J.d. Salinger Paper

This essay has a total of 3054 words and 9 pages.

J.d. Salinger


Born on January 1, 1919, Jerome David Salinger was to become one of America's 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 Burnett's 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 Salinger's 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 wouldn't like to join them for a drink.
So I did. His wife was horrible. You remember that awful dinner dress we saw in Bonwit's
window? The one you said that you'd 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 Muriel's 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 Seymour's 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, Elosie's 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 Ramona's imaginary friend Jimmy Jimmerono. One critic
explains, "But Jimmy stands in the same relation to Ramona as Walt does to Eloise—a
symbol of the secret image of love, unhampered by awful reality"(Gwynn & Blotner, 22).
Walt is Eloise's old love. Ramona displays Jimmy's 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. Salinger's 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 doesn't 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
people's social behavior down as if to say that he is of higher intelligence, "They didn't
invite me to sit down at their table—mostly because they were ignorant—but I sat down
anyway." This shows Holden's impatient nature. Another odd quality of Holden's 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. It's a phony. I could just puke every time I hear it. The center issue of Holden's
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