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A Perfect Day for a Bananafish – J.D. Salinger

September 11, 2008

Okay, Kate asked me to write a review of the first of J.D. Salinder’s Nine Stories. This short is titled A Perfect Day for a Bananafish. So far, I have only read it through once, but I suppose this could possibly be a good way to review my initial thoughts and speculations about the story. Warning: There will be spoilers in this review, so if you want, read the story before reading my review.

 

Day for a Bananafish starts off with a woman in a hotel room talking about mundane things alongside really important issues with her mother on the phone. She is talking about clothing, gossip, and other things while her mother is probing about a rising tension between the girl and her new husband. The husband is suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, brought on by the war (assumable World War I).

 

Later on, it cuts to the husband, facing the mental anguish of war. He is sitting on the beach, ashamed of his pale skin, when a young girl comes up to talk to him. He tells her the story of the “bananafish”. After a little time, they go for a swim in the ocean, and Salinger depicts in detail the feeling of swimming in the sea and helping the girl float on top of the salty water. He is overcome by emotion, and kisses the bottom of her feet, as she is floating. The book ends really abruptly with him gathering his things from the beach, going back to the hotel and committing suicide.

 

At first, I thought to myself “Wow that is a rather abrupt, depressing end to the story”. It left me with an uneasy feeling. I decided to think about it some more, and find out what Salinger was actually trying to communicate in this story. To me, he is trying to depict the duality that goes along with depression and perhaps our lives in general. You have a woman who is ignoring all of the signs that her husband is in psychological anguish, and is only talking to her mother about fashion and skin deep issues. Cut to the husband on the beach, he is immersed in the beauty of the ocean and the little girl that is innocent and sweet. He ignores the fact that he feels helpless in the way that his life is playing out. Ultimately, the disregard for the issues in his life lead to him ending it.

 

I suppose it’s a pretty accurate representation of depression, sin and life in general. It is easy to focus on other things while we are going through hell. Sometimes we need to simply deal with the issues and bring them to the surface. It is rather scary at first, but the reward is freedom.

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5 comments

  1. Sorry to digress from the book review, but really appreciate the Lord’s Prayer post – went back & read your post. Really good stuff. My the Life of God swallow us completely. Reverence, respect & revelation all the way. u rock josh!


  2. thanks sarah! I thought it was neat that we both posted about it.


  3. Josh, you are such a good sport. There is one dusty copy of Great Gatsby waiting for you, my friend. Really amazing review on “Banafish”. The story really has a way of making you feel a million things, some warm and wonderful, some frustrated and at a loss. Nothing in the world can affect you that way like a good writer and that is what makes JD Salinger one of the best. Every story in 9 Stories ends in a way that leaves you somewhat at a loss… but they are beautiful and moving.


  4. I’m psyched to see you reading this book. It’s one of my faves. I hope you like it.

    There’s a story at the end that compliments this one very well. It’s about the child genius and his inner debate. Also, if you have read Franny and Zooey or anything, you’ll have a little more background on why the suicide seems so abrupt.

    It seems like a weird story because it’s almost a not-story. But it’s still very perplexing and beautiful even if the perspective is limited, or maybe because the perspective is limited. You wonder where it’s going, maybe a little like Seymore. You don’t really get a good feeling about it at all.


  5. thanks for the insight, abby! I can’t wait to read more.



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