As my Big Project, I have chosen to focus on Nine Stories by J.D. Salinger. More specifically, I’d like to focus on two of the nine short stories: “For Esmé – With Love and Squalor” and “A Perfect Day for Bananafish.” Both were originally published in The New Yorker, included in Salinger’s Nine Stories collection in 1953, and are generally considered to be part of the American Literary Canon. These two stories deal with men who suffer nervous breakdowns and alienation, but are able to communicate with children. One of the stories ends with the suicide of a broken man, while the other ends with a broken man beginning to attempt to mend himself.
Although I read The Catcher in the Rye in high school, I did not explore J.D. Salinger’s other works until I saw the film The Royal Tenenbaums. Upon discovering that the movie was inspired by a family of recurring characters in Salinger’s short stories, I began to devour his entire published collection. These characters, the children of the Glass family, are geniuses who feel alienated from society. They are witty and relatable, and more is revealed about each of the characters throughout each of his short stories. ”A Perfect Day for Bananafish” follows a member of this family, while “For Esmé” never mentions the main character’s name. I would like to research these stories to better understand their ambiguous meanings. I believe my research will help clarify the role of the young girls in both of these stories, as well as the meaning of their dialogue with the broken men. Because Salinger’s stories are so intertwined, I believe that uncovering meaning in one of these texts will help to clarify the other.
After some thorough searching, I was able to find an abundance of analyses written about all of Salinger’s published short stories. I believe there will be no shortage of literary articles about these two stories, as they are widely regarded as two of his best. The articles I have encountered so far have been fascinating and encouraging in my goal of digging deeper into these Salinger stories.