Study Guide

A Perfect Day for Bananafish Spirituality

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Section I (Muriel in the Hotel)
Muriel Glass

"He's played the piano both nights we've been here." (1.70)

We know from the other Glass stories that Seymour is a poet; now we are reminded again that he is, at heart, a sort of artist.

"I don't know, Mother. I guess because he's so pale and all," said the girl. "Anyway, after Bingo he and his wife asked me if I wouldn't like to join them for a drink. So I did. His wife was horrible. You remember that awful dinner dress we saw in Bonwit's window? The one you said you'd have to have a tiny, tiny – " (1.74)

Muriel is so distracted by materialistic things like fashion that she can't focus on the matter at hand, what the psychiatrist had to say about Seymour. Spiritually, she is at a very different place than is her husband.

"All right, all right. He calls me Miss Spiritual Tramp of 1948," the girl said, and giggled. (1.34)

This gives us some insight into Muriel's relationship with Seymour. Her giggle implies that she doesn't take him too seriously – which may or may not be a good thing. On the one hand, she misses the gravity of his illness. On the other hand, she balances out his serious, moody spirituality. Check out Salinger's story, "Raise High the Roofbeam, Carpenters," for more insights.

"You know Seymour," said the girl, and crossed her legs again. "He says he doesn't want a lot of fools looking at his tattoo."

"He doesn't have any tattoo! Did he get one in the Army?"

"No, Mother. No, dear," said the girl, and stood up. (1.107-9)

Much of what Seymour says implies a hidden – and often spiritual – meaning.

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

"The lady?" the young man brushed some sand out of his thin hair. "That's hard to say, Sybil. She may be in any one of a thousand places. At the hairdresser's. Having her hair dyed mink. Or making dolls for poor children, in her room." (2.20)

What does this tell us about Seymour's perception of his wife?

"Well, they swim into a hole where there's a lot of bananas. They're very ordinary-looking fish when they swim in. But once they get in, they behave like pigs. Why, I've known some bananafish to swim into a banana hole and eat as many as seventy-eight bananas." He edged the float and its passenger a foot closer to the horizon. "Naturally, after that they're so fat they can't get out of the hole again. Can't fit through the door." (2.35)

Some critics have claimed that this metaphor refers to the way humans gorge themselves on material pleasures. We'll talk about this more in "What's Up with the Title?"

Mrs. Carpenter was putting sun-tan oil on Sybil's shoulders, spreading it down over the delicate, winglike blades of her back. (2.3)

Notice that Sybil's shoulder-blades are described as "wing-like." Salinger implies that there is something angelic about her childlike innocence.

He got off at the fifth floor, walked down the hall, and let himself into 507. The room smelled of new calfskin luggage and nail-lacquer remover. (2.108)

This is an entirely different environment than the outdoor setting of the story's first half. There's something artificial and materialistic about the hotel room.

Sybil Carpenter

"See more glass," said Sybil Carpenter, who was staying at the hotel with her mother. "Did you see more glass?" (2.1)

Sybil reveals a key insight here: Seymour can see more than others.

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