Anyone with genuine interest in literature, has heard about the recent leakage of Three Stories, a collection of three short stories written by famous American writer, J. D. Salinger. While I do not support the fact, that those are now known to general public despite author’s wishes for the stories not to be published until 50 years after his death, I cannot say, that I wasn’t thrilled when I heard they leaked. I will only focus on one of the three stories here, namely The Ocean Full of Bowling Balls, precursor to the famed The Catcher in the Rye, taking place on the day of Allie’s death. More specifically I will be dealing with the meaning and symbolism behind the phrase “bowling ball” in the text.
Wikipedia gives us following definition of a bowling ball: “A bowling ball is a piece of sporting equipment used to hit bowling pins in the sport of bowling. Ten-pin bowling balls are typically hard spheres with three holes drilled in them, one each for the ring and middle fingers, and one for the thumb.”
It is a sporting equipment and as such we can easily connect it with fun and competition, it also has holes drilled for the fingers, which leads to a better grip, more control. On the other hand, it is heavy, thus it is something that wants to get away from you, it is hard to hold control of it, it needs those holes drilled if we want to somewhat control it.
We first meet this phrase in the title, “The Ocean Full of Bowling Balls”. Ocean is in itself something light, relaxing, but bowling balls here immediately present themselves as heavy. It would be impossible to swim in ocean were it filled with bowling balls. If we connect the previously mentioned aspect of the heavy things being hard to control, such ocean would be even more unpredictable, even more uncontrollable than the ocean already is. Even if the balls have the holes drilled, humans only have two hands, not nearly enough to control a whole ocean of those.
The next time bowling balls are mentioned is when Vincent (D.B. in The Catcher) tells the story he’s writing to Kenneth (Allie in The Catcher). The story, titled The Bowler, is about a man, whose wife never lets him listen to sports on the radio at night or read any cowboy stories. The only freedom he has, is that he can go bowling every wednesday. When the bowler dies, the wife comes to his grave every Sunday. One time she by chance comes on Wednesday, and notices the fresh flowers, after she asks the caretaker about it he tells her, that it’s the same lady as always, probably his wife. His actual wife is really upset about this and she throws his bowling ball through a window that night.
This story brings about quite a few completely different associations with the phrase. In the beginning, we see the ball as freedom. It offers the bowler something he couldn’t have otherwise. Just a few moments later we see the ball as a symbol for something else, unfaithfulness, cheating. And at the end of the story,...