J.D. Salinger's A Perfect Day for Bananafish versus Edgar Allan Poe's The Black Cat

J.D. Salinger's A Perfect Day for Bananafish versus Edgar Allan Poe's The Black Cat

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Throughout J.D. Salinger’s “A Perfect Day for Bananafish” and Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Black Cat” many different themes are used to reveal how the protagonist is lead to his ultimate demise. In the stories, there are many themes that are used such as the fall from innocence into despair and ruin, split personality casing the character’s ruin, and deterioration into madness and obsession. This paper’s intention is to offer a clear presentation on how the two author’s works are similar and different.
The fall from innocence into despair and ruin forces the characters into their own demise. There are many different times where the narrator in the “The Black Cat” would give examples of how he was a kind person, “My tenderness of heart was even so conspicuous as to make me test my companions” (Poe, 1). This quotation touches on the fact that he was once kind and warm hearted towards animals. It also shows how he loses his innocence if you compare him as described in the beginning of the book to how he turns out in the end of the book. In the story, “A Perfect Day for Bananafish” Seymour is shown very innocent at the beginning of the story throughout untill the very end. The conversation with Sybil is one example how he can be innocent “‘I chew candies’ she said finally. ‘Who doesn’t’ said the young man getting his feet wet” (Salinger, 15). The quotation for the story shows how Seymour can have a childish conversation with an innocent child. The loss of innocence is seen the greatest when he gets into the fight in the elevator. They both have a loving and caring nature about themself towards other innocent creatures. One of the differences that there is with the characters would be the fact that Seymour wants to keep his innocence. He does this by keeping calm with Sybil, sending poems, and playing the piano. On the other hand, the narrator of “The Black Cat” did not do much to hold his evil side in but unleashes it on other living creatures. The other difference that can be seen is the direction that both characters go once they start to lose their innocence. In Seymour’s case, he loses his innocence and inflicts pain on himself, but for the other character in “The Black Cat” he inflictes pain on other people and animals.

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Throughout the two stories the fall from innocence leads to the end of both characters.
The split personalities of the two protagonists lead both characters to their own end. In “The Black Cat”, there is a clear split between his two personalities. The split is a lot more visible and grows throughout the story. The vicious line when the narrator shows the alternate personality at its worst can give you a clear distinction, “I withdrew my arm from her grasp and buried the axe in her brain” (Poe, 6). This quotation shows how the narrator can be an evil cruel person. It also shows how little control he has over himself when he is angered. The quotation also shows how he can just end the life of his wife who he once loved him with no thought at all. In “A Perfect Day For Bananafish”, there are many hints to his alternate personality. This alternate personality is far from what you see of him when he spent time with Sybil. The section when Murial and her mother speak of Seymour, there is great insight and detail into his past. The line “Call me instant he does or say’s anything at all funny---you know what I mean do you hear me?”(Salinger, 10) gives foreshadowing about future events. The mother points out a few problems that he has, and that there is a lot more to his character then he shows in the beginning with Sybil. One of the similarities between the two protagonists would be the fact that they both slowly get worse. In the “The Black Cat”, the fall of the narrator is more prevalent. In the story, it is shown how he slowly inflicts more and more pain on other living creatures. In the case of Seymour, it was more of an internal conflict. This conflict could not be seen easily until the end when he chooses to end it by taking his own life. The protagonist of both stories split personality was brought up in different ways. The split personally in “The Black Cat” is brought up more from the use of alcohol and the path he chooses to go along with in life. In the other story, Seymour’s split personality is pushed onto him by the war and gruesome events he encountered. There is one other big difference concerning both stories. In “A Perfect Day for Bananafish” Seymour tries to get help for his problems. In the other story “The Black Cat” the narrator did nothing for his problem and just let it get worse to the point of no return. The split personality of both protagonists made it impossible for either one to exist, which lead to their final demise.
The deterioration into madness has a large role in leading to the characters own undoing. In “The Black Cat” the protagonist has a slow but clear deterioration into madness. The beginning of the story there is a hurtful action that he performs, but by the end he was committing unspeakable acts. The quotation, “Its evident fondness for my self rather discussed and annoyed by slow degrees these feelings of disgust and annoyance rose into the bitterness of hatred”(Poe, 5) shows how his madness can turn an innocence of an animal’s love into some twisted hatred. It also shows that he is losing his mind when he realizes he hates the cat, yet he would not just give it away. Instead, he let the cat live along side him driving him mad. In the story “The Perfect Day For Bananafish” Seymour has a very quick descent into madness. The last event that happened in the elevator was his final push he needed to go over the edge. In the dialog with the woman in the elevator he loses it, “‘If you want to look at my feet say so!’ said the young man ‘but don’t be a god-damned sneak about it’” (Salinger, 17). This quotation shows a lot about Seymour and how he can be so easily pushed into the madness he tries to hide. The line shows a crystal clear deterioration into his madness. His problem that he has to deal with is to find a way out of his personal turmoil. There are many similarities how their deterioration into madness are alike and different. Both of the protagonist situations went from bad to devastating, and they have no way out. The narrator of “The Black Cat” tries to get out of his situation by bricking it up behind the wall. In the end his evil deeds were discover and he was punished for them by death. The situation for Seymour was similar. After he was pushed over the edge he was forced to end it by taking his life. The conditions of both protagonists seem to come and go though both stories. For Seymour it seems that he has a few events back home involving a car and grandmother. The protagonist in “The Black Cat” also had different events where he inflicts pain on other animals and finally his wife. The difference about their conditions is how they seem to take out there stress. The case with the narrator of “The Black Cat” would take his pain out on another living creature. When it came to Seymour he would take out his pain on him self in the end. The deterioration into madness brought both characters to their final undoing and death.
In conclusion, both of these stories have many similarities and differences. Edgar, A. Poe and J.D. Salinger use many different themes and gothic elements to provide an interesting read. The themes that were discussed in this essay are the fall from innocence into despair and ruin, the split personalities causing there own ruin and the deterioration into madness. The uses of these themes prove that the characters are at fault for creating their own demise.
Works Cited

Poe, Edgar A. The Black Cat. Philadelphia, USA:
Curtis Company, 1843.

Salinger, J D. A Perfect Day for Bananafish. New York, USA:
Advance Publication, 1949.
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