Hapworth 16, 1924 by J. D. Salinger

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Hapworth 16, 1924 Themes

(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

The seven-year-old Seymour in his letter reveals the strong influence on his beliefs of Indian religious mysticism, particularly the Vedanta branch of Hinduism. In this connection a functioning belief system becomes evident as the infant terrible matter-of-factly prophesies future events in his life and the lives of certain other Glass family members, especially Buddy. Foreknowledge and predestination, reincarnation (e.g., Seymour's allusions to his "appearances"), and revelation help shape the oracular, egocentric world view by which he lives. For all his very high-and-mighty manner, young Seymour acts as if he were under the spell of a very powerful being; an element of madness happens to accompany his tendency toward religious mysticism.

While his sexual awareness and responsiveness to female allure are given considerable attention in this story, much more is made of the child's literary interests and proclivities. He mentions his having written a considerable amount of poetry. But he mentions also five-year-old Buddy's having written six stories about an adventurous Englishman. Seymour speaks familiarly about great writers (for example William Blake and William Wordsworth) and certain academic scholars (possibly fictitious), and he requests that his parents obtain for him, from the Manhattan library, an enormous amount of serious reading matter. This includes the Victorian novelists, Tolstoi, Cervantes, Conan Doyle, Goethe, material about "the colorful and greedy Medicis" and "the touching Transcendentalists," as well as a selection of obscure periodicals of the mid-nineteenth century.

Hardly less important than the literary theme in Seymour's life is the idea and practice of prayer. Nondenominational Christianity is reflected to some degree in Seymour's treatment of the idea and practice of prayer, considered as separate from any specific religion. However, in line with his strong attachment to Eastern religious mysticism, he...

(The entire section is 452 words.)