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Thread: Short Story Club: A Perfect Day for Bananafish by Salinger

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    Registered User King Mob's Avatar
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    Short Story Club: A Perfect Day for Bananafish by Salinger

    This first half of August we will be reading and discussing A Perfect Day for Bananafish by J.D. Salinger
    All aboard. All souls at half-mast. Aye-Aye. -Samuel Beckett, More Pricks Than Kicks

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    So can you find this story online?

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    Dance Magic Dance OrphanPip's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by spookymulder93 View Post
    So can you find this story online?
    http://www.miguelmllop.com/stories/s...bananafish.pdf

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    Registered User Tallon's Avatar
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    Okay i just read it, it's very short and interesting. I was happy to be reunited with a member of the Glass family, having read and very much enjoyed Franny and Zooey years ago.

    It's hard to say much without it being a spoiler, it being very short and unusual. I did like it, it has that Salinger quirky sense of humour and leaves you thinking that you want to learn more about the main character, anhd the final line makes you want to read the whole thing over again, which i suppose is a good quality in a short story.

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    Dreaming away Sapphire's Avatar
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    Agreed.

    I had no idea where he would be going with this story. The talk on the phone in the beginning made me think the "him" they were talking about would never appear in the story itself, untill the mother started to say his real name (Seymour). I was especially intrigued by
    "Did he try any of that funny business with the trees?"
    It really makes me wonder what that could have been - we'll never find out. As a lot of things in this story. But that's why it is a story and not a whole novel.

    I really enjoyed the talk with the little girl, though there was a slight feeling of "uneasy" through it all which I can not quite place. Maybe it was the kissing of the feet which caught me of guard.

    I think in the end the intention might have been to make the reader think the woman is in danger - as her mother warned her about the guy.
    he looked at the girl
    He made me wonder there for a second...
    It is not too late, to be wild for roundabouts - to be wild for life
    Wolfsheim - It is not too late

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    Registered User Tallon's Avatar
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    yeah it made me wonder too. I think the funny business with the trees probably means he crashed a car into a tree, as a suicide attempt or a cry for help.
    I enjoyed the talk with the little girl too, i think he admires her innocence opposed to adults who he treats badly (granma, the girl in the elevator, doesn't appear to have a good relationship with his wife). He seems to have post-traumatic stress.
    One thing i cannot work out is the bananafish story itself, is this just childsplay or is it a metaphor for something else?

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    Dreaming away Sapphire's Avatar
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    Yes, probably a suicide attempt. Her refering to him staying close to the white line and not trying to look at the trees. The car which her dad should get fixed... It fits.

    Muriel does mention the war to her mother, as that the hotel isn't the same since. And
    "When I think of how you waited for that boy all through the war-I mean when you think of all those crazy little wives who--"
    So he seems to have been away during the war, probably in active duty - though it is never mentioned that he actually was a soldier. When they mentioned the tattoo, I actually thought he might have been in a concentration camp. The tattoo being an illusion and him having some form of PTSD makes more sense though, I think.

    I am not sure about him treating adults on the whole badly. Maybe it is rather that he feels he can not be himself around them - they don't play along with his stories, like the bananafish. He could have made up a wonderful story about his feet, I'm sure. But then again, that might be the innocence you're talking about.

    I am not sure about the bananafish as a metaphor. I do expect it to be there, but I do not see what it can be, at all. Maybe it is he himself, who has been looking for a hole/home and now he has found it, he can not live with it - he has eaten too much. He has gotten banana fever, he has lost his mind... Just a thought.
    It is not too late, to be wild for roundabouts - to be wild for life
    Wolfsheim - It is not too late

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    Vincit Qui Se Vincit Virgil's Avatar
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    Oh good. I'll read it this afternoon.
    LET THERE BE LIGHT

    Books are embalmed minds.

    My literature blog: http://ashesfromburntroses.blogspot.com/

  9. #9
    Quote Originally Posted by Sapphire View Post

    I am not sure about the bananafish as a metaphor. I do expect it to be there, but I do not see what it can be, at all. Maybe it is he himself, who has been looking for a hole/home and now he has found it, he can not live with it - he has eaten too much. He has gotten banana fever, he has lost his mind... Just a thought.
    Or could you read the bananafish as Seymour's view of at least some of the adults in his world? His wife seems pretty self-involved and materialistic, maybe the bananafish are his view of the "bloat" of adult decadence that he might find in her, for example? Perhaps "banana fever" is the "fever" of materialism and acquisition that he disdains in adults.

  10. #10
    Vincit Qui Se Vincit Virgil's Avatar
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    I guess the logical place to start with the discussion of this stroy is the ending.

    Quote Originally Posted by Sapphire View Post
    [color=blue]Agreed.

    I had no idea where he would be going with this story. The talk on the phone in the beginning made me think the "him" they were talking about would never appear in the story itself, untill the mother started to say his real name (Seymour). I was especially intrigued by

    It really makes me wonder what that could have been - we'll never find out. As a lot of things in this story. But that's why it is a story and not a whole novel.
    I think Muriel says that Seymore believes he sees the trees were moving in front of the car. The whole story is a progression of Seymore trying to shock his wife, his in-laws, the little girl, and the woman in the elevator.

    In many ways, this passage is significant:

    On the sub-main floor of the hotel, which the management directed bathers to use, a woman with zinc salve on her nose got into the elevator with the young man.
    "I see you're looking at my feet," he said to her when the car was in motion.
    "I beg your pardon?" said the woman.
    "I said I see you're looking at my feet."
    "I beg your pardon. I happened to be looking at the floor," said the woman, and faced the doors of the car.
    "If you want to look at my feet, say so," said the young man. "But don't be a God-damned sneak about it."
    "Let me out here, please," the woman said quickly to the girl operating the car.
    Notice the reaction of this woman. This is not the reaction of his wife or of Sybil's. The woman runs out because she has obviously been in contact with what appears to be an unstable man. Notice Murial's character.

    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 is incapable of being shocked. It reaches a point where Seymore is doing whatever he can to shock his wife. In light of that, do you think the ending makes sense?


    I really enjoyed the talk with the little girl, though there was a slight feeling of "uneasy" through it all which I can not quite place. Maybe it was the kissing of the feet which caught me of guard.

    I think in the end the intention might have been to make the reader think the woman is in danger - as her mother warned her about the guy.

    He made me wonder there for a second...
    Are you reacting to the possibility of pedophilia? It does come close, but I cannot find any themes in here about pedophilia. I read Seymore as a person who has regressed to a child-like mentality, probably as a result of the trauma he suffered in the war. Seymore cannot seem to live in the adult world. There is an innocence there, and that play between him and Sybil I think should be read as play between pre-puberty (pre-sexual) children. Now I could be wrong there, since Seymore is obviously an adult and Sybil is roughly three I think. But there is no attempt at anything other than play, and we do not get any suggestion of sexual deviance. I think Seymore is just a child in an adult body.

    What is especially well crafted in this story are the dichotomies. There is on the one hand the fabulous extended dialogue between Muriel and her mother in the first half of the story and there is the fabulous extended dialogue between Seymore and Sybil in the second hand. The first dialogue is as I see it a dialogue of adulthood and of reality. The second dialogue is of childhood and of fantasy. Notice the dichotomies: reality/fantasy, adulthood/childhood, calm natured/hyper natured, pre-puberty innocence/post puberty sexuality, material world/mental world, serious/play, sanity/insanity, life/death.
    LET THERE BE LIGHT

    Books are embalmed minds.

    My literature blog: http://ashesfromburntroses.blogspot.com/

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    There are many holes that the reader is left to fill in. The "funny business with the trees" which most likely is how the car became damaged; that "they want four hundred dollars, just to --” My initial read is that they think him dangerous to others (and possibly their property), I don't think suicide came to mind. Perhaps it did...another hole?

    I agree he was a traumatized soldier, not an uncommon thing, I would imagine; however the mother and father were greatly concerned, so I think that his mental state being impaired is a foregone conclusion.

    The wife might be in denial for several reasons, and I do think she was in denial; waiting the long years of the war, he was her husband, and she was absorbed in things, she didn't make any effort to answer a phone call she had to wait hours to be put through, until she had her things where she wanted them.

    The reference to Mrs. Glass by the narrator as 'girl' yet her husband as 'young man' or 'man' caught my attention.

    The little girl seemed to have previously spent a lot of time visiting with Mr. Glass. She was jealous of some other wee one sitting on the piano bench with him, but, seemed disturbed (as she should be) when he kissed her foot. This leads me to believe that it is the first gesture of this kind he has made towards her. Perhaps this was the final banana that he needed to eat so that there was no way out of the hole...?

    The elevator foot thing might have been a guilt or anger response to his kissing the girls foot, or the knowing of what he had set in motion. Though, not discounting the difficulty he seemed to have in dealing with adults.

    Since the title of the story is A Perfect Day for Banana Fish it should be given some focus. Personally, I can't help but think that he was in the hole, the fever too far gone and he was to die that day. Though, again, not discounting some of the comments made about adult materialism. Perhaps he considered everyone a banana fish, but the 'Perfect Day' led me to return to the thought that it was him and his death.

    My favorite was his new pet name for his wife; it spoke volumes

    Quote Originally Posted by Virgil View Post
    Are you reacting to the possibility of pedophilia? It does come close, but I cannot find any themes in here about pedophilia. I read Seymore as a person who has regressed to a child-like mentality, probably as a result of the trauma he suffered in the war. Seymore cannot seem to live in the adult world. There is an innocence there, and that play between him and Sybil I think should be read as play between pre-puberty (pre-sexual) children. Now I could be wrong there, since Seymore is obviously an adult and Sybil is roughly three I think. But there is no attempt at anything other than play, and we do not get any suggestion of sexual deviance. I think Seymore is just a child in an adult body.
    I agree, but still he was an adult and it seems even Sybil was bothered by the play. No, I do not think it was pedophilia at all, but a final realization perhaps that he can't play nice in the adult world, and doen't fit in with the child world, he's stuck in the hole and can't fit back through the door.

    I also agree with your comments on the dichotomies and mostly the dialogues; in the first the mother to a child who is an adult and in the second an adult who is more of a child to a playmate child.
    I'd rather have questions that I can't answer than answers that I can't question.

  12. #12
    Pièce de Résistance Scheherazade's Avatar
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    Will be reading the story tomorrow but here is one thing I wondered when I read it for the first time:

    The name "Sybil" comes from Greek and means "prophet/prophetess". Do you think this is significant?
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  13. #13
    The ending was great. I like the conversation between the woman and the mother. I like how they kept cutting each other off.

    I think Seymour was a pedophile. What was his problem with the woman looking at his feet?

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    Vincit Qui Se Vincit Virgil's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by LMK View Post
    The little girl seemed to have previously spent a lot of time visiting with Mr. Glass. She was jealous of some other wee one sitting on the piano bench with him, but, seemed disturbed (as she should be) when he kissed her foot. This leads me to believe that it is the first gesture of this kind he has made towards her. Perhaps this was the final banana that he needed to eat so that there was no way out of the hole...?
    I can read the jealousy in two different ways. Either it's a childish thing or it's a sign of her future adult behavior. I lean toward the future adult behavior in the real world. Not sure what you're saying about the banana.

    The elevator foot thing might have been a guilt or anger response to his kissing the girls foot, or the knowing of what he had set in motion. Though, not discounting the difficulty he seemed to have in dealing with adults.
    I'm going to have to disagree there. I think it's part of his behavior toward the adult world. It's probably in the same vein as how he relates to his in-laws. I don't think it's related to the girl's foot, but feet are a common element.

    Since the title of the story is A Perfect Day for Banana Fish it should be given some focus. Personally, I can't help but think that he was in the hole, the fever too far gone and he was to die that day. Though, again, not discounting some of the comments made about adult materialism. Perhaps he considered everyone a banana fish, but the 'Perfect Day' led me to return to the thought that it was him and his death.
    Yes, i think there's a relationship between the fantasitic banana fish and his life and the irony of a perfect day which culminates in his suicide.

    My favorite was his new pet name for his wife; it spoke volumes
    "Miss Spiritual Tramp of 1948." There is an resentment toward adult sexual behavior in this story. Maybe it's even a repulsion towards it. Notice in his dialogue with Sybil;

    "Next time, push her off," Sybil said. "Push who off?"
    "Sharon Lipschutz."
    "Ah, Sharon Lipschutz," said the young man. "How that name comes up. Mixing memory and desire." He suddenly got to his feet. He looked at the ocean. "Sybil," he said, "I'll tell you what we'll do. We'll see if we can catch a bananafish."
    "Mixing memory and desire." That's out of T.S. Eliot's The Wasteland, right at the beginning:

    APRIL is the cruellest month, breeding
    Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
    Memory and desire, stirring
    Dull roots with spring rain.
    Among the various themes of The Wasteland is the death of the spiritual in modern life, especially as seen in sexual relations. Salinger has created a wasteland, where Seymore is living in a spiritual wasteland where the magic of life is only accessible in the childhood imagination.

    I agree, but still he was an adult and it seems even Sybil was bothered by the play. No, I do not think it was pedophilia at all, but a final realization perhaps that he can't play nice in the adult world, and doen't fit in with the child world, he's stuck in the hole and can't fit back through the door.
    Yes. You know, perhaps you and Sapphire are right, the innocent play with the child startles him into realizing he cannot live in that world. I'm going to have to amend my reading there. I think you guys are right.

    Quote Originally Posted by Scheherazade View Post
    Will be reading the story tomorrow but here is one thing I wondered when I read it for the first time:

    The name "Sybil" comes from Greek and means "prophet/prophetess". Do you think this is significant?
    My initial thought was I don't see the connection, but based on how I just amended my reading of the story in my response to LMK (just above), I think she does serve as a prophetess toward his realization that he does not fit in the child world. Not sure if she's really a prophetess but a vehicle toward that epiphany.

    I've been reading this story for twenty years. It's amazing how one gets a fuller understanding in dialogue with a group.
    LET THERE BE LIGHT

    Books are embalmed minds.

    My literature blog: http://ashesfromburntroses.blogspot.com/

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    Registered User King Mob's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Virgil View Post
    I've been reading this story for twenty years. It's amazing how one gets a fuller understanding in dialogue with a group.
    I agree. I just read it for the first time, and now I read all these comments and the story starts to get bigger and more complex.

    And as regards the epiphany, do you think there is really one? I mean, was Seymour already planning to commit suicide or there is that moment of Joyce-like epiphany? I like more the epiphany theory but it seems rather hard to recognise the moment or his change.
    Maybe the feet episode in the elevator is to show that final straw. Seymour kisses Sybil's foot because he thinks it's beautiful, it belongs to the childhood world, to fantasy. Maybe he thought his own feet were like that but now he realizes they are not.
    But then, on the elevator, he thinks the woman is looking at his feet because they are not normal, they have something different, something childish, and so he realizes he doesn't belong to the grown-up world either.
    The feet may be the vehicle to show the epiphany, as he realizes he doesn't belong completely to either world.

    Edit: One more thing. The Wasteland reference, i hadn't noticed at all, thanks Virgil! But there is some mystery there, why do you think that phrase pops up in Seymour's head at that particular moment?
    Last edited by King Mob; 08-01-2010 at 09:41 PM.
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