Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters and Seymour: an Introduction
Language and Communication Quotes
How we cite our quotes:
(It isn't easy, to this day, to account for the Matron of Honor's having included me in her invitation to quit the ship. It may simply have been inspired by a born leader's natural sense of orderliness. She may have had some sort of remote but compulsive urge to make her landing party complete.... My singularly immediate acceptance of the invitation strikes me as much more easily explainable. I prefer to think it was a basically religious impulse. In certain Zen monasteries, it's a cardinal rule, if not the only serious enforced discipline, that when one monk calls out "Hi!" to another monk, the latter must call back 'Hi!' without thinking.) ("Roof Beam" 2.131)
We can start to understand why Buddy doesn't explicitly answer the question of why he stays with this group of wedding guests. We see that his understanding of the matter isn't exactly clear. That is, he explains the situation as he understands it – in veiled terms and abstruse comparisons.
It was a day, God knows, not only of rampant signs and symbols but of wildly extensive communication via the written word. If you jumped into crowded cars, Fate took circuitous pains, before you did any jumping, that you had a pad and pencil with you, just in case one of your fellow-passengers was a deaf-mute. If you slipped into bathrooms, you did well to look up to see if there were any little messages, faintly apocalyptical or otherwise, posted high over the washbowl. ("Roof Beam" 3.26)
Such written communication is not only a motif in the story, but a major thematic element as well. The complications of communication are introduced in "Roof Beam" but explored more explicitly in "Seymour," where Buddy discusses the difficulty of expressing emotion through writing.
I read and reread the quotation, and then I sat down on the edge of the bathtub and opened Seymour's diary. ("Roof Beam" 3.28)
Salinger brilliantly gives Seymour a place in this narrative despite the fact that his character is entirely absent. We hear his voice, we learn about his psychology, and we get a sense of his motivations through this diary.