Study Guide

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

By J.D. Salinger


Isolation is both literal and metaphorical in Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters and Seymour: an Introduction. Narrator Buddy Glass is a member of the insular, peculiar, and alienating Glass family – a fact that predisposes him to isolation from the rest of the world. The difficulty of communication heightens this sense of isolation. How can Buddy connect to another individual, or even to the reader, when he can't communicate effectively? In "Roof Beam," Buddy suffers from isolation and loneliness even while surrounded by people. In "Seymour," he has progressed to physical isolation, writing from a lonely cabin in the woods.

Questions About Isolation

  1. Why do you think Buddy chooses to live alone in the woods in his middle age?
  2. How does Buddy react after reading Seymour's diary? Why does he react this way?
  3. Buddy introduces a group of men early in "Seymour: an Introduction" called the "notorious Sick Men." The list is comprised of Seymour, Van Gogh, Kierkegaard, and Kafka. What is the relationship between these four men? Why do you think Buddy chooses those three particular artists to group with his brother Seymour?
  4. In "Seymour: an Introduction," Buddy claims that he won't be ready to talk about Seymour's suicide for several more years. Yet he does touch on it – perhaps not explicitly – several times in the text. Find these passages and take a second look. When Buddy discusses the death of the true artist-seer, he claims that such a man is "mainly dazzled to death by his own scruples, the blinding shapes and colors of his own sacred human conscience" ("Seymour" 1.2). Is this how Seymour died? Check out the actual death in "A Perfect Day for Bananafish" and think about it.

Chew on This

Buddy's character is more isolated in "Seymour: an Introduction" than in "Roof Beam."

Buddy's character is more isolated in "Roof Beam" than he is as a narrator in "Seymour: an Introduction."