Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters and Seymour: an Introduction
Language and Communication Quotes
How we cite our quotes:
To get back to the plot, I remember that while all three - the Matron of Honor, her husband, and Mrs. Silsburn - were conjunctively staring at me and watching me cough, I glanced over at the tiny elderly man in the back. ("Roof Beam" 2.47)
This is an example of the meta-fictional style of both of "Room Beam" and "Seymour" – both the fictional author (Buddy) and the elements of the narrative are explicitly discussed as such.
"Yes, but I solemnly promised her. The apartment's gonna be loaded with all kinds of crazy aunts and uncles and absolute strangers, and I told her I'd stand guard with about ten bayonets and see that she got a little privacy and –" She broke off. "Oh, God. This is awful."
Mrs. Silsburn gave a small, stilted laugh. "I'm afraid I'm one of the crazy aunts," she said. Clearly, she was affronted. ("Roof Beam" 2.58-9)
Notice how one thing after another raises the level of tension and discomfort for the guest in the car – social tensions, Buddy's coughing, the heat, the parade, etc. The stability of the scene is increasingly disturbed as the story continues.
He walked slowly and very independently, not to say insolently, the few steps over to the intersection, where the ranking policeman was directing things. The two then stood talking to each other for an endless amount of time. (I heard the Matron of Honor give a groan, behind me.) Then, suddenly, the two men broke into uproarious laughter - as though they hadn't really been conversing at all but had been exchanging very short dirty jokes. Then our driver, still laughing uninfectiously, waved a fraternal hand at the cop and walked - slowly - back to the car. He got in, slammed his door shut, extracted a cigarette from a package on the ledge over the dashboard, tucked the cigarette behind his car, and then, and then only, turned around to make his report to us. ("Roof Beam" 2.67)
This passage is a great example of Salinger's prowess when it comes to physical description. We can so clearly see that the driver resents his guests and is reveling in the small bit of power he momentarily has over them. And yet Salinger hasn't told us any of this – we get it all through physical details. Keep an eye out for more non-verbal communication, even from the author to the reader, throughout the course of these two short stories.