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

  1. #31
    Beyond the world aliengirl's Avatar
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    I read this story for the first time today. I have gone through all the discussions and they really helped me to see the story from so many different angles. I see I'm quite late. But a few more ideas came into my head. Salinger has obviously used the Bananafish as a metaphor (which LMK has explained so brilliantly) but is feet also a kind of symbol/ metaphor? Why not use Face to show innocence of childhood?
    I was also pondering over Seymore's cause of suicide? He just does not commit suicide in haste. He has earlier shown suicidal tendencies. Muriel's mother gives a hint of this,

    "The trees. That business with the window. Those horrible things he said to Granny about her plans for passing away. What he did with all those lovely pictures from Bermuda--everything."

    And also when she says,
    "Well. In the first place, he said it was a perfect crime the Army released him from the hospital--my word of honor. He very definitely told your father there's a chance--a very great chance, he said--that Seymour may completely lose control of himself. My word of honor."

    I think perhaps it is the lack of love and trust upon his wife's part which drives him to this extreme step. Or does he want to escape from his own failure to adjust to the adult world? I could not decide what it is.
    Another interesting point is that Muriel's mother warns her that Seymore may harm her but the poor guy harms no one except himself. During his whole conversation with Sybil, I felt that now he would do something odd to the girl. (Actually I was thinking that he would drown her.) Even when he took out the automatic it seemed as if he would shoot his wife. Perhaps the first conversation between Muriel and her mother presented Seymore in a very negative shade. I feel I should read the story again.

    Quote Originally Posted by Scheherazade View Post

    Foot-kissing> I have been thinking about this a lot. On one hand, it does seem a creepy thing to be done by a stranger but on the other hand, toddler feet are absolutely delightful! Who doesn't love kissing a baby's or toddler's foot.

    However, I wonder if the timing of the kiss is important as well. Seymore does this right after Sybil claims to have seen a bananafish. This, to me, shows how innocent, how impressionable she is, and, I believe, that is what Seymore realises once again as well. His tale about bananafish, no doubt a sarcastic one, is taken at its face value by Sybil, who readily takes his word for it all and claims to see one herself as well. Maybe to please him or maybe her imagination runs away with it. If Seymore told about bananafish to an adult (to his wife?), he would get raised eyebrows or some scoffing maybe along with "Really, Seymore..."

    After this final realisation, Seymore kisses Sybil's foot. Going back to the idea of Sybil being a messenger, isn't there some tradition of kissing the feet of religious figures?

    Agreed. I quite exclaimed aloud to myself, "Who doesn't love kissing a baby's or toddler's foot!" The idea of Sybil as a messenger is really great.
    I must create a system, or be enslaved by another man's. ~ William Blake

    Captivity is consciousness,
    So's liberty. ~ Emily Dickinson

  2. #32
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    Quote Originally Posted by Scheherazade View Post
    I hear what you are saying, Meg.

    This story was written over 60 years ago and our reaction to a friendship between an adult and child shows how much our society has... deteriorated?

    With all the horror stories we get to hear on daily basis, we are, I think, finding it hard to believe and accept that this relationship could be very innocent. It is ironic that it also goes to show that while interpreting the story, our lost innocence -in moral terms as the members of 21st century society- interferes with our interpretation of the story.

    I cannot help wondering if the readers of 60 years ago felt the same uneasiness as we feel while reading this part of the story and, even though on first reading I could not help raising an eyebrow upon reading this particular scene, I do not believe that Salinger meant Seymore to come across as someone who is taking advantage of a little girl.
    You've hit it on the nail there Scher I don't believe it was intentionally written with any sort of an insinuation of pedophilia. After reading your post about kissing feet, it sort of made me think. How many times have I done this to my own children playing around? It's a bit strange when I think of it that I would have such a reaction to something so silly and innocent. It does say a lot about the level of jadedness in the 21st century that many of us view it in a different light. I'm curious to see if I can find any other interpretations of this story, older ones, that would not be tainted by the current societies we live in.

  3. #33
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    Quote Originally Posted by Scheherazade View Post
    I hear what you are saying, Meg.

    This story was written over 60 years ago and our reaction to a friendship between an adult and child shows how much our society has... deteriorated?

    With all the horror stories we get to hear on daily basis, we are, I think, finding it hard to believe and accept that this relationship could be very innocent. It is ironic that it also goes to show that while interpreting the story, our lost innocence -in moral terms as the members of 21st century society- interferes with our interpretation of the story.

    I cannot help wondering if the readers of 60 years ago felt the same uneasiness as we feel while reading this part of the story and, even though on first reading I could not help raising an eyebrow upon reading this particular scene, I do not believe that Salinger meant Seymore to come across as someone who is taking advantage of a little girl.
    Exactly, my opinion, as I said I have yet to find sexuality to be part of this story. It was also why I associated the word tramp, in Miss Spiritual Tramp of 1948 with a definition that would have been most understood then...hobo... or even the quintessential tramp (Charlie Chaplin).

    What a great discussion, I'm happy this story was chosen!
    I'd rather have questions that I can't answer than answers that I can't question.

  4. #34
    Registered User Rores28's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Scheherazade View Post
    Care to explain what you mean in more detail, please?
    I was trying to be clever but misspelled. Podapedophile was what I was going for, or Pedopodaphile. I'm trying to portmanteau it into something that means likes young peoples' feet

    Quote Originally Posted by Scheherazade View Post

    Glass> I find this name very interesting. To me, it signifies fragility. So, Seymore, despite being able to see things clearly, is not strong enough to deal with it all and has to expire.
    ^
    This is a good find.

    Also my new reckoning of this story is that it is the reader who is in fact the bananafish, entering the black hole of a story and gorging themselves on endless speculative hypotheses to the point that they no longer know what the hell to think and are trapped forever in its frustrating cave of ambiguity.

    A Perfect Day for a Bananafish ~4,009 words
    This discussion so far ~ 10,770 words
    Last edited by Rores28; 08-04-2010 at 05:15 PM.

  5. #35
    Vincit Qui Se Vincit Virgil's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Scheherazade View Post
    Foot-kissing> I have been thinking about this a lot. On one hand, it does seem a creepy thing to be done by a stranger but on the other hand, toddler feet are absolutely delightful! Who doesn't love kissing a baby's or toddler's foot.

    However, I wonder if the timing of the kiss is important as well. Seymore does this right after Sybil claims to have seen a bananafish. This, to me, shows how innocent, how impressionable she is, and, I believe, that is what Seymore realises once again as well. His tale about bananafish, no doubt a sarcastic one, is taken at its face value by Sybil, who readily takes his word for it all and claims to see one herself as well. Maybe to please him or maybe her imagination runs away with it. If Seymore told about bananafish to an adult (to his wife?), he would get raised eyebrows or some scoffing maybe along with "Really, Seymore..."
    I am squarely in the camp that says the relationship between Seymore and Sybil (and even the other girl at the piano) is completely innocent. I don't think the story makes sense if there was any touch of pedophilia. Yes, the double entrendre would suggest the difference in how an adult sees the story and how a child sees the story.


    After this final realisation, Seymore kisses Sybil's foot. Going back to the idea of Sybil being a messenger, isn't there some tradition of kissing the feet of religious figures?
    Well, there is the washing of feet in Chrisitianity and I guess people kiss the feet of statues and icons. So I looked it up and found this:

    Religious Kisses
    Kissing in Christianity
    Kissing out of honor, respect, and even forgiveness is a tradition that is incorporated into many Christian denominations. The kissing of icons, painted images of Jesus and the Saints, is the primary form of veneration in Orthodox Christianity. Veneration of the holy images is an ancient custom dating back to the fifth and sixth centuries, and is still practiced today in Orthodox Christian worship. Through veneration, Orthodox Christians show reverence for the people and the events depicted in the icon. Another kissing tradition in Christianity is known as the “kiss of peace.” The root of this tradition comes from Apostle Paul’s instruction for Christ’s followers to “greet each other with a holy kiss” (Romans 16:16) however today during the “kiss of peace” members of a church will exchange a handshake, hug, or kiss on the cheek as a sign of mutual forgiveness.[22] The most relevant topic regarding religious kisses is the kissing of feet. Feet washing, which precedes the kissing, is a sign of humbleness [23] and is looked upon as an "act of lowly service, of loving service, and of self-giving service." [24] This caring act "reflects the grace of God’s never-ending, unconditional love and, as such, its observance is surely a means of grace with exceedingly strong sacramental characteristics." [25] Jesus washed the feet of his disciples and then commanded them to "wash one another's feet" (John 13:12) with love and humbleness as a service through which one can express "the love of God and the saving, cleansing grace of our savior Jesus Christ to each other."[26] After cleansing, a kiss would be bestowed on the feet as an act of servitude. By performing the actions of the lowliest servant, Jesus demonstrated what kind of servant-based leadership was expected from his disciples.
    I don't know if Salinger was referring to this, but your thought does fit with the story Scher. I would have to say it's possible he intended to suggest this. And this would fit well with the spirituality motif that seems to recur throughout the story.
    LET THERE BE LIGHT

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

  6. #36
    Pièce de Résistance Scheherazade's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rores28 View Post
    A Perfect Day for a Bananafish ~4,009 words
    This discussion so far ~ 10,770 words
    Counting the words in a discussion thread: Priceless!

    For everything else:



    LMK> I agree with your interpretation of "Miss Spiritual Tramp of 1948"; I do believe it emphasises the fact that Muriel was lacking in terms of spiritual depth.

    Meg> Look at Sybil's mother. Can you imagine a mother today leaving your three years old daughter alone on a beach to have a drink at the hotel's bar?

    Sad, isn't it?


    So, why is it a perfect day for bananafish?
    ~
    Let there be snow!
    ~


  7. #37
    Vincit Qui Se Vincit Virgil's Avatar
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    Oops, I forgot to add a link to that kissing quote from wikipedia just above Scher. It's here:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kissing_traditions
    LET THERE BE LIGHT

    Books are embalmed minds.

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

  8. #38
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    Quote Originally Posted by Scheherazade
    Can you imagine a mother today leaving your three years old daughter alone on a beach to have a drink at the hotel's bar?
    Maybe, just maybe the bar has a look out on the water? I mean, leaving a 3 years old alone near the water is dangerous in any century, isn't it? There should at least be a life guard or something nearby ... Or maybe not, for Sybil does wander outside the zone reserved for guests of the hotel...
    So maybe the mother even knows Mr. Glass is there, and regards him as a good baby sit. He knew the girl, so probably also the parents. He was there when Sybil comes, waiting - or at least not doing anything (but think). Sybil is talking about "glass" all the time while she's with her mother
    Quote Originally Posted by Story
    "See more glass," said Sybil Carpenter, who was staying at the hotel with her mother. "Did you see more glass?"
    then, when she sees Mr. Glass
    Quote Originally Posted by Story
    "Are you going in the water, see more glass?" she said.
    This could be because her mother has told her to stay close to Mr. Glass if she wants to go into the water. Three year olds do still have the tendency to brabble a bit and repeat words in a different context, don't they?
    It is not too late, to be wild for roundabouts - to be wild for life
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  9. #39
    tea-timing book queen bouquin's Avatar
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    If Sybil Carpenter could not save Seymour then who else possibly could?
    And that's what makes men happy, believing in the mystery and importance of their own little individual lives.
    - Willa Cather, The Professor's House

  10. #40
    Pièce de Résistance Scheherazade's Avatar
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    Sapphire> I was not being critical of Sybil's mother for leaving her daughter but just giving that as an example of relaxed attitude of parents/people in those days as very few parents today would be willing to leave their toddlers alone or in the care of people they have just met while on holiday.

    Sybil Carpenter> Aaaanndd another reference: Jesus' father Joseph was a carpenter, was he not?
    ~
    Let there be snow!
    ~


  11. #41
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    Quote Originally Posted by Scheherazade
    I was not being critical of Sybil's mother for leaving her daughter but just giving that as an example of relaxed attitude of parents/people in those days as very few parents today would be willing to leave their toddlers alone or in the care of people they have just met while on holiday.
    I got that I was just trying to figure out why she did what she did - not implicating that you were being critical I'm sorry if it seemed that way.
    Quote Originally Posted by Scheherazade
    Jesus' father Joseph was a carpenter, was he not?
    So the child becomes the father? (Yes, I get the tongue-smiley, I'm just wondering whether you're on to something )
    It is not too late, to be wild for roundabouts - to be wild for life
    Wolfsheim - It is not too late

  12. #42
    tea-timing book queen bouquin's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sapphire View Post
    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 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...



    I think I see what you mean regarding the phone conversation. Muriel being described as "girl" and her being alone in her hotel room for several hours gave me the first immediate impression that she was traveling on her own.

    For me the scene between Sybil and Seymour serves to emphasize the pathos and irony of the latter's situation. Seymour seems still capable of being gay and witty and entertaining, and fascinate and hold a person's attention. And yet he commits the irremediable act. His kissing Sybil's feet was his way of saying goodbye to her, I think.




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  13. #43
    Dreaming away Sapphire's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bouquin
    Seymour seems still capable of being gay and witty and entertaining, and fascinate and hold a person's attention.
    I think this is arguable. In the conversation with Sybil he is ... well, in my eyes he is serious I read it with a dry kind of humour: to take everything literaly and to play along with what the child says - and add some of his own (the bananafish story).
    His character certainly fascinates me, but I do not know whether his attitude was appreciated by many people. While Sybil took it all literall, Muriel and her folks just did not understand what he was on about. He is something of a tragic, misunderstood figure.
    It is not too late, to be wild for roundabouts - to be wild for life
    Wolfsheim - It is not too late

  14. #44
    tea-timing book queen bouquin's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Virgil View Post
    .


    "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;






    Seymour qualifies Muriel as "Miss Spiritual Tramp" and not sexual tramp. So I would interpret this in the spiritual/moral line rather than the sexual. I think Seymour calls Muriel a spiritual tramp because he considers her to have no ardent or steadfast moral/spiritual convictions and principles. Could it be that she seems to him to be totally shallow and flimsy in character ...and we do get a suggestion of this, don't we, when we see Muriel going about her business in her hotel room while waiting for her phone call to get through; also her preoccupation with the psychiatrist's wife's green dress and figure, and clothes in general, and with the other hotel guests. And in her conversation with her mother, she doesn't come across as being anxious about Seymour at all when as it turns out, there is absolute reason to be. (The mother is apparently more worried but somehow my impression is that their discussion on Seymour lacks depth and real feeling - maybe because it is interspersed by talk of sunburns and sequins). Then there's also that thing about the book of poems that Seymour sent her; heedlessly it seems, she doesn't know what she's done with it. She did not seem to care that Seymour had pointed out that it was written by a great poet; and it seemed preposterous to her when Seymour suggested that she could have gotten a translated edition.
    Last edited by bouquin; 08-07-2010 at 10:30 AM.

  15. #45
    Vincit Qui Se Vincit Virgil's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by bouquin View Post
    Seymour qualifies Muriel as "Miss Spiritual Tramp" and not sexual tramp. So I would interpret this in the spiritual/moral line rather than the sexual. I think Seymour calls Muriel a spiritual tramp because he considers her to have no ardent or steadfast moral/spiritual convictions and principles.
    This is what I said to a similar response back in post #19:
    Quote Originally Posted by Virgil
    You might be right. There is the sort of sexual suggestiveness between him and Sybil (though I don't think it's conscious on Seymore's part) but though there is nothing overt, I can't help but feel there is sexual suggestiveness. Notice the magazine article Muriel is reading: "Sex Is Fun-or Hell". Plus the reference to Muriel's puberty in the second paragraph. Plus this story was written at a time when Freud was very big and any allusion to mental illness suggested a sexual problem. Plus the allusion to The Wasteland - a poem where spirituality has degenerated into raw sexuality adds to the suggestion.
    Add alos not the phallic banana and the banana fish going into the hole imagery and I don't think there is any question there are sexual overtones in the story, and i do think when you examine the meaning of the banana fish dying in the hole I would say there is an anxiety toward adult seuality.

    Quote Originally Posted by bouquin
    Could it be that she seems to him to be totally shallow and flimsy in character ...and we do get a suggestion of this, don't we, when we see Muriel going about her business in her hotel room while waiting for her phone call to get through; also her preoccupation with the psychiatrist's wife's green dress and figure, and clothes in general, and with the other hotel guests.
    And in her conversation with her mother, she doesn't come across as being anxious about Seymour at all when as it turns out, there is absolute reason to be. (The mother is apparently more worried but somehow my impression is that their discussion on Seymour lacks depth and real feeling - maybe because it is interspersed by talk of sunburns and sequins).
    Yes. What I get from Muriel's movements before the phone call is how deliberate and inperturbable she is. You're right: her mother is worried and Muriel is placid.
    LET THERE BE LIGHT

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

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