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Synopsis of the Story
Miranda July’s “The Swim Team” is eerily genuine in all its surrealism. The plot is built around “Maria”’s post-breakup separation anxiety and unfolds as she runs into her ex-boyfriend at a bookstore. Seeing someone whom she loved dearly arm in arm with another woman sets her on a nostalgic journey to the times when she lived in Belvedere. The significant share of the story is the girl’s first-person narration of past events.
Her inner dialogue is incoherent at times and is written in the form of a flow of consciousness. Back in Belvedere, the girl used to coach a swim team; however, her mentees were no regular swimmers: they were three seniors – Elizabeth, Kelda, and Jack-Jack – and were practicing on her living room’s floor. She poured salted water on the floor for them to slip and slide and gave instructions just like a coach would do. Even though the story is quite bizarre and sometimes challenging to follow, it is possible to find the central idea: the meaningfulness of life depends heavily on personal integrity.
Central Idea Statement
Throughout the story, a reader might feel that there is something fake about the main character. “The citizens of Belvedere thought my name was Maria,” the girl states at the beginning of the story (July 14). Her mentees addressed her by that name, which gives rise to a question as to why she felt the need to distort her identity. The only meaningful thing with which she occupied herself was coaching a swim team, or rather, “coaching” a “swim team.”
Even when it came to an activity that added value to her life, she was not genuine – she was fake-coaching whereas Elizabeth, Kelda, and Jack-Jack were fake-swimming. Lastly, a reader learns that it was a story that the main character did not want to tell her boyfriend, as she thought that he expected something more exciting (July 13). The girl was more willing to allow him to assume that she was a prostitute than tell the truth about her “barren” life, thus, depriving herself of integrity and her existence of any meaning.
“Maria” is a young girl (presumably in her early to mid-twenties) for whom “the reality has begun to seem barren (July 14).” Just like many other young people in their twenties, she feels the need to meet parents’ and society’s expectations as to who she is to be. Thus, she creates a fake persona to present or hide life facts on a whim to protect her image. She sees little meaning in the humanitarian project to help fight illiteracy on which she works, and yet, talking to her parents, she uses “big words” – early intervention and pilot program. The girl invents a story about her being on a swim team in high school to strike a conversation with Elizabeth, Kelda, and Jack-Jack and convince them that she has coaching skills.
Now that “Maria” left Belvedere for her current city, she knows for sure that her mentees are dead. This tragic circumstance does not push her out of her rigid, delusional mindset as she still clings to the fantasy of her ex-boyfriend accepting her were her truth not so “barren (July 13).” She does not analyze past events critically; instead, she merely narrates while lamenting the loss of her significant other, which does not bring any dynamic to her character. A reader never gets to become familiar with the real “Maria,” as her personality crumbles under each fake story, and the meaningfulness of her actions is nowhere to be found.
July, Miranda. The Swim Team. N.d. Web.