Study Guide

Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters and Seymour: an Introduction Admiration

By J.D. Salinger


Like many of Salinger's Glass family stories, both "Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters" and "Seymour: an Introduction" are filled with intense admiration. We have admiration on the part of the author for his fictional characters, and also on the part of the fictional narrator/writer (Buddy) both for his own story telling and his subject matter (his brother Seymour, in this case). "Seymour" deals most explicitly with the artistic consequences of such intense admiration and emotion. Buddy finds that he cannot write with accuracy about a man he holds in such high esteem.

Questions About Admiration

  1. Why is Buddy so drawn to the bride's father's uncle in the car even before he finds out that the man can't hear or speak?
  2. What does Buddy so admire in his brother Seymour?
  3. Buddy lists the many roles that Seymour played for the children of the Glass family in the following passage: "He was […] our blue-striped unicorn, our double-lensed burning glass, our consultant genius, our portable conscience, our supercargo, and our one full poet, and, inevitably, I think, […] he was also our rather notorious 'mystic' and 'unbalanced type.'" ("Seymour" 1.4) What is revealed in each of these characterizations? How do they work together to paint a unified picture of Seymour?
  4. What is Buddy getting at when he compares Seymour to the curlew sandpiper?

Chew on This

Buddy is blinded by his own closeness to and admiration for Seymour; we can't expect a realistic depiction of Seymour through Buddy's eyes, and yet we are limited in our conception of Seymour to Buddy's recollections, opinions, and musings.

Because we get to read Seymour's own words (through his diary and notes) and hear about his own writing (through Buddy's summary of his poetry), we are able to get at the true nature of his character, despite our narrator's bias.