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.