How Tall Is A 12 Year Old Girl In Feet A Perfect Day For Dissecting J.D. Salinger’s Bananafish

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A Perfect Day For Dissecting J.D. Salinger’s Bananafish

JD Salinger’s classic 1951 short story “A Perfect Day for Bananafish” introduces Salinger’s favorite character Seymour Glass – only to kill him off a few pages later. The story begins in a luxury seaside hotel room where we overhear Glass’s wife on the phone with her mother discussing Seymour’s mental health. From there, we head to the beach, where Seymour meets a four-year-old girl named Sybil and tells her stories about the elusive “banana fish.” The story ends with Seymour returning to the hotel room and shooting himself in the head.

Seymour Glass, or, as Sybil calls him, “seeing more glass,” is a passionately contested short-story character in American literature—made all the more ironic by his stunningly transparent name. People can’t seem to agree on what this guy is like, why he keeps hanging out with little kids, or most importantly, why he decided to kill himself. There are three main theories on this matter.

Theory One: Seymour is a banana fish. No really. In the description that Sybil gives, banana trees are fish that swim into holes and fall into so many bananas that they get stuck and die. According to some, it’s Seymour’s unorthodox but apt metaphor for the materialistic consumerist mentality of post-WWII American society—not that we know anything about it these days. This of course begs the question, what does Seymour’s suicide mean? Is going back to his fancy hotel room and killing himself the human equivalent of diving into a banana hole and eating yourself to death? This could explain why Sybil thinks she sees a banana fish – she could be talking about Seymour. OR maybe Seymour’s suicide is a way to transcend the material world: by leaving it altogether.

Theory Two: Seymour is a pervert. Yeah, all that camaraderie and swimming and story telling is just his way of bonding with little girls. For example, you’ll notice that Seymour grabs Sybil by the ankles when she’s lying on the beach, and then again when he’s pushing her through the water. When he goes so far as to kiss the bottom of her foot, even four-year-old Sybil is weirded out enough to yell, “Hey!” she probably remembered something she heard in preschool about “the touch of the red light.” Embarrassed and/or frustrated, Seymour immediately ends their date, heads back to the hotel, and kills himself in shame. The fact that sexual abuse is an ambiguous but recurring theme in JD Salinger’s other works, particularly The Catcher in the Rye, supports the possibility that something is wrong with Seymour’s libido.

Theory Three: Everyone’s Too PC Touch isn’t necessarily inappropriate, a kiss isn’t always sexual, adults and children can interact in non-creepy ways, and literature doesn’t always have “erotic undertones.” Seymour is drawn to the innocence and guilelessness of children because his World War II experience has left him feeling disenchanted with the adult world—not to mention that his conversation with Sybil allows him to indulge his creative side. Seymour makes up a great story about the lives and behavior of banana fish and is tickled pink – in a non-sexual way – when Sybil plays with him. Unfortunately, he has trouble shaking off this mischievousness when he returns to the hotel. He jokingly accuses a woman in the elevator of “staring” at his feet, and in a stunt only an adult would do, the woman takes offense at the insinuation. The argument escalates until Seymour actually gets angry, instead of just faking it, and the woman flees the elevator. Realizing that he just doesn’t cuddle with adults anymore, Seymour gives up hope for happiness and ends his life.

With so many unanswered questions from ‘A Perfect Day for Banana Fish,’ it’s no wonder Salinger went on to play Seymour in four more stories, most notably the two-parter”[Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters and Seymour: An Introduction].” In these two novellas, Seymour’s devoted younger brother Buddy takes on the task of putting Seymour on paper. The fact that his writing is often disjointed, disjointed, and unfollowable suggests that perhaps we’re just not meant to know.

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