Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters and Seymour: an Introduction
by J.D. Salinger
Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters and Seymour: an Introduction Spirituality Quotes
How we cite our quotes: Citations follow this format: (Story.Section.Paragraph)
I'd been interested in the fact that my brother had asked his fiancée to meet him in a hotel lobby, rather than at his empty, available apartment. The morality of the invitation was by no means out of character, but it interested me, mildly, nonetheless. ("Roof Beam" 2.35)
This is a subtle point, but one that the author goes out of his way to make sure we notice. (He will later reiterate that Seymour has not seduced Muriel.) Seymour has kept his relationship chaste, and this speaks a great deal to his character and his relationship with Muriel.
For the first time in several minutes, I glanced around at tile tiny elderly man with the unlighted cigar. The delay didn't seem to affect him. His standard of comportment for sitting in the rear scat of cars - cars in motion, cars stationary, and even, one couldn't help imagining, cars that were driven off bridges into rivers - seemed to be fixed. It was wonderfully simple. You just sat very erect, maintaining a clearance of four or five inches between your top hat and the roof, and you stared ferociously ahead at the windshield. If Death - who was out there all the time, possibly sitting on the hood - if Death stepped miraculously through the glass and came in after you, in all probability you just got up and went along with him, ferociously but quietly. Chances were, you could take your cigar with you, if it was a clear Havana. ("Roof Beam" 2.68)
This is where we first get a sense of the spiritual significance of this character. His is a sort of Zen-like serenity, one that is not disturbed by any outside influences. We can start to see why Buddy is so drawn to him, particularly in the stifling, uncomfortable setting.
[The Matron of Honor]: "I don't know how much you know about people. But what man in his right mind, the night before he's supposed to get married, keeps his fiancée up all night blabbing to her all about how he's too nappy to get married and that she'll have to post pone the wedding till he feels steadier or he won't be able to come to it? Then, when his fiancée explains to him like a child that everything's been arranged and planned out for months, […] then, after she explains all that, he says to her he's terribly sorry but he can't get married till he feels less happy or some crazy thing!" ("Roof Beam" 2.99)
We can associate Seymour's need to be "steadier" with the sort of Zen-like calm embodied by the bride's father's uncle. Seymour feels that something as intense as marriage can't be approached with any attitude other than steady, spiritual calm.