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A Perfect Day for Bananafish
Picture walking into a hotel room and finding a man dead on a bed. Upon closer inspection it becomes obvious that he has supposedly taken his own life with the gun that lay beside him. In talking to his wife who was asleep on the bed next to him when this incident occurred, it is learned that he just walked in the door and shot himself late the previous night. Out of the many questions that could be asked from this story, I believe that it is probably extremely important to consider why the main character, Seymour Glass, decided to commit suicide.
What I believe to be the reason for Seymour’s suicide has two basic components: the spiritual depravity of the world around him, and his struggle with his own spiritual shortcomings. The spiritual problem of the outside world is mostly a matter of material greed, especially in the west, and materialism. On the other hand, his own spiritual problem is more a matter of intellectual greed and true spiritualism.
In addressing the suicide, the difference should be distinguished between the "See More Glass" that we see through little Sybil’s eyes, and the Seymour Glass that we see through the eyes of the adult world. Even though these two characters are in theory the same man, they are slightly different in some ways. You could also say that they are the same character in different stages of development. Whatever the case may be, the "reasons" for the suicide shift slightly in emphasis as the character changes.
"A Perfect Day for Bananafish" attempts to symbolize that the bananas in
See More Glass’s story represent all of the things which are taken in along the journey to adulthood. If pursued with too much zeal, these bananas can prevent spiritual development and lead to a greater materialistic development. See-More has realized that he cannot get rid of enough bananas to make any further spiritual progress in this life, so, rather than waste time, he commits suicide. This is slightly obvious when he is taking the elevator back
up to his room on the night of the suicide. His fixation upon his feet, which do not resemble the childlike feet that he desires to have, and the woman in the elevator’s scorn towards Seymour’s accusing her of staring at his feet, drive him to dislike the adult world even more.
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The anti-materialism of the story must also has to be considered in talking about the suicide. Salinger, perhaps still a little reluctant in 1948 to abandon his own anti-materialism that appears to me to be an early preoccupation of his, in favor of simple materialism and anti-spiritualism, leaves much of the former scattered throughout the story. Seymour’s
wife, Muriel’s name both looks and sounds like the word “material”. This could possibly symbolize that she, like her mother, is shallow, fashion-conscious, and unwilling to learn German in order to read delicate, world-weary poets like Rilke. Destroying Seymour even more is Sybil's reference to the greedy tigers in "Little Black Sambo" and her connection to Eliot's "Wasteland". This suggests that even this youthful girl has begun to develop a problem with material fixation and spiritual neglect. These strains of anti-materialism in the story complicate the suicide because they suggest that Seymour is opting out of a world that is too materially inclined for him, instead of one in which he himself is responsible for his own unhappiness and spiritual depravity. Both sets of circumstances, Seymour’s own intellectual greed along with the general material greed by which he is sure, truly contribute to his suicide.
The reasons for Seymour’s suicide are thus proven to be muddled in "Bananafish," with several different factors coming into play. The interpretation of Seymour obtained from the story is that he is troubled by his own spiritual shortcomings (the result of too much intellectual treasure) as much as by the shortcomings of the people and the world around him. These factors ultimately lead to his suicide.