De Daumier-Smith's Blue Period
De Daumier-Smith's Blue Period
by J.D. Salinger
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De Daumier-Smith's Blue Period Theme of Sadness

The main action of "De Daumier-Smith's Blue Period" takes place in 1939, right in the middle of World War II. The war is never explicitly mentioned, but works behind the scenes with Jean's personal tragedy – the death of his mother – to cast an air of sadness about the story, even when it's at it most funny, or most beautiful. The idea that art can help a person deal constructively with grief seems to be supported sometimes and challenged at others. The notion that sadness can help create great art (as in the case of Picasso's Blue Period) gets similar treatment.

Though the main action deals with the period in Jean's life immediately following his mother's death, the story is being written sometime after 1947, the year of Bobby's death. This newer sadness for Bobby triggers the intense sadness Jean felt all the time during his "blue period." The great thing about this story is that it can have a heavy, potentially depressing theme like sadness, but never be a downer. This one definitely has us laughing though our tears.

Questions About Sadness

  1. What are some of the reasons that Jean is sad? Who else is sad in the story?
  2. Does this story feel like a downer? If so, why? If not, how does the story manage to be sad but not depressing?
  3. What's the significance of the Yoshoto's moaning in the night. Is this important to the story, or could it have been just as easily left out? Explain your answer.
  4. Does Jean's sadness hold him back, drive him forward, or both? Explain your answer answers.
  5. What is the saddest moment in the book? The least sad?

Chew on This

Try on an opinion or two, start a debate, or play the devil’s advocate.

The story shows how sadness can sometimes turn into great art.

"De Daumier-Smith's Blue Period" shows that artists sometimes get too caught up their work and neglect other important aspects of their lives.

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