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How does J. D.

Salinger in A Perfect Day for Bananafish use the three acts to reflect
personal relationships?
When A Perfect Day for Bananafish appeared in the second half of the 20th C., The
United States society was influenced by a growing capitalism, the end of the World War II, and
the beginning of the Cold War. Besides the economic wealth and political control that the PostWar era brought, Salingers literary works depict human relationships as shallow, materialistic,
competitive and often selfish (Evans, 2009, p. 44), mirroring American self-centered society.
From this point of view, Evans words resonate strongly with A Perfect Day for Bananafish,
published in Salingers short story collection Nine Stories in 1953. The story chronicles Seymour
Glass tragic dnouement in the course of an ordinary day. In doing so, he describes New York
upper-middle-class, in which their spiritual insensitivity affects personal relationships. Across
Nine Stories, Salinger explores, presents, and engages with different themes. However, I will
focus on how personal relationships are shown alongside the story; considering essential
elements such as language, symbols, and imagery.
For Salinger, personal relationships are materialistic and insensitive:
A Perfect Day for Bananafish is a story in three acts: The first shows us Muriel Glass
while she awaits to get her call through to her mother who is in New York City; the second
focuses on Seymour, a WWII veteran with PTSD, and Sybil, a little child who submits to Mr.
Glass imaginary play on the futile search of the bananafish; the third on Seymours tragic
resolution, trying to find his own path to enlightenment. Across the three parts, readers are
pressed up against Seymours search for innocence; however, we watch him breaking out into
suicide. For Salinger, with his cruel accuracy, personal relationships bring about a lack of
attachment and materialistic comfort. The marriage between Mrs. and Mr. Glass never presents
itself, as Seymour prefers to spend his time playing the piano or lying on the beach rather than in
the hotel room, Hes played the piano both nights weve been here, she explains to her mother,
portraying an unhappy, distant, and empty marriage. Meanwhile, everything seems to work fine,
turning a blind eye to Seymours funny behavior, Im not afraid of Seymour. Muriel and her
mother never listen to each other; they are more conscious and worried about their possessions
and the social image other people project, which can be associated with depression, anxiety and
broken relationships. As a matter of fact, the telephone conversation is always paused and
interrupted showing us fragments of a whimsical chat, jumping from one topic to another.
Finally, Sybil and Mrs. Carpenter never speak to each other, as the little childs nonsensical
dialogue interrupts Mrs. Carpenter martini. Although the characters are connected with each
other, they are more concerned with superficial aspects of life.
Salinger uses a variety of narrative voices and perspectives to depict personal relations:
In the story, we have access to Muriels superficiality through the omniscient narrator
who begins by describing Mrs. Glass' sluggishness, She washed her comb and brush. She took
the spot out of the skirt of her beige suit. However, this voice is unable to tell us what Muriel is
thinking, ironically, presenting only her frivolousness and apathy, the girl in 507. Even though
we do not know much about her age, the narrator calls her the girl along the story, probably
presenting her with a lack of intelligence and attachment, as a teenager would behave. On the
contrary, a series of conversations between Seymours mother-in-law and wife, mainly in
reported speech using slangs and colloquial language, divulge his mental breakdowns to the
readers as a product of the War, Well. In the first place, he said it was a perfect crime the Army

released him from the hospital. However, Miss Spiritual Tramp of 1948, as Seymour calls her,
seems unconcerned with her husbands episodes, as both revolve around chitchats concerning
people's clothes, socialite, and appearances, Well, how is your blue coat?. Hence, the telephone
conversation is based solely on nonsense comments: the people are awful this year. You should
see what sits next to us in the dining room. Here, Muriel uses what referring disdainfully to
other guests in the Florida hotel. The conversation abruptly ends where Muriel hangs up on her
mother. Then, the second part begins with Sybil asking her mother about see more glass,
referring to Seymour Glass, or perhaps Salinger uses these words as a pun, returning to the
shattered glass, and the broken window that Muriels mother refers to in the exposition of the
story. Even though Sybil and her mother are unable to communicate with each other, the little
child overpasses the boundaries of the hotel and meets Seymour, who is lying on the beach with
his robe and royal blue trunks. When Mr. Glass sees Sybil, he can not see the real color the little
child is wearing -Yellow- meaning a lack of attachment to reality, and profound depression.
Afterward, Seymour tells the story of the bananafish and Sybil can engage in the imaginary
world of innocence; the bananafish mirrors Seymours isolation and alienation from the
materialistic society, allowing to see his real feelings and psyche. Nevertheless, Sybil (as the
Greek Mythological seer) uncovers Seymours nerve entrapment. It is when, she says, I just saw
one that Mr. Glass outbursts in hopelessness and returns to the hotel room, ran without regret
in the direction of the hotel. The third act of the story begins with Seymour in the elevator and
the discussion with a woman who is, apparently, staring at his feet. The climax and dnouement
finish with Seymour staring at his wife, lie on the other twin bed in the room, he takes out a gun,
and fires a bullet right into his temple.
Among the different characters and multiple perspectives (voices), it is that we are able to
uncover Seymours psyche and bitter thoughts. He calls her wife, ironically, Miss Spiritual
Tramp of 1948; however, she does not care being called that way, or probably she does not
listen to her husbands remarks, apparently showing a type of distance and oblivion, as aforesaid
the couple never meet each other. At the end of the story, Muriel is asleep in one of the twin beds
(as a form of sexual indifference) while Seymour commits suicide, then he went over and sat
down on the unoccupied twin bed, looked at the girl, aimed the pistol, and fired a bullet through
his temple. In Salingers story, Muriel and her mothers telephone conversation is depicted as a
series of conversations between people we might ourselves know, a perfect mimicry of the
cadences and inflections of contemporary speech of his upper-middle-class dwellers (Prigozy,
2008, p. 94). The dialogue starts with Muriels intrusive mother despair claiming why Muriel has
not called her and then into a vain conversation about inanimate objects and peoples attitudes,
clearly presenting a lack of spiritualism. Thus, Salinger describes them in connection to artificial
and materialistic objects. As can be seen in, the Jar of Bronze, the dinner dress was awful, the
hotel room, and the ballerina, all these inanimate objects emphasize the characters personal
relation between mother and daughter. Salinger apparently uses these symbols to describe how
their relationship is apart of Seymours hypersensitiveness. After the telephone conversation. The
author portrays the relationship between Sybil and her mother. Mrs. Carpenter is unable to
understand her young daughter, as she is trying to find where Seymour Glass is, as Sybil says,
see more glass. The unnamed narrator as same as with Muriel describes Mrs. Carpenter
indifference. Mommys going up to the hotel and have a Martini with Mrs. Hubbel. Ill bring
you the olive. From this point of view, it is possible to do two readings: the first one is to
illustrate the personal instability, indifference, and materialism that surrounds the characters. The

second reading is to think Seymour as alienated from society; however, the message for the
readers seems to be clear-cut: New York upper-middle-class are living lives that are essentially
self-centered, calculating, and insincere. In other words, insubstantial personal relationships
affect not only Seymours inner self but each characters behavior and their true psyche is
revealed throughout the story.
A Perfect Day for Bananafish allows Salinger to take possession of his intellectual,
emotional, and imaginative power matched by an uncompromising honesty, perspicacious
openness to reality, and disturbing questions without logical answers, in the realm of politics and
wars. His work consistently explores and articulates genuine truths about human situations with
witty and potent images of sensuality, and innocence; about the intricacies of consciousness; and,
the ongoing constitution of the self and the mysteries of the human psyche with our human
involvement to the mystery of divine transcendence.
Evans, R. C. (2009). Alienation, Materialism, and Religion in J.D. Salingers The Catcher in the
Rye. Blooms Literary Themes: Alienation, 41-49.
Prigozy, R. (1995). Nine Stories: JD Salingers Linked Mysteries. Blooms Modern Critical
Views: JD Salinger, 89-105.
Salinger, J. D., Pellar, R., & Pellarov, L. (1953). Nine stories. Boston: Little, Brown.
Excellent job, Juan. Above and beyond what I usually receive from the MA students, and its
clear that you have received a very good level of training in literary analysis. I have made
some comments on the language you used, and a couple on the content, but overall I
think this is among the best essays I have received regarding the short story part of the
course. There isnt much more to say. If you have any questions about the comments, let
me know. Well done. 6.8.