A perfect day for bananafish – J. D. Salinger

I have been reading “Nine stories by J.D Salinger” these days and I am so awestruck by the use allusions to state a deep underlying point.

A perfect day for bananafish is one of the most popular stories by him. Often people end up spending more time thinking about the story and coming up with various interpretations of it, than time spent on actually reading it.

This story revolves around four important characters. A married woman, Mrs. Muriel Glass, who is devoted to her husband, but only in some ways, her husband Seymour Glass, who has returned from the war but is facing difficulty living a normal life. (He could be suffering from what is referred to as PTSD in today’s world)

Muriel doesn’t leave her husband despite his eccentricities, but at the same time doesn’t take any real effort to help him either. She is a woman caught in a web of materialism. Trapped by society and it’s facade, only interested in all things superficial. This alluded to by her perfect attire, her expensive bags, interest in social gatherings – even at the expense of letting her husband feel alone. This is perhaps the biggest hurdle in their marriage, second only to her mother. An overbearing, over protective woman who is as equally a socialite as Muriel.

Seymour is described to be an eccentric man, or someone who might lose his mind soon. However, his actions initially appear to be balanced and normal. He prefers spending time alone, playing the piano or interacting with children, rather than blending in with other adults.

The fourth important character is Sybil, a little girl who meets Seymour on the beach. She is innocent and free from the cruel world of adults. Her judgment is free of bias. She is the only one who can perhaps “see”  the world as Seymour does, even the imaginary Bananafish he describes. She represents a guilt free innocence, one that Seymour wants, but can’t go back to.

The two main plots in the story are 1. Bananafish 2. Absence of Communication.

The bananafish , described as fishes who gorge on bananas then become and fat and are unable to escape and thus eventually die. They represent the human condition where people “stuff” themselves up on the metaphorical bananas of anger, lust, greed, hate and other material things and in the end are unable to ‘get out of this’ trap. Like Seymour is now filled with memories of the war, which haunt him and stop him from going back into society with adults and live a normal life. Thus, he must die too like the bananafish.

In a way, the bananafish describe the human predicament of being stuck in a rut negativity, or being full of negative emotions such that it is impossible to get out of this trap.

Secondly, there is too much noise between the characters. Muriel and her mother, talk at each other instead of to each other. Each not paying heed to the other’s concerns.

Similarly, Seymour cannot talk to Muriel about how he feels like a misfit, like he doesn’t belong. He is scared to unveil his true emotions and feelings to her, but he can easily communicate with Sybil, a kid. He can expose himself to her without the fear of being judged. He lives in a constant fear of being judged as is shown in the elevator scene.

In the end however, fed up of trying to get out of a situation and trying to blend in when no one gets him, he ends his life.

Not very different from how most of us feel at some point, like no one understands how you feel. No matter how hard you try, no one seems to listen.

 

Have you read the story? What do you think about it?

Here’s a free link to read the book – http://materlakes.enschool.org/ourpages/auto/2013/2/25/50973306/Nine_Stories_by_J_D__Salinger.pdf

 

 

 

 

Copyright (c ) Sneha P

Where are you going, where have you been

Where are you going, where have you been ” is a short story by Joyce Carol Oates.
It revolves around a somewhat self obsessed, 15 year old girl, Connie, who seems to live in a world of her own. 
The story appearing to be  a simple one on surface, is in fact full of symbols and motifs.
It addresses subtly the mind frame and attitude of teenagers (even today) where they feel like the world is at their feet. Anyone who states otherwise is just their enemy or probably jealous of them.
More importantly, through motifs like music that always seems to “transport the character into a different world”, the writer addresses the fact how pop culture,  be it music, tv or magazines tend to romanticise things. How teenagers believe the ideas portrayed in such platforms to be completely true, no matter how far from reality they are.

The girl in the story figuratively lives a dual life.
One at house where she is normal, one for the outside world, where she is a social, attractive and mature woman.
Though she enjoys this facade of pretending to be mature and worldly, in reality, she is just a scared little girl. Unaware of the world and it’s cruel ways.
She is comfortable and confident enough to pull this facade off as long as she’s sure she’ll be home to the things she knows, her family.
But when the time comes and the facade ends, she stares at the face horror, of a very real and eminent danger.
Which is when she sees herself for who she really is, for the first and last time perhaps.

Another important character is the antagonist, who is essentially an enigma.
Open to interpretation of the reader.
Several theories believe he represents the allure of darkness, of the demon. Some parts of the story hint towards it too. But not quite clearly. 
So he could just be another criminal in the making or a psychopath.
Everything about him right from his appearance, demeanor to the way he talks – charming at first, menacing later on -all build up an ominous vibe.
He forces the two aspect of Connie to converge, under unfortunate circumstances.

In the end, the reader is left to deal with the horror of little Connie making a decision, possibly her last one – or at least one that would change her life forever. Scar her forever.

Some interpretations believe that the whole story could’ve been a dream in the mind of the girl, but nevertheless, it would open her eyes to the reality of the world and make her bridge the gap between her two personalities.

Have you read the story? What do you think about it?

Eveline by James Joyce

Hello there reader!

Lately I have been in a mood to read short stories by variegated writers (for lack of time to read a full fledged novel). Short stories often manage to enlighten me with a quick lesson or two and at the same time manage to get me thinking.

So, I have decided to blog about a few such stories that touch my heart.

Eveline by James Joyce is certainly one such piece.

A rather short story but with a plot and character that manage to provoke introspection in the reader. It talks about a young woman who is on the horns of dilemma. She has to make a choice, a choice between her freedom from a monotonous, insecure life under the menace of her once loving father and the long standing promise to her dying mother.

The story instantly connects with the reader. Eveline, weary of her father and his violent threats, fatigued by a life of dullness remembers a time when things were better. She is nostalgic for a time when her mother was alive, her father was a somewhat better man and her brothers were by her side.

Now even though several people from her past have died, moved on or changed, Eveline still thinks of the past. She continues  to bear her father’s threats and live in her childhood home. Maybe because she made a promise to her dying mother to hold the house together, for as long as she could.
The extent to which she goes to keep the promise, shows her integrity of character.

Or maybe it’s because she is too afraid to move on to a better place. The known is safe. Her hometown, her father, are the things she has known her whole life. She has some sense of safety in being surrounded by these known elements.

Which is why when given an opportunity to flee away with a young gentleman who promises to take her to a better place, she is unsure.

This opportunity scares her because it means leaving everything she knows behind for a future she knows nothing about.

It could be because she is reluctant to trust this young man fully because of the men in her life. Her father mainly.
One wonders if Eveline will ever have a healthy relationship in future given her past experiences.

The reader can relate to Eveline on many levels.
How often have we ourselves found ourselves too scared to move forward, take a leap of faith, or try something new because we are too scared to let go of the past? How often have we let go of something that could’ve been a great opportunity because we were too scared? A job away from home, a new relationship, a new profession?

When judgement day comes and Eveline has to finally make a choice, she finds herself “paralyzed” – unable to make a decision, unable to move forward and incapable of showing any emotion. She makes a decision to stay in the same hell hole she hates. The decision is made somewhat subconsciously.

As the story ends, the reader questions if Eveline will be ever able to move forward?

__________

A personal remark, Eveline makes me question about all those women out there who are too scared to move forward. Be it from a toxic relationship, a horrible job, a sense of responsibility. I don’t mean to say that one should give up on their duties and promises without thinking. What I mean is, one should know when to move forward.

Just because the unknown scares you, doesn’t mean it is necessarily bad.

Have any of you read the story? If so, what do you think about it? Comments are welcome.

If not, you can read it here – http://www.online-literature.com/james_joyce/959/

Copyright(c) Sneha P

image source – youtube.com