Salinger Essay, Research Paper
Many critics consider J.D. Salinger a very controversial writer, for thesubject matters that he writes.. J.D. Salinger s works were generallywritten during two time periods. The first time period was during WorldWar II, and the second time period was during the 1960 s. Critics feelthat the works during the 1960 time period were very inappropriate,because of the problems for which he wrote. The main characters weregenerally misfits of society. In most of his works, he has theprotagonist of the story go on a quest for happiness. Salinger does notconform to the material happiness; the characters undergo a spiritualhappiness. The characters generally start out as in bad conditions,through the end of his works they undergone changes that change them forthe better. The works of J.D. Salinger show the quest for happinessthrough religion, loneliness, and symbolism. Salinger s works often use religion in order to portray comfort. InSalinger s Nine Stories Franny Glass keeps reciting the “Jesus Prayer”to cope with the suicide of her brother Seymour (Bloom in Bryfonski andSenick 69). Salinger is able to use this prayer as a means of comfortfor Franny. The prayer stands for the last hope for Franny in thissituation. Franny would be lost if their was no prayer. (Bryfonski andSenick 71). Salinger shows us comfort in Catcher in the Rye. HoldenCaufield, the protagonist, is very much in despair for losing hisgirlfriend, so Caufield reads a passage in the Bible. This helps Holdenchange his outlook on life (Salzberg 75). Holden was all alone at thispoint and had no one to turn back on, until he found the Bible (Salzberg76). In both stories the characters had found themselves in badsituations. The characters in these works have obstacles which they mustovercome in order to achieve happiness (Salzman 34). Happiness is the !very substance which all of these characters are striving for inSalinger s works. Salinger uses religion in his works to comfort them sothat they can proceed on their quest to achieve happiness.Salinger uses religion as a means for liberation. Salinger uses much ofthe Zen philosophy, as in the case of Nine Stories, to achieve thisliberation (Madsen 93). In Nine Stories one of the characters, SeymourGlass, is portrayed as Buddha in the sense that he wants to be liberatedas Buddha was in his life (Madsen 93). Seymour Glass in Nine Stories has acertain philosophy about life, it is similar to the Eightfold Path usedby Buddha when achieving nirvana (French in Matuz 212). Seymour Glass ison a quest to become free from all of the suffering in his life as Buddhawas from his life (French in Matuz 213). Seymour follows the Eightfoldpath to become liberated from suffering (Madsen 96). Seymour achieves”nirvana” by living a good life and end anything that causes suffering. Seymour is able to attain nirvana by committing suicide (Lundquist inMatuz 211). Salinger shows us that when Seymour committed suicide he letgo of all of the suffering that he encountered, !thus attaining the happiness he longed for (French, Salinger Revisited132). Salinger shows liberation as an end to all suffering, thus creatinghappiness for the character. (French, Salinger Revisited 133). The final function of religion as a means to attain happiness was to gainpeace In “The Young Lion,” Salinger uses religion to gain peace througha fictitious war. In the story many of the soldiers were dying and thecountries were in turmoil (Lundquist 312). The leaders in the story see avision on the battlefield that changes them, and stops the war (Lundquist315). Salinger shows how religion can be a force used to create happinessin a story, by creating peace (Lundquist 313). Salinger is able to usereligion as a means of attaining happiness through peace. The storyseemed very dismal, until religion intervened and stopped the conflict. Salinger creates happiness for the characters by stopping the conflict. In “The Stranger” Salinger creates peace through a war by using more ofthe Zen philosophy. Salinger s creates a “Pact of Peace” which stops theconflict between the Germans and Polish during WWII (Hamilton in Bryfonskiand Senick 143) . The “Pact of Peace” !was a teaching used by Buddha in the Zen philosophy (Hamilton in Bryfonskiand Senick 143). Salinger uses Zen, in this case, to stop the conflictbetween the Polish and Germans(Hamilton in Bryfonski and Senick 143). Inmany of Salinger s works the conflict, becomes a source for much of theunhappiness in the story (Wenke 212). Salinger uses religion as a mediumto create tranquility, consequently the characters to achieve happiness(Wenke 215). In many of Salinger s works loneliness is used to isolate characters fromevil. Salinger portrays all of society to be bad, and for manycharacter’s isolation from society is the only way to achieve happiness(Grunwald 103). In Salinger s Catcher in the Rye Holden Caufield s entireplot deals with him trying to isolate from society. Holden realizes thatsociety has become bad, and wants no part in this terrible life (French,Salinger Revisited 192). Salinger uses society as the source of discordin this case to be isolated from. Holden is shown as a hermit at the endof Catcher in the Rye (Grunwald 68). Grunwald explains “Holden stranquillity, at the end, can be ascribed to his isolation from society”(68). Holden only wants to be separated from the society which considershim a misfit. In Salinger s works a source of unhappiness is usually thefact that society feels the characters are misfits. The characters can
only become happy if they isolate themselves from this !society. Salinger uses loneliness also as a means to change in life. In “Raise theRoof Beam High,” Salinger is able to use isolation to change the life ofSeymour Glass (Salzman 130). Seymour feels that society has becomecorrupt and must change his lifestyle in order for him to become happy(Salzman 134). Seymour sees that society has no more compassion onpeople, and that he must do something to change it (Salzman 136). Inorder for him to change society he must first isolate from society(Salzman 140). Salinger uses loneliness again to benefit mankind. Salinger in this case makes a person change his lifestyle to isolate fromsociety (Salzman 132). The benefits of this action are good not only forthe person who has changed, but also help parts of society which areaffected (Salzman 132). Loneliness in Salinger s works benefits thecharacter s greatly. Salinger is able to isolate the characters in hisworks in order for them to attain happiness (Grunwald 265). Salinger des!cribes Seymour as “A recluse, who will never be part of society” (Grunwald260). He shows that Seymour wants nothing of this world and wants to beas far away as possible. The characters see that society has become bad,and in order for them to become happy they must get away from society, andlive their own lives. Salinger uses many lucky symbols in his works to show to fulfill the questfor happiness. In “Soft-Broiled Sergeant” one of the soldiers wears apair of lucky underwear, which saves him in battle and helps in findingthe love of his life (French, J.D. Salinger 42). The underwear gives thesoldier the happiness he is looking for (French, J.D. Salinger 45). Salinger many times uses funny lucky symbols like this, but can be foundto provide happiness for the characters (Salzberg 121). Another exampleof lucky symbols is in “For Esme” Salinger portrays the sun as a luckysymbol to Joseph Carney (French, J.D. Salinger 63). The sun is lucky toJoseph in that it helps Joseph turn his entire life around, from the rutit had been into a life of great prosperity (French, J.D. Salinger 66). The sun provides inspiration for Joseph to change his life (French, J.D. Salinger 66). The characters in J.D. Salinger s works start out in badsituations. Through the use of lucky symbols th!eir life is changed to what will make them happy. Salinger uses symbolism in his works also to foreshadow a better life. In”Long Debut of Louis Taggett” the symbol of a cigarette being put outforeshadows the end of a marriage (Galloway in Curley and Kramer 58). Theend of this marriage for Louis Taggett, means good for his life (Gallowayin Curley and Kramer 61). Louis at the end of the story is able toconcentrate more on his job, where he meets the woman that will reallylove him, and find wealth and prosperity (Galloway in Curley and Kramer59). This symbolism to foreshadow is one of many examples of how Salingeruses symbolism to predict a better life (Galloway in Curley and Kramer61). Salinger many times use subtle, but important symbols to foreshadowbetter things (Galloway in Curley and Kramer 62). The character, in thiswork, has suffered through hardships. The character s life is in a totalmess at the time. Salinger also shows foreshadowing to a better lifethrough “The Last Day of the Last Furlough” (Mat!uz 157). In the story John Hendren is able Salinger uses symbolism forthe character to fulfill his quest for happiness(Matuz 148)John Hendrenwho is in World War II, has always wore large wooden necklace given to himby his mother (Matuz 148). This same necklace stops a bullet, which couldhave killed him(Matuz 149). John is later awarded a medal of respect forhis valiant effort, giving him lots of fame(Matuz 149). Salinger showshow such symbols provide happiness to the lives of people (Wenke 237). Salinger uses allusion from other works to show how happiness will befulfilled. In Salinger s Catcher in the Rye, Salinger refers greatly inone chapter to ducks in central park. The ducks are in context to ascripture in the Bible, which tells of how the ducks are free (Galloway inBloom 53). Salinger later explains that Holden will become free as theseducks (Galloway in Bloom 54). In Catcher in the Rye Holden s main purposewas to be free from the suffering (Galloway in Bloom 58). The ducksrepresented how he would feel, being happy (Galloway in Bloom 56). Salinger also shows his symbolism from other works through the work ofMark Twain. Salinger portrays how Holden in Catcher in the Rye changes toa different man when he is at the water fountain in Central Park, as thecase in Mark Twain s Huckleberry Finn in which Huck changes when he is onthe Mississippi River (Grunwald in Bloom 64). Salinger uses symbolismfrom other books in his books to convey how the charac!ters in his works will change for a better life (Grunwald in Bloom 67). Salinger uses much of the symbolism to show how the life of the charactershas become happy. Salinger uses symbols to show the turning point of thecharacter s lives. He shows that these symbols will change their livesfor the better. The works of Salinger show the quest for happiness through religion,loneliness, and symbolism. Salinger s writings deal with charactersfulfilling their quest for happiness. He would have the character saccomplish their quest by going through obstacles, in which they learnedabout their lives. He employed the religion, loneliness, and symbolism asmeans for the characters to understand how to obtain happiness in life. The writings of the Salinger, become very important for this time period,because he goes against the grain of society to show how it is wrong. Thewritings of Salinger, while they may have been excellent in style, havebecome very controversial for what he has portrayed in the society duringthis time period.