De Daumier-Smith's Blue Period
by J.D. Salinger
Analysis: Three Act Plot Analysis
For a three-act plot analysis, put on your screenwriter’s hat. Moviemakers know the formula well: at the end of Act One, the main character is drawn in completely to a conflict. During Act Two, she is farthest away from her goals. At the end of Act Three, the story is resolved.
The show begins and we see, on the screen, a man of indeterminate age writing at a desk. A voiceover commences and we learn that if the man's story "made any real sense" he would "dedicate" it "to [his] late, ribald stepfather, Bobby Agadganian, Jr., Bobby […]" (1). Then a long flashback ensues and we see the narrator grow from an eight-year-old boy to a talented, nineteen-year-old artist in (appropriately) art school. We get a glimpse of his life in New York City, and of his nine years growing up in Paris. We hear about the death of his mother, then watch as he and Bobby struggle with their grief in a New York City apartment in 1939. There is some relief from the grief, and we giggle when Jean finds the ad for an art teacher at a Les Amis Des Vieux Maîtres (The Friends of the Old Masters) a Canadian correspondence art school. We're amused as he then fabricates a resume, creating a new identity for himself as Jean De Daumier-Smith, a twenty-nine year old widower. We are surprised (and suspicious) when he gets the job.
Act II begins with Jean's arrival in Montreal. He moves back of forth between frustration and inspiration. While correspondence students Bambi Kramer and R. Howard Ridgefield are extremely disappointing, Sister Irma (and her art) gives his life new meaning. His long-distance admiration turns quickly to obsession. But, everything starts to break down when he reads the Mother Superior's letter withdrawing Sister Irma from school (presumably in response to his recent letter to her). He quickly pens a dangerous letter to Sister Irma (which he never sends), plans to get drunk, but has coffee and soup instead. He also seems to be planning to go up to the convent to check out Sister Irma. Instead he has an epiphany with the sun, which convinces him to let Sister Irma do her own thing.
In Act III Jean's life falls in on itself. When Les Amis Des Vieux Maîtres (whose credentials, like Jean's, are fake) closes down, there isn't much need for this particular alter-ego. Jean (whatever his real name is) goes on summer vacation with Bobby, and then goes back to art school in New York City. He never pursued Sister Irma (though he isn't sure if this is "right or wrong") but has maintained correspondence with Bambi Kramer (also a fake name), to whom he most probably admitted his real identity (87). Though maybe not – maybe he still has use for the Jean De Daumier-Smith after all.