A Perfect Day For Bananafish

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A Perfect Day for Bananafish “A Perfect Day for Bananafish” put J. D. Salinger on the map. It was published in The New Yorker in 1948, and few short stories in the history of American letters have met with such immediate acclaim. To a modern reader, it is easy to miss what to 40’s readers was the story’s principal and disturbing undercurrent: post-traumatic stress disorder. The late 40’s were in large part a period of reaction to World War II, as exhibited in the burgeoning school of film noir, the influx of apocalyptic B movies, and new waves in philosophy and literary theory. “Bananafish”, with its unsettling mixture of the mundane and the tragic, the light-hearted and the cataclysmic, captured, in its straightforward, deceptively muted style and sensibility, the push-and-pull condition of returning WWII veterans (of which Salinger was one). The ending comes across as a complete shock, and Salinger refuses to linger on it. The very last phrase of the story is “fired a bullet through his right temple” leaving readers speechless and denying them authorial intervention to interpret the event. The result is that a reader must backtrack in memory through the story to construct a logical framework that can guide him or her from the comic bounciness of the beginning to the sudden bloodshed at the end. Salinger’s decision to send such disparate tones careening into one another is a way of underlining the essential absurdity of war as it seeps into and refuses to leave
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