J D Salinger wrote Nine Stories with the same brilliance as Catcher In
The Rye. His style is so unique and complex that all of his short
stories are truly enjoyable. Two of those stories are ^A perfect day
for a bananafish^ and ^For Esme with love and squalor.^ The main
characters in both of these stories, Seymour and Sargent X, have served
in World War II, and the fighting has taken its toll on them. Their
physiological well being was sacrificed and as a result they are no
longer the same people they were before. Both feel alienated from the
people in their life, the same people they had loved before the war.
The isolation the war has caused is carried over into their lives, and
it caused these men to search for new forms of comfort and security, in
the respective forms of Sybil and Esme.
In ^A perfect day for a bananafish,^ Muriel and her husband
Seymour have different perspectives of life. Muriel is a
carefree and complacent person, while her husband is quite
strange and slightly paranoid. His paranoia is illustrated when
he looses it in the hotel elevator, ^I have two normal feet and
I can^t see the slightest God-damned reason anyone should stare
at them.^ Muriel, however, is unacquainted with Seymour^s wild
breakdowns. She is rather confident that Seymour is perfectly
sane as she reports to her mother on the telephone. Muriel
doesn^t know about this side of Seymour because he has become
alienated from her after the war. Their personalities don^t
match anymore, if they ever did, and he is seeking some sort of
understanding that he knows Muriel can not provide. Seymour^s
relationship with Sybil is making up for Muriel^s shortcomings.
Seymour is looking for the understanding of a child and the
love of an adult. He wants someone who will not judge him. He
rea! lizes the impossibility of his desires with Sybil when he
gets a loud reaction from her after kissing the arch of her foot.
Seymour has no one who understands him, which causes his feeling of
isolation. He can no longer relate to the world he lives in and with no
one to provide comfort and security he is driven to suicide.
Sargent X has an interesting relationship with Esme in ^For
Esme with love and squalor.^ Esme is quite aware of the horrors
of war and says to Sgt. X, ^I hope you return from the war with
all your faculties intact.^ Sgt. X in fact would not have
returned with all of his faculties intact if it were not for
Esme and the letter she wrote him. Sgt. X, because of the war,
is stationed far away from home and is isolated from the woman
he loves. He is isolated from his whole world, which is why he
carries around the ^stale letters.^ The letters perhaps are
from his wife and provide him with comfort. Esme senses Sgt.
X^s feeling of alienation, which is why she approaches him in
the tearoom. Sgt. X feels comforted by Esme^s presence along
with the innocence of Charles, Esme^s brother. It^s like she is
his only connection to the real world, which is why he agrees
to write her. Especially after fighting in the war and being
^shelled^ the world outside of war is distant to Sgt. X and
Esm! e is his last connection to reality. The childish ^HELLO
HELLO HELLO^ LOVE AND KISSES CHARLES^ from the letter is comforting and
enlightens Sgt. X that there is still some happiness out there. In a
time when X has nothing to relate to, Esme^s friendship gives him the
comfort and security to keep his faculties intact.
In these cases war is what causes alienation, as it distances
people from the world they^ve known and lived in before. With
no one to understand and comfort them, one has little to keep
themselves happy and sane. Isolation leads to depression and
suicide, which is why someone who can help keeps reality close
by is so important, such as Esme was for Sgt. X. Esme provided
comfort and security for Sgt. X, while no one could do so for
Seymour. The comfort and security is what kept Sgt. X alive and
the lack of is what ended it for Seymour.
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