Just Keep Swimming: Dory’s Heroic Lesson to the World

By Casey Merz

“When life gets you down do you wanna know what you’ve gotta do? Just keep swimming. Just keep swimming. Just keep swimming, swimming, swimming.”

Even if Dory left no other impression on anyone watching Finding Nemo, there is no doubt she left this saying somewhere in everyone’s head. And unless you are predetermined to not enjoy a movie, or honestly even if you are, Dory is a character that does not fail to bring smiles and laughs to watchers.

I’m convinced it is impossible to watch Finding Nemo without feeling happy just watching Dory’s spirited, hilarious actions and constant positive attitude. Despite her short-term memory loss and lack of personal connection to the problem, Dory’s optimism and selflessness makes Dory the perfect fish to go on a dangerous and life-changing journey with an overly cautious father searching for his son.

Dory was called on a mission solely by her genuine kind-hearted spirit… well, that and her clumsiness. When Dory swims right into a frantic, distraught clown fish, she does not realize she is stepping into an incredible and unthinkable journey. Unlike every other fish, Dory does not get agitated or swim away from Marlin; instead, her friendliness leads her to selflessly offer help and knowledge to a complete stranger without hesitation. And while she does forget what she is doing a few times, she jumps at the chance to help with equal excitement every single time.

Throughout the journey, Dory and Marlin face multiple dangers, threats, and unknowns. Marlin would never have the confidence to face these obstacles alone, but Dory is always there to push him through. Dory gets on Marlin’s nerves with her clueless fearlessness: asking strangers for help, assuming the best from known predators, and making fun out of serious situations.

However, Dory is always her true self and never fails to support Marlin, who she only met a few hours ago. She is able to put Marlin first despite his insensitivity to her feelings because she genuinely cares about helping, just as a hero would. Dory’s positive outlook on life and trust in those around her is the only thing that got the two of them through the journey to find Nemo.

Marlin and Dory hit rock bottom when they reach the harbor and think Nemo is dead. Marlin leaves Dory in a state of despair despite their growing friendship, and Dory is left alone and back in a confused state of forgetfulness.

But of course, just as things seem truly hopeless, Nemo appears well and alive! Nemo perfectly resembles Dory’s kindness to Marlin as he swims up to Dory to help a confused and sad stranger. With this encounter, Dory remembers everything, and they are able to find Marlin and rejoin the father and son!

Despite Dory’s constant happiness, it is clear she was missing a family and true confidence in herself. With Marlin and Nemo, Dory’s memory is better than ever, showing that she gains confidence through having a support system. She finds a family in her new friends and returns home with them, completing their broken family as well.

Dory was a hero to Marlin, bringing him optimism and hope when he had none. Dory was a hero to Nemo, overcoming her forgetfulness to find and save him. Dory was a hero to their family, bringing Marlin and Nemo back together with a bond they were missing before. And Dory is a hero to every person facing challenges in life, presenting the power of optimism and bringing a smile to our faces even in the darkest times.

Every person will struggle in their lives. Every person will face a situation where it feels they have no control. But Dory reminds us there is one thing we always have power over: our personal actions. She introduces a positive outlook on the idea that no matter how hard things seem, we must keep moving if we are going to get through it.

“Just keep swimming.”

Keep trying. Push through. You will make it out on the other side.

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Casey Merz is an  undergraduate student at the University of Richmond. She wrote this essay as part of her course requirement while enrolled in Dr. Scott Allison’s Heroes & Villains class.

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