Searching For Innocence: A Perfect Day For Bananafish By J.D. Salinger

1385 words - 6 pages

As Irving Howe once observed, “The knowledge that makes us cherish innocence makes innocence unattainable.” In a dynamic society, innocence evades even the youngest members of our world; it evades even the nonexistent members of our world. J.D. Salinger explores this elusive innocence in his short story, "A Perfect Day for Bananafish." Distinct similarities appear between the main character, Seymour Glass, and Salinger including the World War II experience and attraction for younger, more innocent people (Salerno). Salinger conveys this through Seymour’s preference of a young girl’s company over his own wife's company. Throughout the story, “Salinger constantly draws attention to himself and his precocious intellect” (Daniel Moran). “A Perfect Day for Bananafish” revolves around an army veteran post-World War II who visits a beach resort with his wife but spends more time there with the young Sybil Carpenter. Using a historical context of World War II and portrayal of many different characters, Salinger effectively depicts the story of a man in a desperate search for innocence. In “A Perfect Day for Bananafish,” J.D. Salinger uses symbolism and figurative language to stress the concept of unattainable innocence.
The symbolism in “A Perfect Day for Bananafish” allowed Salinger to communicate his main theme. One of the most prominent symbols, the colour blue, implies both innocence and depression. In the story, the constant appearance of blue supports Seymour Glass’s search for innocence. For example, Seymour remarks, “That’s a fine blue bathing suit you have on. If there’s one thing I like, it’s a blue bathing suit" (Salinger). However, Sybil’s bathing suit is yellow, and she proceeds to correct him. This seemingly impossible mistake depicts the way Seymour identifies young Sybil’s innocence. As Daniel Moran wrote, “Red is traditionally associated with passion or blood, white is usually a sign of purity, and blue often suggests innocence.” Blue continually emerges during the story; for example, Seymour dons blue swimming trunks and his wife removes the padding from a blue jacket (in this case she lacks innocence because she removes from the blue). It is only fitting that Seymour and Sybil swim in a blue ocean under the blue skies.
Another important symbol seen in “A Perfect Day for Bananafish” is the number six. Biblically, six represents sin and evil. Six shows just that in the story. In a dialogue exchange between Sybil and Seymour, Sybil claims to see a bananafish and Seymour says, “My God, no!...Did he have any bananas in his mouth?” to which Sybil replies, “Yes...Six” (Salinger). Bananafish are clearly not innocent; their sin is gluttony. Anthony Fassano mentions that “The bananafish ‘behave like pigs’ and take more than they need.” Innocence is the absence of sin and where this is six there is sin therefore where there is six there cannot be innocence. Seymour’s wife lacks innocence because she waits to pick up a phone call until the sixth...

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