Jerome David Salinger is a character who has made himself one with many idiosyncrasies. He has vast and varied; ideas, thought and beliefs throughout his short stories and novels. These ideas have been weaved; cleverly into the short story that is, ‘A perfect day for a Bananafish. ‘ These thoughts which are shrouded in darkness and secrecy in the text make short appearances (as did Salinger’s life), and can be seen most clearly on line one, page eleven represents soldiers of war that are sent into the frontline.
‘They swim into a hole where there are lots of bananas. ‘ Bananas may be used by Salinger to depict the shape of a gun, and as we know from the short story Seymour took part in the war and came back a different man. ‘But once they get in they behave like pigs. ‘
I believe this is a taunt to the soldiers, who once at war – undergo a psychological change in which they behave more than inhuman as they go around killing one another, people whom they have never been acquainted with.
These people or also in fact ‘animals,’ may have families and friends back home praying that they make it home safe. Later it is stated by Seymour that once the bananafish enter the hole and eat so many bananas that they die, and when question, ‘Why. ‘ He responds by saying, ‘Well they get banana fever. It’s a terrible disease. ‘ I believe this is a representation of post-war-syndrome or perhaps shell-shock.
Two very major stages that many soldiers of war encountered. This is the so called disease that the bananafish acquire over their time in the hole. Let us ponder for a moment this idea of a ‘bananafish. ‘ When we think of something being bananas – we believe it to be mad.
This is just as Seymour is thought to be mad or ‘bananas’ as one might ironically suggest. Salinger also attempts to symbolise that the bananas in Seymour’s story represent all of the things which are taken in along the journey to adulthood. This is as seen in Teddy, whom stated the idea of an apple instead of a banana, it is said, ‘You know that apple Adam ate in the Garden of Eden, referred to in the Bible? ‘ he asked. ‘You know what was in that apple? Logic. Logic and intellectual stuff. That was all that was in it.
So – this is my point – what you have to do is vomit it up if you want to see things as they really are. ‘ This quote shows if pursued with too much zeal, these bananas (or apples), can prevent spiritual development. Seymour has realised that the release from the body is actually a spiritual victory and not defeat and thus decides to commit suicide following this greater spirituality in which – as Teddy suggested – objects can be seen for what they are and not just names that have been designated to them.
The symbolism of the fruit, spirituality and Seymour are also quite closely related. This is as a banana is a tropical fruit. Mainly eaten in countries where it doesn’t grow, so it doesn’t really belong there. Just as Seymour’s soul does not really seem to belong to his body and thus wishes to return back to its home. This brings me upon my next point in which it is clearly visible from Teddy’s paragraph the reason behind the choice of the name Seymour.
‘What you have to do is vomit it up if you want to see things as they really are. ‘ This is something that Seymour, or should I say ‘See-more,’ is more than capable of doing. See-more does exactly as his name suggests. He has followed Teddy’s deeper understanding of spirituality and can in fact see things for what they are. This is why Sybil is a friend that Seymour endears very much as she has not yet took a bite from this apple of logic or eaten the bananas from a hole as a bananafish.
Sybil’s innocence may also be her path to spiritualism as she sees this ability in Seymour and is actually the one who calls Seymour by the name See-more repeatedly, and maybe then it is why there is such a good relationship between the two. Even though he has found a partner in Sybil spiritually, he is most definitely spiritually and intellectually alienated from his partner – Muriel, whose name even assonates the sound of ‘material,’ only dreams of her superficial, and has no thoughts whatsoever on her spiritual being.
This may also be why he decides to achieve a ‘spiritual victory’ by committing suicide in this Hindu/Buddhist manner of spirituality, In which the soul is at rest when absent from the body. I wish to conclude by going back from the idea of spiritualism – to its descendant materialism. It is also most easily conceived that the bananafish from the short story are also a representation of American consumerism. The thought of the more, more, more effect as seen by the bananafish, adding to this materialistic endemic caused by these ‘bananas and apples’ of logic add to the materialistic world with every bite.
Jerome David Salinger attempts – as does Teddy – to make everyone realise this and try and ‘vomit’ up this logic that seems to replace our innocence that we are gifted as children. Having, no care in the world – this is my individual idealistic view on spiritualism. Salinger tries to revive the spiritual side of the reader’s life through this short story and many others. Spirituality in my view is most definitely the subtext to all of Salinger’s writings.