly wife. But it wasn’t only Fred who was guilty of the growing gab in the relationships between two people. Dorothy seemed to show no interest in Fred’s life. “He had told Dorothy the same story several times, but he did not remember her being amazed. He wondered if she was watching the float now. No, she was reading her best-seller, or chucking corn for dinner. Dorothy had long since lost any interest in his swimming. He could have drowned for all she knew.” (p. 13) The disinterest of Dorothy helped the other women, Juliet to win the attention of Fred. Somehow Fred feels that he is being engaged by the charm of the women. Then goes the turning point of the story – Fred tries to save his marriage. He eventually pushes Dorothy into the realm of his life. Finally he brings Dorothy to the beach where he is practicing swimming. While showing the situations like this the author of the story shows how the crisis of marriage.

Style of the story In general I would characterize the style of the writer as both scholarly and playful. Also, one important thing about the author is that he never looses sight of its purpose. In general, the presentation by Selgin can be characterized as obviously respectful and clear.  The abundance and variety of his literary references is able to keep things moving what enables to provide a good clip and rather fun journey into the mysterious world of human relationships. The hints within the book are very clear. While reading the book I feel that Selgin shows the reader what does it means “a real life”.  It is not a big wonder since Selgin is a very talented and skilled writer.  In general, Peter Selgin’s Swimming-Fiction-Short Story offers plenty new information.

The main idea of the story is to show the crisis in the relationships between two people living in marriage. The main idea can be summarized with the help of the following words: "marriage is not like staying together but the ability to share thoughts and interests of the other person. (p.14) Part of the answer lies in the story itself that shows the crisis of the relationship between to people. The crisis is largely reasoned by the non-wiliness of one person to share the thoughts and interests of the other one. Frank tries to change the situation. For that aim he tries to engage Dorothy in his own activities. The attempt has its reasons: Fred does all possible to save his marriage. But the situation is rather difficult, since Fred seems to have no feelings for his present wife. And it is only when Fred sees his dear person to be close to drawn when he suddenly realizes that he still continues to love his wife. “As he watched his wife struggle an irresistible force gripped and held him frozen – a vibrating electric force that numbed his shoulders and turned his arms and legs to quivering bars of lead. It came from all the way across the water, from where the women from the Ice House stood watching him. ” (p.15)

Finally, when having seen his wife to be close to the death point, Fred is able to understand the deepness of his feeling to her. That fact leaves Fred ashamed of his former intentions to break up with his wife. “With his eyes still closed he felt himself drifting; he felt he could drift like that forever”. (p.16) At this point of the story we can see the refreshment in the relationships between two formerly alien people. The story is really engaging and interesting.



The main idea of "Swimming-Fiction-Short Story" is to show both the crisis and refreshment in the relationships between two people. The story is a kind of a lesson that can be applied to any family. Problems covered by Peter Selgin are typical for the majority of families all over the world. I would go so fact as to call the story a study-guide into the family life.


                                                Works Cited:

Peter Selgin "Swimming-Fiction-Short Story" Literary Review, 2003.


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