Comparing the Hero in Uncle Wiggily in Connecticut and A Perfect Day for Bananafish

Comparing the Hero in Uncle Wiggily in Connecticut and A Perfect Day for Bananafish

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The Misfit Hero in Uncle Wiggily in Connecticut and A Perfect Day for Bananafish 

 

The "Misfit Hero" is a common trait of J.D. Salinger's short stories. The "Misfit Hero" is a character who is in conflict with him or herself and has good qualities and bad qualities. This hero is usually isolated and is attempting to break out of his darkness because he craves and requires love and warmth. These protagonists are unable to function effectively in society because they are so overcome with experience, love, and perceptions. An outsider sometimes reaches out by a romantic gesture that is ridiculous but tender, meaningful, and unexpected (French 305).

In "A Perfect Day for Bananafish", the protagonist, Seymour Glass, has a spiritual illness which makes him incapable of distinguishing between significant and insignificant experiences. Seymour's actions seem to demand attention in an immature way, suggesting insecurity and a need for love (French 306). He disrupts the composure of adults. Seymour does not show up for his own wedding because he says he is too happy. The nature of this happiness is further illuminated through the use of a boyhood experience of Seymour's: at the age of twelve he threw a stone at a young girl, wounding her for life. The narrator, Seymour's brother, explains the incident this way:

We were up at the Lake. Seymour had written to Charlotte, inviting her to come and visit us, and her mother finally let her. What happened was, she sat down in the middle of our driveway one morning to pet Boo Boo's cat, and Seymour threw a stone at her because she looked so beautiful sitting there in the middle of the driveway with Boo Boo's cat. Everybody knew that for God's sake. (Salinger Raise 89)

Seymour's own understanding of his derangement is a more creative one. He writes in his journal:

Certain heads, certain colors and textures of human hair leave permanent marks on me. Other things too. Charlotte once ran away from me outside the studio and I grabbed her dress to stop her, to keep her near me. A yellow cotton dress I loved because it was too long for her. I still have a lemon-yellow mark on the palm of my right hand, I'm a kind of paranoiac in reverse. I suspect people of plotting to make me happy. (Salinger Raise 75-76)

It is obvious that Seymour's perception of this incident differs from that of his brother.

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The reader is forced to believe the narrator. These conflicting perceptions of this incident indicate that Seymour is insane. Perhaps Seymour is crazy from the conventional view. Another odd example of Seymour's actions is seen in Seymour's refusal to take off his bathrobe because he doesn't want people to stare at his tattoo. On the surface, this statement is ludicrous: Seymour has no tattoo. However, Seymour does feel impressed and disfigured. The reason for Seymour's suicide is an open field for speculation. As one critic notes, "Or, as Buddy later indicates, he might be a man who has seen through the masks of materiality, the empty forms of maya." (Wenke 38)

Another story which amplifies this "Misfit Hero" is "Uncle Wiggily in Connecticut." Eloise dislikes her daughter's habit of inventing invisible playmates and taking them to bed with her at night. Unconsciously, Eloise knows that Walter, her lost lover, is as invisible as Romona's companions. She forces Romona to move into the middle of the bed to prevent her daughter from lying with an invisible lover. Salinger uses Eloise as a "Misfit Hero" to indicate the extent to which Eloise's unhappiness affects others.

In conclusion, the "Misfit Hero" is a significant character that reoccurs in Salinger's short stories. This typical hero is intelligent, sensitive, affectionate, and non-conformist. Although these protagonists are perceived as normal adults, they are continually impended by external forces which seek to repress and destroy them. Regardless of one's speculations, the basic critical problem in Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters and Nine Stories is to struggle with one's restricted and interpretive authority.

 
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