Jerome Salinger Born on January 1, 1919, Jerome David Salinger was to become one of Americas greatest contemporary authors.
In 1938 Salinger briefly attended Ursinus College in Pennsylvania where he wrote a column, “Skipped Diploma,” which featured movie reviews for his college newspaper. Salinger made his writing debut when he published his first short story, “The Young Folks,” in Whit Burnetts Story magazine (French, xiii). He was paid only twenty-five dollars. In 1939, at the age of 20, Salinger had not acquired any readers.
He later enrolled in a creative writing class at Columbia University. Salinger was very much interested in becoming an actor and a playwright, which was quite odd because he would later in life become a recluse (Wenke, 3). Salinger adjusted his writing style to fit the literary marketplace. He was writing for money and began writing for magazines like Good Housekeeping and Mademoiselle. Many of Salingers characters have unique character traits. “Salinger presents a number of stories that consider characters who become involved in degrading, often phony social contexts,” states a major critic (Wenke, 7).
These characters are often young and have experienced a lot of emotional turmoil. They have been rejected by society and mainly categorized as “misfits.” This alienation of the personality is often viewed as a sign of weakness by society when in fact the outcasts ultimately gain strength from their experiences as shown in Nine Stories, The Catcher in the Rye, and Franny and Zooey. Salinger is telling a tale of the human condition in its reality through his novels. Nine Stories is a collection of short stories of people who are uncertain of the next path to take in life.
They are lonely, needy, and searching for love. One of these stories, “A Perfect Day for Bananafish,” is the story of a young couple who try to understand their life together and the true meaning of love. Seymour Glass has just been released from the Army Hospital and he is unable to adjust to life with his “crass wife Muriel amidst the lavish and vulgar atmosphere of their post-war second honeymoon” (Gwynn & Blotner, 19). It has often been called”the loveless tunnel of love.” Salinger portrays Muriel in the first part of the story as superficial. She believes that everything and everyone operates on her time: She was a girl who for a ringing phone dropped exactly nothing. She looked as if her phone had been ringing continually ever since she had reached puberty.
Muriel has an indifferent attitude about life. She seems simple and very insecure. Muriel finds it funny that her husband calls her “Miss Spiritual Tramp of 1948.” This tells the reader that she lacks self- esteem. Her simple attitude shows when she is talking to her mother on the phone about going to Bingo one night: “Anyway, after Bingo he and his wife asked me if I wouldnt like to join them for a drink.
So I did. His wife was horrible. You remember that awful dinner dress we saw in Bonwits window? The one you said that youd have to have a tiny, tiny.” Muriel implies that she disliked the lady because of what she was wearing. She alienates herself from society by believing that she is better that everyone else. Because of Muriels personality, Seymour cannot confide in her or feel any love in his marriage.
This is why he turns to the little girl at the beach for companionship. Seymour finds a friend and a listener in Sybil. But the friendship of Sybil cannot mend Seymours broken heart. He gains some strength in himself when he finds a friend in Sybil, but he cannot seem to get past his failed marriage. Seymour is so desperate for love that he commits suicide: Then he went over to one of the pieces of luggage, opened it, and from under a pile of shorts and undershirts he took out an Ortgies caliber 7.65 automatic. He released the magazine, looked at it, then reinserted it.
He cocked the piece. 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 right temple. “Uncle Wiggily in Connecticut” is a story about a young woman who tries to make sense out of all the confusion in her life. Eloise finds a loyal and trustworthy friend in Mary Jane.
They are on the same path in life. Salinger suggests that they have stayed friends for so long because neither of them graduated from college. Eloise left college because she was caught with a soldier in the elevator. Mary Jane left college because she was to marry a soldier in jail.
Eloise feels like an outsider in her own family. She makes a comment about her daughter looking more like her husband and his mother. She says that when the three of them are together they look like triplets. Ramona, Elosies daughter, appears to be the only person who is free to be who she wants to be. Ramona has a childlike, spontaneous imaginative power and she is on the verge of these qualities being taken from her by her mother who is referred to as “Uncle Wiggily (Bloom, 83).
Uncle Wiggily represents a person that is standing in the way of Ramona being her true self. In essence, Eloise envies her daughter Ramona. Ramona is the one who does as she pleases, such as scratching herself and picking her nose at any time. Ramona is the stronger of the two, mentally.
Eloise resents Ramonas imaginary friend Jimmy Jimmerono. One critic explains, “But Jimmy stands in the same relation to Ramona as Walt does to Eloisea symbol of the secret image of love, unhampered by awful reality”(Gwynn & Blotner, 22). Walt is Eloises old love. Ramona displays Jimmys physical characteristics as being unique, while Walt is unique because of his humor and tenderness.
At the end of the story Eloise had still not been saved. When she is drunk she feels free to be herself and express herself. Eloise learns the true meaning of love with her past experience with Walt. She learns to love herself and is willing to move on in life knowing that it will get better with time.
Salingers greatest masterpiece, The Catcher in the Rye, has served as a “firestorm for controversy and debate” (Lomazoff, 1). The way that Salinger portrayed Holden Caulfield has been a factor in the controversial nature of this book. Holden is a strong-minded person with strong-minded opinions of the world and the people. His uncanny personality makes the reader want to question his sanity. Holden has reached a point in his life where he doesnt care anymore. He has flunked out of three Pennsylvania prep schools.
This symbolizes that Holden is not truly ready for the adult world even though he believes that he is. He refuses to work to his full potential. Holden is a little boy playing grown-up. He is self-centered and very arrogant: Then I tried to get them in a little intelligent conversation, but it was practically impossible, you had to twist their arms. You could hardly tell which was the stupidest of the three of them. He puts other peoples social behavior down as if to say that he is of higher intelligence, “They didnt invite me to sit down at their tablemostly because they were ignorantbut I sat down anyway.” This shows Holdens impatient nature.
Another odd quality of Holdens is that he believes that the world we live in and the people that we live with are phony. An early example of this in the novel is when Old Spencer is telling Holden about how great his parents are and Holden responds in a negative fashion: “Grand” there is a word I really hate. Its a phony. I could just puke every time I hear it.
The center issue of Holdens perception of falseness in this world is his inability to communicate with other people. He wants to be a loner and stay by himself: “I figured that I could get a job at a filling station somewhere, putting gas in other peoples cars. I didnt care what kind of job it was, though. Just so people dont know me and I dont know anybody. I thought what Id do was, Id pretend I was one of those deaf mutes. That way I wouldnt have to have any god dam stupid useless conversation with anybody.
If anybody wanted to tell me something, theyd have to write it on a piece of paper and shove it over to me. Theyd get bored as hell doing that after a while, and then Id be through with having conversations for the rest of my life. Everybodyd think I was …