Study Guide

A Perfect Day for Bananafish Innocence

By J.D. Salinger

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Section I (Muriel in the Hotel)
Muriel Glass

"All right. Just all right, though. We couldn't get the room we had before the war," said the girl. (1.87)

In other words, things are fundamentally different after the war than they were before.

"Well. How's your blue coat?"

"All right. I had some of the padding taken out." (1.83-4)

Many have pointed out the color imagery in "Perfect Day for Bananafish" and suggested that blue represents innocence; check out "Symbols, Imagery, Allegory" for the scoop.

"I couldn't travel now anyway. I'm so sunburned I can hardly move." (1.60)

Some critics think that the sun/sun block/paleness of various characters is a metaphor for different degrees of innocence. See "Symbols, Imagery, Allegory" for more.

"He won't take his bathrobe off? Why not?"

"I don't know. I guess because he's so pale." (1.104-5)

There's that sun imagery again. If getting sun represents being jaded by wordly experiences, then Seymour has taken steps to preserve his innocence.

"I just got here, Mother. This is the first vacation I've had in years, and I'm not going to just pack everything and come home," said the girl. (1.60)

Muriel's reasons for staying are essentially selfish; she isn't considering Seymour or his well-being.

She went over to the window seat for her cigarettes, lit one, and returned to her seat on the bed. "Mother?" she said, exhaling smoke. (1.44)

Notice that Muriel is indoors, and surrounded by smoke and nail polish. The atmosphere is very different from that in which Seymour is placed – outside, on the beach, in the sun and the clean air.

She was a girl who for a ringing phone dropped exactly nothing. She looked as if her phone had been ringing continually ever since she had reached puberty. (1.2)

Muriel comes across as being one of those popular, beautiful, materialistic girls. There's a shallowness to her character that contrasts with, say, Sybil's pureness.

She washed her comb and brush. She took the spot out of the skirt of her beige suit. She moved the button on her Saks blouse. She tweezed out two freshly surfaced hairs in her mole. When the operator finally rang her room, she was sitting on the window seat and had almost finished putting lacquer on the nails of her left hand. (1.1)

Materialism is a hallmark of the adult world in this short story.

Sybil Carpenter

"See more glass," said Sybil Carpenter, who was staying at the hotel with her mother. "Did you see more glass?"

"Pussycat, stop saying that. It's driving Mommy absolutely crazy. Hold still, please." (2.1-2)

Notice that a child identifies this key insight about Seymour, while her mother, an adult, misses it completely.

Section II (Seymour on the Beach and in the Hotel)

Sybil stopped walking and yanked her hand away from him. She picked up an ordinary beach shell and looked at it with elaborate interest. She threw it down. (2.48)

Sybil is characterized by the curiosity and interest typical of young children.

"It was really just an ordinary silk handkerchief – you could see when you got up close," said the woman in the beach chair beside Mrs. Carpenter's. "I wish I knew how she tied it. It was really darling." (2.4)

Just like Muriel and her mother, these women appear shallow and materialistic in contrast to Seymour and Sybil.

The young man suddenly picked up one of Sybil's wet feet, which were drooping over the end of the float, and kissed the arch. (2.91)

This small movement demonstrates such reverence and love for youth and innocence on Seymour's part.

Seymour Glass

"I see you're looking at my feet," he said to her when the car was in motion.

"I beg your pardon?" said the woman.

"I said I see you're looking at my feet."

"I beg your pardon. I happened to be looking at the floor," said the woman, and faced the doors of the car. (2.2-5)

This is the first time that Seymour seems strange to us. What's so interesting is that his behavior hasn't changed at all since he was joking around with Sybil. While that sort behavior may be perfectly acceptable around children, it appears mad, or crazy, in the adult world.

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