Jerome Salinger Essay Research Paper Born

Jerome Salinger Essay, Research Paper

Born on January 1, 1919, Jerome David Salinger was to become one of America’s

greatest contemporary authors. In 1938 Salinger briefly attended Ursinus College

in Pennsylvania where he wrote a column, “Skipped Diploma,” which featured

movie reviews for his college newspaper. Salinger made his writing debut when he

published his first short story, “The Young Folks,” in Whit Burnett’s

Story magazine (French, xiii). He was paid only twenty-five dollars. In 1939, at

the age of 20, Salinger had not acquired any readers. He later enrolled in a

creative writing class at Columbia University. Salinger was very much interested

in becoming an actor and a playwright, which was quite odd because he would

later in life become a recluse (Wenke, 3). Salinger adjusted his writing style

to fit the literary marketplace. He was writing for money and began writing for

magazines like Good Housekeeping and Mademoiselle. Many of Salinger’s

characters have unique character traits. “Salinger presents a number of

stories that consider characters who become involved in degrading, often phony

social contexts,” states a major critic (Wenke, 7). These characters are often

young and have experienced a lot of emotional turmoil. They have been rejected

by society and mainly categorized as “misfits.” This alienation of the

personality is often viewed as a sign of weakness by society when in fact the

outcasts ultimately gain strength from their experiences as shown in Nine

Stories, The Catcher in the Rye, and Franny and Zooey. Salinger is telling a

tale of the human condition in its reality through his novels. Nine Stories is a

collection of short stories of people who are uncertain of the next path to take

in life. They are lonely, needy, and searching for love. One of these stories,

“A Perfect Day for Bananafish,” is the story of a young couple who try to

understand their life together and the true meaning of love. Seymour Glass has

just been released from the Army Hospital and he is unable to adjust to life

with his “crass wife Muriel amidst the lavish and vulgar atmosphere of their

post-war second honeymoon” (Gwynn & Blotner, 19). It has often been called

“the loveless tunnel of love.” Salinger portrays Muriel in the first part of

the story as superficial. She believes that everything and everyone operates on

her time: 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. Muriel has an indifferent attitude about life. She seems simple and

very insecure. Muriel finds it funny that her husband calls her “Miss

Spiritual Tramp of 1948.” This tells the reader that she lacks self- esteem.

Her simple attitude shows when she is talking to her mother on the phone about

going to Bingo one night: “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

that you’d have to have a tiny, tiny.” Muriel implies that she disliked the

lady because of what she was wearing. She alienates herself from society by

believing that she is better that everyone else. Because of Muriel’s

personality, Seymour cannot confide in her or feel any love in his marriage.

This is why he turns to the little girl at the beach for companionship. Seymour

finds a friend and a listener in Sybil. But the friendship of Sybil cannot mend

Seymour’s broken heart. He gains some strength in himself when he finds a

friend in Sybil, but he cannot seem to get past his failed marriage. Seymour is

so desperate for love that he commits suicide: Then he went over to one of the

pieces of luggage, opened it, and from under a pile of shorts and undershirts he

took out an Ortgies caliber 7.65 automatic. He released the magazine, looked at

it, then reinserted it. He cocked the piece. Then he went over and sat down on

the unoccupied twin bed, looked at the girl, aimed the pistol and fired a bullet

through his right temple. “Uncle Wiggily in Connecticut” is a story about a

young woman who tries to make sense out of all the confusion in her life. Eloise

finds a loyal and trustworthy friend in Mary Jane. They are on the same path in

life. Salinger suggests that they have stayed friends for so long because

neither of them graduated from college. Eloise left college because she was

caught with a soldier in the elevator. Mary Jane left college because she was to

marry a soldier in jail. Eloise feels like an outsider in her own family. She

makes a comment about her daughter looking more like her husband and his mother.

She says that when the three of them are together they look like triplets.

Ramona, Elosie’s daughter, appears to be the only person who is free to be who

she wants to be. Ramona has a childlike, spontaneous imaginative power and she

is on the verge of these qualities being taken from her by her mother who is

referred to as “Uncle Wiggily (Bloom, 83). Uncle Wiggily represents a person

that is standing in the way of Ramona being her true self. In essence, Eloise

envies her daughter Ramona. Ramona is the one who does as she pleases, such as

scratching herself and picking her nose at any time. Ramona is the stronger of

the two, mentally. Eloise resents Ramona’s imaginary friend Jimmy Jimmerono.

One critic explains, “But Jimmy stands in the same relation to Ramona as Walt

does to Eloise–a symbol of the secret image of love, unhampered by awful

reality”(Gwynn & Blotner, 22). Walt is Eloise’s old love. Ramona

displays Jimmy’s physical characteristics as being unique, while Walt is

unique because of his humor and tenderness. At the end of the story Eloise had

still not been saved. When she is drunk she feels free to be herself and express

herself. Eloise learns the true meaning of love with her past experience with

Walt. She learns to love herself and is willing to move on in life knowing that

it will get better with time. Salinger’s greatest masterpiece, The Catcher in

the Rye, has served as a “firestorm for controversy and debate” (Lomazoff,

1). The way that Salinger portrayed Holden Caulfield has been a factor in the

controversial nature of this book. Holden is a strong-minded person with

strong-minded opinions of the world and the people. His uncanny personality

makes the reader want to question his sanity. Holden has reached a point in his

life where he doesn’t care anymore. He has flunked out of three Pennsylvania

prep schools. This symbolizes that Holden is not truly ready for the adult world

even though he believes that he is. He refuses to work to his full potential.

Holden is a little boy playing grown-up. He is self-centered and very arrogant:

Then I tried to get them in a little intelligent conversation, but it was

practically impossible, you had to twist their arms. You could hardly tell which

was the stupidest of the three of them. He puts other people’s social behavior

down as if to say that he is of higher intelligence, “They didn’t invite me

to sit down at their table–mostly because they were ignorant–but I sat down

anyway.” This shows Holden’s impatient nature. Another odd quality of

Holden’s is that he believes that the world we live in and the people that we

live with are phony. An early example of this in the novel is when Old Spencer

is telling Holden about how great his parents are and Holden responds in a

negative fashion: “Grand” there is a word I really hate. It’s a phony. I

could just puke every time I hear it. The center issue of Holden’s perception

of falseness in this world is his inability to communicate with other people. He

wants to be a loner and stay by himself: “I figured that I could get a job at

a filling station somewhere, putting gas in other people’s cars. I didn’t

care what kind of job it was, though. Just so people don’t know me and I

don’t know anybody. I thought what I’d do was, I’d pretend I was one of

those deaf mutes. That way I wouldn’t have to have any god dam stupid useless

conversation with anybody. If anybody wanted to tell me something, they’d have

to write it on a piece of paper and shove it over to me. They’d get bored as

hell doing that after a while, and then I’d be through with having

conversations for the rest of my life. Everybody’d think I was just a poor

deaf-mute bastard and they’d leave me alone… I’d cook all my own food, and<br...

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