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