For Esme- With Love and Squalor Essay

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For Esme- With Love and Squalor

1) In “For Esme- With Love and Squalor,” J.D. Salinger addresses a part of every person’s life. Everyone experiences periods in their life when they question the world and what is happening around them. Most people probably do not experience it quite as dramatic as the writer of the story, Sergeant X, does. He finds himself in the middle of the pure madness of war, and is having a hard time coping with the realities of the situation. Eventually, people find their way of dealing with these moments. Sergeant X relies on his memories of Esme to help him. The theme of the story is that the innocence of youth can serve as a healing power in times when the world seems to be falling apart.

2)
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We experience the pain and suffering that he endures. We are also able to understand how Esme’s innocence is able to end that suffering.
4) The main characters in the story help to illustrate the theme by contrasting the two different “worlds” in the story. Esme, although she only knows the writer for a short time, has a profound impact on him. Esme is intelligent, but it is obvious that she is trying much too hard to impress the author. Her dramatic vocabulary and over use of the word “extremely” is childish and annoying. During the choir practice the coach says that children should “…absorb the meanings of the words they sing, not just mouth them, like silly billy parrots.”

5) However, it is not the intelligence she displays, it is her innocence and child-like appearance that the writer concentrates on the most. We are told before she approaches that she is giving “qualified smiles”, or appearing sexually mature. The way he describes her crossed ankles and feet as being lovely, further supports the characteristics of her being naïve and not sexually alluring. The author also notes Esme’s lack of compassion, this also adds to the idea of her as being innocent and unaware of the realities of war. She describes her father as being “S-L-A-I-N.” This is later used at the end of the story to mock Esme’s naïve remark that he returns from the war with all his “faculties intact.”

6) The character of Corporal Z

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