Study Guide

Clay (Corporal Z) in For Esmé with Love and Squalor

By J.D. Salinger

Clay (Corporal Z)

Clay, the closest thing Sergeant X has to a war buddy, is basically everything our narrator is not – he's cheerful, happy-go-lucky, and apparently emotionally untouched by the war. He's that guy you see in college who's the life of every party; everyone likes him, and he's pretty much up for anything. We get the feeling he's not exactly a deep thinker; if he were, he'd probably be in the same semi-catatonic state Sergeant X is in after the war. Instead, Clay is outwardly untroubled by the horrors of wartime, and is able to immediately recover and move on with his life. He is disturbed by some of his actions during the war – for example, he shot and killed a cat after a shell attack – but he's content to simply chalk it up to temporary insanity. He's sympathetic to Sergeant X, but honestly just can't understand what his friend is going through.

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