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Themes

"A Perfect Day for Bananafish" features a young man who has returned from his service in World War II and is experiencing what today we would call post-traumatic stress disorder. Back in the 1940s, however, this term hadn't even been coined, and people were far less informed about this sort of mental illness. The protagonist, then, is highly misunderstood by the adults around him, so he instead seeks refuge in the world of children, where his "madness" amounts to little more than joking banter. The story makes us wonder what really counts as "insane," even calling into question the "normal" conversations between "sane" adults.

Questions About Madness

  1. How does Salinger let us know about Seymour's mental condition without directly spelling it out? What hints does he give us?
  2. Does Muriel care about Seymour's mental condition? Does she understand it? Does she take it seriously?
  3. What does Seymour's condition have to do with the war?
  4. How sympathetic is the world to Seymour's condition? Is this fair?

Chew on This

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

Seymour shoots himself when he realizes that real innocence isn't possible in a corrupt world.

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