In the story "A Perfect Day for Banana Fish" what is the significance or connection between the "bananafish" and the story?

4 Answers

kristenfusaro's profile pic

kristenfusaro | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Assistant Educator

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Seymour Glass is characterized by his peers as someone who is completely out of control; he was released from the military hospital, and no one seems to understand why he was released because of his ludicrous behavior. He does, however, seem to relate particularly well to a very young girl, Sybil.

Sybil's mother mistakes Sybil's comments of "Seymour Glass" with that of "see more glass," thus implying that Sybil is the only one who can see through Seymour as if he was glass. This becomes apparent in his story of the bananafish.

According to Seymour's story, the bananafish appear "perfectly normal" until they swim into a hole and overly consume large amounts of bananas in which they obtain "banana fever." This fever prevents the fish from being able to leave the hole, and thus they die from their excess. As Sybil is the only one who is able to "see more glass," she also has the ability to see a bananafish with "six bananas" in its mouth. The fish dies from excess of its own world; it entraps itself by overindulging, as Seymour does as well. Because Seymour relates perfectly well only with a child, his psychosexual development is nothing less than hairy, and his desire to kiss Sybil's feet, and hide his own body and feet, are much like the fish. The fish need to secretly swim into the hole to indulge in their fantasies, as Seymour seems to express his true feelings and desires away from acceptable society -- such as his awkward relationship with the young Sybil and the younger Sharon Lipschutz. Sybil leaves Seymour after denouncing him for kissing her feet, in a very child-like mild manner; he then proceeds to return to the materialistic world of room 507 where his wife Muriel, surrounded by the smell of her nailpolish, is asleep, and he kills himself.

Once the bananafish realize that they cannot escape the destruction they have brought upon themselves, or that they cannot return to "reality" or "society," they simply have no choice but to perish from existence.

renelane's profile pic

renelane | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator

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The banana fish is an imaginary species of fish. According to Seymour, the banana fish is just an average looking fish that is doomed to live a life that ends in tragedy. The previously normal fish swims through the banana hole, and contract banana fever from gorging themselves on too many bananas and eventually die.

It can be seen that the tale of the banana fish is symbolic of human beings whose downfall occurs when they consume or experience too much of any one thing. For some, it could be of a material nature, others a sexual nature.

For Seymour, his banana fever occurred because of the war. In going through the banana hole (the war) , he consumed (experienced) too many horrific sights to come back out of the hole and resume a normal life.

dirod's profile pic

dirod | eNotes Newbie

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To me it represents Seymour itself, the bananafish is an ordinary looking one but with a tragic live, seymour is of that kind, affected strongly and differently by war than ordinary people reacts tragicgly killing himself, the reference of blue denotes calm, its almost a filosophical decition. The references of sexual nature are there as in any human being, but a sensityve nature as the writers one wouldnt give them a role except a satirical one, playing with the references and the posible readings.

mastermind242424's profile pic

mastermind242424 | Student, Undergraduate | eNotes Newbie

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The big picture shows that the bananafish represents societies tendency to focus on material possessions, over-indulge, and waste life and ultimately die from their over-consumption. Reading this story for the first time, I remember I thought for sure there was some sort of sexual symbolism involved here. The whole story about a "banana" fish going into a whole then never being able to leave seemed like a symbol for being whipped. And when the little girl is in the water with Seymore, it is said she throws her head back in pleasure and claims to see a bananafish while Seymore holds her by her feet and pushes her back and forth. The sexual innuendo was too much to ignore.