Style and Technique
Salinger has a strong sense of the dramatic, and he often constructs his stories as though they were plays. In “A Perfect Day for Bananafish,” one finds the elements of a three-act play, the third act of which has two scenes. Salinger appears to have an inherent understanding of dramatic technique, and he is able to integrate this into his writing of short stories.
“A Perfect Day for Bananafish” demonstrates how well Salinger uses specific detail in his work. The first section of the story is particularly strong in its use of such detail. Salinger turns Muriel’s polishing of her fingernails into a carefully detailed and telling act that reveals her personality extremely well. The reader immediately sees in Muriel a woman in control. When the telephone rings, she does not have the immediate response that is common to most people in twentieth century society. She lets it ring until she has done what she has to do; then, with complete mastery of the situation, she answers the phone.
Muriel also controls quite convincingly the telephone conversation with her mother, who certainly is a woman of strong convictions and definite personality. Salinger is particularly deft in not allowing readers to see Muriel and Seymour in any sort of interaction. The only time they are together in the story, Muriel is asleep. By handling his materials in this way, Salinger leaves it to the reader to suppose what their times together must have been like.
Salinger’s wit helps to build his readers’ impressions of Muriel. He tells them that she does not drop everything to answer a telephone, that “she looked as if her phone had been ringing continually ever since she had reached puberty.” Perhaps Salinger’s greatest triumph in terms of technique is that he always evinces a respect for the intellectual capacity of his readers.