Themes and Meanings

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

The meanings of “A Perfect Day for Bananafish” have been much discussed. On one hand, a number of reputable critics think that the story simply relates some events in a day that culminated in the suicide of a disturbed person. Other critics think of the story as a metaphorical representation of what happens to sensitive people in a materialistic society filled with people who are as greedy as the bananafish about which Seymour tells Sybil. J. D. Salinger is fond of writing about the phoniness of modern society, as he did so effectively in his best-known novel, The Catcher in the Rye (1951). “A Perfect Day for Bananafish,” especially on its metaphoric level, explores the same theme.

Seymour, whose name perhaps indicates that he sees more clearly than other people, has dubbed his wife “Miss Spiritual Tramp of 1948,” and this designation, about which Muriel tells her mother, refers probably to Muriel’s tendency always to do what is best at any give time or in any situation. She is a capable person, but she has no staunch set of values. She is malleable, and Seymour does not appreciate her malleability. Although Muriel waited for Seymour through the war and through his hospitalization, Seymour sees her as someone with whom he cannot communicate.

Seymour constantly does things to unnerve people and to make them notice him. He complains that people stare at his tattoo, even though he does not have a tattoo; he accuses an...

(The entire section is 469 words.)


(Short Stories for Students)

Almost everything (and everyone) in Seymour's world is tainted by shallowness, vanity, or violence. The most obvious...

(The entire section is 555 words.)