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by J.D. Salinger

Teddy Questions

Bring on the tough stuff - there’s not just one right answer.

  1. This one is for those of you who have read the other eight stories in Salinger's collection. What is the significance of Teddy's placement at the end of Nine Stories? How is it a capstone to the collection? What sort of tone does it end the book with?
  2. And a similar question: how do "A Perfect Day for Bananafish" and "Teddy" bookend Nine Stories? What do these stories have in common – in terms of theme, style, tone, plot, or mood?
  3. Buddy Glass claims in "Seymour: an Introduction" that Teddy is actually Seymour Glass (the protagonist of "Bananafish") in disguise – does this make sense? Can you tell from reading the stories? What do you make of the fact that both stories end in deaths – one suicide, one an accident?
  4. Teddy claims that "it's very hard to live a spiritual life in America" (4.73). Using this and other sources from the text, what can we conclude about Salinger's opinion of American culture? Is his portrayal necessarily a negative one?
  5. Compare Teddy's discussion of the apple of logic with Franny Glass's complaints about college in Salinger's short story "Zooey." Are these two characters getting at similar ideas? If not, what distinguishes Franny's knowledge vs. wisdom distinction from Teddy's logic vs. truth argument?
  6. Do some research on the Eastern religions discussed in Teddy, particularly Vedanta and Mahayana. What tenets of these schools of thought can you identify in "Teddy"? How does Salinger blend ideas from different traditions and religions?
  7. In "Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters," Buddy Glass, one of Salinger's fictional creations, claims: "A few years ago, I published an exceptionally Haunting, Memorable, unpleasantly controversial, and thoroughly unsuccessful short story about a 'gifted' little boy aboard a transatlantic liner." What do you make of this assessment of "Teddy"? For example, how might the story be controversial? Why might it be thought of as "unsuccessful"?
  8. Which character in this story do you identify with most easily? Is there any one character that you might find similar to yourself? If not, does this get in the way of the reader's emotional investment in the narrative? Why or why not?
  9. How is Teddy different during your second read-through, as opposed to your first?

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