Social Inheritance in Salinger's "A Perfect Day For Bananafish"

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Social inheritance is the prejudices and beliefs that are taught to individuals by their parents, schools and the general society as they grow up. The beliefs teach

people about how the world works regarding social associations. Social inheritance has a significant effect on the mindset of individuals which propels them to make specific decisions or think in a certain way regarding other people. In the “A perfect day for Bananafish” by Salinger, social inheritance is portrayed by the choices people make and the actions they execute. It is clearly seen in the two mother-daughter relationships in the book whereby the beliefs and behavior of the parent is reflected in their daughters. The paper discusses the parallels drawn from the two mother-daughter relationships based on social inheritance, things that infatuate

and repulse Seymour.

Social inheritance is portrayed in the relationship between Muriel and her mother. There are some beliefs and conduct that are common in both women. Firstly, regarding their way of communication, Muriel and her mother have haphazard conversation whereby neither of them pays attention to the concerns of the other (McGrath 32). The mother tries to express her concerns about Muriel’s husband’s strange and rude behavior, but Muriel does not pay attention; instead, she is preoccupied with the evening events at the resort and fashion. The mother complains of the recent behavior of Seymour as bizarre and antisocial and tries to warn her that her husband may lose control. Muriel does not consider the concerns of her mother. Instead, she dismisses her by saying that his behavior is manageable. On the other hand, Muriel reassures her mother that she is fine over and over again, but the mother does not hear her out as she continues getting worried about her. Neither of them truly succeeds in communicating their message to the other.

There is a similarity between the two women in the way they treat Seymour. They have a long conversation discussing his behavior where the mother shows concerns. She says that Seymour has strange and rude behavior referring to the case when he had a car accident. She farther explains that he is just from war and beliefs that he was, discharged prematurely from a military hospital. Muriel’s mother is only concerned by the daughter’s safety regarding the matter (Mc Allister-Grande 7). On the other hand, the daughter dismisses her mother by saying that her husband is manageable. Neither of the women gets concerned about the emotional well-being of Seymour.

Social inheritance is exhibited in the relationship between Sybil and her mother. The mode of communication between the two is quite similar. Sybil and her mother fail to have clear communication. Sybil’s mother does not pay attention to what the daughter is saying. She goes to a level of misinterpreting what the daughter wants to communicate. There is an instance when Sybil says Seymour glass and the mother interprets it as “see more glass”: “Did you see more glass?” Sybil asked. “Pussycat, stop saying that. Its driving mommy crazy” (Fassano 149). The mother answered. She applies sunscreen on Sybil’s body and dismisses her quickly so that she can go to the hotel to have some drinks. The act shows her disinterest in communication with her daughter for selfish gain. Once Sybil learns that the mother is not interested in whatever she was saying, she seems relieved to be dismissed. She runs off to the shores where she meets with Seymour, and they start a competition. Additionally, neither of the people seem to have much concern about the other. When they finished applying the sunscreen, which had brought them together, they both get other things to do. Sybil’s mother quickly dismisses the daughter off, and the daughter quickly wonders away without complaints.

Despite the negative treatment that Seymour Glass encounters, he has a deep inspiration to try and fit in the society. Seymour suffers psychologically due to the impacts of war experiences (Mc Allister-Grande 13). With the psychological distress, he is infatuated with the desire to fit in the society which lacks in the society. It is the reason why he turns to inspiring innocence and simplicity. It is the reason why he finds comfort in and refuge in having a conversation in Sybil. Seymour desires to live in an environment free from adult greed and suffering. The reason why he isolates himself and spends time at the beach.

Seymour desire for refuge yields results when he encounters his refuge. His communication with Sybil calms his destabilized state of mind. His continuous communication with Sybil shows his desire to be in an innocent state. Seymour finds the possibility of redemption from his psychological torture in the world of children. Seymour’s affectionate and sympathetic interaction with children boosts his desire for innocence. His need for redemption of his troubles is propelled by an emotional distance of the adults surrounding him including his wife (Fassano 149). Also, he gets troubled by the selfishness of his wife, who does not care about his emotional well-being. She is preoccupied with beauty and class.

Seymour faces some setbacks which cause his disappointment with life. To begin with, he was deeply affected by the experiences he got at war as a soldier. He might have suffered mentally and emotionally during the war. That calls for special attention for his mental well-being. On the contrary, no one seems to care about his psychological state (Smith 650). He is only entertained to have a conversation with children while adults are busy with other things. He finds difficulties in fitting into the society because people isolated him and paid no attention to his psychological distress. The author shows how people view Seymour: as mentally unstable. Muriel’s mother describes Seymour’s character as strange and rude from the accident he had and his outrageous behavior. Despite the great concern Muriel and her mother have over Seymour, neither of them shows concern that the irrational conduct may indicate that he has mental suffering. Most people treat him as Muriel’s mother instead of trying to understand him. They avoid him because they think he is weird.

Seymour is portrayed as a loaner whereby he spends time alone in the desert. He has separated himself from other people due to their treatment towards him. Before Sybil joins him, he lies down at the beach with a bathrobe that is tightly cinched-up. The fact that Seymour cultivates friendship with Sybil-a four-year-old girl in a society with adults shows his level of isolation. His frustrations with the people around him are seen when he accuses a woman at the elevator for staring at his feet, for no apparent reason: “if you want to look at my feet, say so. But don’t be a God damn sneak it” (Fassano 150). In the end, Seymour finds cruelty in people and the world around him and because of their phony and detached behavior and commits suicide: “Then he went over sat down on the unoccupied bed, looked at the girl, aimed the pistol and fired a bullet through his right temple” (Smith 648).

In conclusion, social inheritance is a theme that is widely covered in Salinger’s book. In the relationship of Muriel and her mother, the individuals possess similar conduct and decision-making. Also, both Sybil and her mother exhibit strained communication and less concern for each other. Seymour is infatuated with the desire to fit in the society after coming back from the war, where he prefers the state of innocence as the adults surrounding him are selfish and unfriendly. On the other hand, he is repulsed by the treatment he receives from people who could not address his emotional problem. In conclusion, Salinger’s book addresses various ways in which people relate causing negative impact amongst themselves.

Works cited

Fassano, Anthony. “Salinger’s A perfect day for Bananafish.” The Explicator 66.3 (2008): 149-150

Smith, Dominic. “Salinger’s Nine Stories: Fifty years later.” The Antioch Review (2003): 639-649.

McGrath, Charles. “JD Salinger, Literacy Recluse, Dies at 91.” The New York Times

28 (2010).

Mc Allister-Grande, Bryan. “JD Salinger’s pedagogic creed.” (2010).

December 12, 2023

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