Summary (Identities & Issues in Literature)
J. D. Salinger produced some three dozen short stories in a twenty-five year period between 1940 and 1965. Of those, about a dozen were read by millions of readers, and at least three have entered the modern American literary canon. Salinger’s best stories deal with protagonists, often younger protagonists, struggling to find personal identity in an alienated world.
Salinger’s short stories conveniently fall into three distinct periods. His early stories, as Salinger found his own voice, are perishable. The stories of his brief middle period, however—from “A Perfect Day for Bananafish” in 1948 through “Teddy” in 1953—include his greatest achievements. Most of them, such as “Uncle Wiggley in Connecticut” and “For Esme—with Love and Squalor,” are collected in Nine Stories. The stories of his last decade—from “Franny” and “Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters” through “Zooey” and “Seymour,” collected in two volumes in 1961 and 1963—all concern the precocious Glass family children and represent an increasingly prolix and self-conscious style. Salinger’s last published story is “Hapworth 16, 1924,” which appeared in The New Yorker in 1965.
Salinger’s stories reveal a quest for spiritual fulfillment that is frustrated in the contemporary world. In Nine Stories, however, Salinger sometimes supposes a Zen Buddhist transcendence of self. In “A Perfect Day for...
(The entire section is 364 words.)
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