A Perfect Day for Bananafish

A Perfect Day for Bananafish is the first story of J.D Salinger’s series nine stories. It is a narrative about a married couple Muriel and Seymour Glass of the famed Glass family. The author mostly uses a dialogue style to challenge the perception of the readers in this narrative. Through the vivid and detailed description employed by the author, readers get to see the untold personalities of the characters. Like the main character, Seymour Glass, Salinger had just returned from the Second World War. Seymour had just returned to his native country as a dysfunctional and confused man. The author employees the themes of materialism and symbolism in the story to immerse the readers to the word of this war veteran. The narrative begins by exploring the theme of appearance.

While accompanying her husband to Florida for vacation, Muriel got into a conversation with her mother who expresses her worry about the mental state of her daughter’s husband. The war had taken a toll on Muriel’s husband. However, Muriel assured her mother that everything is fine and refused to go home. During the conversation, it was clear that Seymour appeared to be emotionally disturbed and depressed due to war. He had been admitted to a hospital, and the army had done “a perfect crime to release” him from the hospital. Nonetheless, the hotel psychiatrist observed him playing pool at the hotel. Seymour’s behavior as well as his pale expression gave him away and raised the psychiatrist’s concern prompting the psychiatrist to have a conversation with Muriel.

Later, the author introduces a young girl, Sybil Carpenter, staying at the same hotel with the Glass family. She had booked into the hotel with her mother and met up with Seymour at the beach. Like Seymour, Sybil was alone and misunderstood. While Seymour spent his time with this girl, he told her about the banana fish. When she was at the beach with Seymour, she could also see the imaginary fish that Seymour was talking about. Her interaction with Seymour presented a different side of Seymour. The veteran soldier could make jokes that made him appear jovial from his usual self. When carrying the girl into the water to search for the creature Banana fish, his playful side came to light.

The story has a few characters. Seymour Glass and his wife, Muriel, are the main protagonist of the story. Seymour, a former military man who participated in the World War II, is a mentally disturbed and sad character. Consequently, he has post-traumatic stress disorder from his experience at war. He warns his wife’s parents that he might harm his wife and tells the grandmother about his suicide plans. His bitterness is shown by how he talked to the woman at the elevator “If you want to look at my feet, say so, …. but don’t be a God-damned sneak about it (Salinger, 9).” He is bitter with life and cannot handle normal life situations in a civilized manner. However, he also had a positive side.  He was a social person, especially when he interacted with children. It was easy for him to cope and interact with the young girl Sybil. He is also friendly to young children but detached to adults. It was hard for him to interact with adults. He despised them as they are materialistic.

The war veteran’s wife, Muriel Glass, is portrayed as a caring naïve wife. Not only was she constantly worried about her husband but she was also patient she waits for her husband for all the years he had been at war. “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.... (Salinger, 5)”. However, she seems to be sad because of the way her husband had turned out. She is materialistic it is depicted in the way they discuss the psychiatrists dress and the dresses they saw at the store. She is a perfectionist shown from the way she makes sure her dress is straightened and wants to look good always “her left hand outstretched and away from her white silk dress...” (Salinger, 3). Additionally, she is self-centered and only focuses on her appearance. Rather than paying attention to the needs of others, such as her husband’s plight, she takes her time to apply make-up. She is also very judgmental. It is shown by how she talks about the psychiatrist and how her dress does not fit her figure.

Both Seymour and his wife are melancholic and sad. They are sad for different reasons.  Although they care about each other, they do not show it. They are self-centered and only care about themselves. Muriel only cared about her appearance whereas Seymour cared about being with the children. Although they are on vacation, they are not spending the time together. Nonetheless, Muriel refuses to leave Seymour and defends him from her mother. Another similar characteristic of these characters is the poor communication between them. On the contrary, these well-developed characters also have different personalities. Seymour is different from his wife in that he is not materialistic. Not only is Seymour suicidal but he can also conceal his feelings. Muriel, on the other hand, is full of life and someone who feels free to express her feelings. Additionally, Muriel is a perfectionist while Seymour is not he is just bright and a hard thinker.

Muriel Glass symbolizes appearance in the story. She represents appearance and its importance in the story. She is also symbolic for individuals who stand up for the people they love despite their troubles and what they go through. Muriel is concerned with her appearance. She would rather finish her nail polishing instead of bothering to answer the phone immediately. Her characterization is revealed during the phone call conversation with her mother through her attitude, preoccupations, and attitude. The author refers her as "the girl" to depict her attitude. Not only do her parents treat her as a child but she also acts in a self-interested manner. Though she defends her husband from her mother’s wild accusations, her lack of concerns shows that she is indifferent to her husband’s mental well-being and health.

Meanwhile, Seymour’s name is symbolic as it means (see more), someone who has seen more, especially during the war. It was only Sybil Carpenter who could "see more" in Seymour. Although trapped in his perception of reality, Seymour could “see more” than the other character. For instance, he saw a tattoo that was not there.  The author also uses a pun when naming him. Seymour Glass is a pun name on self-reflection. The author might also be suffering from post-war trauma as he had witnessed heavy fighting in the Battle of the Bulge. He symbolizes everyday persons who go through post-traumatic disorder and does not know and does not get help from the people around them. The Glass name represents the delicate, yet complex and contemplative spirit he had. He symbolizes a banana fish that bottles up bananas until its dead. In his cases, his emotions get the better of him, and he shatters like glass as he commits suicide.


Works Cited

McManus, Dermot. "A Perfect Day ForBananafish By J.D. Salinger." The Sitting Bee, 2018, http://sittingbee.com/a-perfect-day-for-bananafish-j-d-salinger/. Accessed 20 Nov 2018.

"Nine Stories “A Perfect Day ForBananafish” Summary And Analysis." Gradesaver.Com, 2018, https://www.gradesaver.com/nine-stories/study-guide/summary-a-perfect-day-for-bananafish. Accessed 20 Nov 2018.

Salinger, J. D. Nine Stories. Back Bay Books Little Brn, 2018.