a perfect day for bananafish

Essay by SevenWuHigh School, 10th gradeA-, December 2014

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Seven Wu

Mr. Schnee

Honors American Literature


Seymour Glass - An Outsider's World

"A Perfect Day for Bananafish" was written by J.D. Salinger in 1948 in the collection of Nine Stories. The story tells about the vacation of a young married couple, Muriel and Seymour Glass. Seymour Glass, the protagonist of the story is a returned soldier from the war who is suffering from psychological trauma due to the brutal impacts of the war. Eventually, he becomes an eccentric outsider who rejects all company of adults, but is willing to communicate with children. Muriel is Seymour's socialite wife; she is embraced by the materialistic society, but has neglected the needs of Seymour. Sybil is the young girl who plays and chats with Seymour on the beach. She and Seymour share the same characteristics, innocent and alone. In the end of the story, Seymour shoots himself in the hotel room; his suicide is also the climax of the story.

Seymour undergoes a series of change from the beginning to the climax; at first he keeps silence with the adults, then becomes talkative and pleasant with the little girl, and reaches the climax by shooting himself in the end.

In the beginning of the story, the mental disturbance that Seymour displays to the readers contributes to the climax of the story. Muriel stays in the hotel room and talks to her mother on telephone. While they are talking, her mother expresses her anxiety towards the safety of Muriel due to the erratic behaviors of Seymour. "Did Daddy get the car fixed, incidentally?" (Salinger 4). She tells about a car accident that Seymour crashed Muriel's father's car into a tree on propose. This car accident implies Seymour's suicidal intention, which illustrates his living in a painful life. Her mother also tells about the rude things that Seymour has said to them, which reveals Seymour's dislike towards adults. Muriel tells her mother that Seymour's condition is normal; he is silent and plays piano by himself during the parties and dinners. Muriel is obsessed with the materialistic world; she lacks concern on Seymour's behavior. The characteristics of Seymour observed through the conversation of Muriel and her mother is that Seymour is an outsider, and he lost his ability to accept the adult society; he likes to close himself up to his own world. The war leaves a severe mental unrest to him; he is psychologically damaged from the war, which leads his suicidal intention to end his pain.

The child-like and intelligent characteristics of Seymour that are revealed in the second part of the story represents the change that he undergoes through the process of getting to the climax. In the second part of the story, Seymour meets the little young girl, Sybil, on the beach. Sybil and Seymour talk to each other freely and randomly on the beach. Unlike the way he interacts with adults, Seymour's attitude towards Sybil is patient and genial. His interactions with Sybil reveal the wish of Seymour to return to innocence and purity. He tells Sybil a story about the bananafish, which represents the war. Those greedy bananafish symbolize the governments and people who want to gain more land, power, and money for themselves. But they forget the consequences come along with their voracious desires. The story of bananafish implies Seymour's profoundness and intelligence. The second part of the story shows a completely different Seymour compares to the Seymour that his wife's mother describes. He is a man with intelligence and kindness; he urges peace and desire innocence.

The end of the story reveals another characteristic of Seymour: all the characteristics that are observed through each part of the story show the change that Seymour undergoes at the climax. After Sybil leaves the beach, Seymour returns to his hotel room. In the elevator, a lady unintentionally cast a glance at Seymour's feet. "But don't be a God-damned sneak about it" (Salinger 17). But Seymour becomes angry toward the lady and curse on her. Completely different from the attitude and mood Seymour shows on the beach with Sybil. On the beach, when Sybil tells him she sees the bananafish, Seymour even kisses the arch of her foot. But in the elevator, he accuses the lady of staring at his feet. Seymour changes dramatically when he encounters adults. He is extremely sensible, and he disgusts the world of the adults. When he goes back to the hotel room, Muriel is taking a nap in the room. Seymour takes out a gun, points to his head and shoots himself. This is the climax of the story where he ends the story a different character than the one in the beginning; after his encounter with Sybil, he is unable to endure all those darkness in the adult's world and war. At this point, when he commits suicide, death is regarded as a relief to him; it takes him out of the dark and selfish adult's world, and escapes from the nightmares left by the war. Although Seymour uphold, he uses a violent way to achieve his "salvation", which illustrates that his mind has already deeply influenced by the violence he saw in the war. The change he goes undergoes and learns is that he realizes the world is selfish and rotting and war makes it even more violent and filthy, it is impossible to return to the pure and innocent children's world, the only salvation that can save him out of his pain is death.

Seymour is a tragic victim of the war and an outsider of the society. In the beginning, it appears that he is severely suffering from psychological trauma, and becomes a social outsider. In the second part of the story, his real character is revealed; he is a highly intelligent man who desires to return to the innocent and pure state of childhood. In the end of the story, he realizes that he is unable to suit himself in the society around him, which is materialistic and full of greed, darkness, and lies. At the climax, he commits suicide to save himself from suffering, because he has already seen through the real face of the world and the filthy truth of the war. The story "A Perfect Day for Bananafish" by telling the story of Seymour Glass, shows the readers the cruelty of war and the hypocrisy of the materialistic society.

Works Cited

Salinger, J. D. Nine Stories. Boston: Little, Brown, and Co. 1953. Print.