Suicide In A Perfect Day For Bananafish By J. D. Salinger

2070 words - 8 pages

A Perfect Day for Bananafish follows the events leading up to the eventual suicide of Seymour Glass. In the story, Seymour is described as a lost spirit who sees himself as being fundamentally different from his social environment following his wartime experience; he leaves the war “seeing-more” and as a result, awakens to find that he has lost touch with the material world. Salinger uses the story’s dialog as the medium for conveying Seymour’s struggle; he establishes the shallow nature of the environment Seymour is exposed to using the dialog between Muriel and her Mother while simultaneously giving clues about Seymour’s character from the perspectives of the two women in his life. Seymour’s character is built upon further in the second half of the story during the scene in which he converses with Sybil, and also when Seymour is in the elevator moments before he commits suicide. The subtle clues Salinger weaves into the dialog suggest that Seymour commits suicide to escape the dilemma of either conforming to the materialistic world and sacrificing his spirituality, or choosing not to conform and consequently live estranged from his own wife and the society in which he lives. The opening of the story serves to create the precedent that Muriel is shallow. The first passage describes how Muriel “uses” her two and a half hour waiting period before her mother’s call. She accomplishes multiple tasks such as painting her toenails, reading a women’s pocket-size magazine article, brushing her hair, and removing a stain from a skirt. Salinger describes Muriel as “a girl who for a ringing phone dropped exactly nothing.” The references to Muriel as “a girl” are repeated throughout the story to signify her immaturity; her concern for trivial, superficial things surpasses the concern she has for her husband Seymour. All of the tasks she completes involve vanity that is indicative of Muriel’s superficial character, which will provide contrast to Seymour’s spiritual values later in the story. The opening conversation continues to impress the shallowness of Muriel’s character upon the reader. The conversation between Muriel and her mother focuses on the serious subject of Seymour’s potential mental instability, but their attitude towards their topic is softened, almost to the point of indifference, by other superfluous subject matter. Muriel’s mother sounds concerned when she warns Muriel that “Seymour may completely lose control of himself.” This is paired with the mention of Seymour’s war experience and a doctor’s opinion of his release being premature. However, these disturbing facts are contrasted by the tangent where Muriel’s mother asks, “’How are the clothes this year?” Salinger uses the contrasting topics of their conversation to destroy the credibility of their judgments. Muriel’s conclusion to her mother’s warnings, “Mother, I’m not afraid of Seymour,” further diffuses their forbidding effect. The dialog is heavy with references to Seymour and the...

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