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Suicide in A Perfect Day for Bananafish by J. D. Salinger Essay

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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...


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...nd his own life. Many of these clues can be found in the story’s dialog. They suggest that Seymour’s suicide is the manifestation of an awakening gained through his war experience; he is separated from the shallow environment he lives in and can find no other escape. Perhaps Seymour commits suicide in an attempt to break through the barrier that separates him from Muriel and the rest of society. Or maybe Seymour’s mental faculties were damaged by his wartime experience, leaving him disturbed and unstable. The text can be read many ways; however, there is no single interpretation that captures the complexity of Salinger’s short story. While the clues that Salinger leaves throughout the story influence the reader’s perspective on Seymour Glass, ultimately the meaning and justification of Seymour’s suicide depends on the reader’s personal connection to the protagonist.


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