A Perfect Day for Bananafish

by: J. D. Salinger

Sybil Carpenter

Young Sybil, like Seymour, is alone and misunderstood. Her mother misunderstands her chanting of Seymour Glass’s name as the nonsense words “see more glass,” which suggests that Sybil, too, lives in a world were no one understands her. With Seymour, however, she speaks freely and randomly, and Seymour listens intently and responds in kind. More important, she seems to understand Seymour in a way that adults cannot. She enters his imaginary world easily, willingly engaging in his silly talk and fantastical claims about bananafish. For a brief time, she and Seymour inhabit the same imaginary universe, creating life on their own terms, from their own minds. Sybil breaks the dream, protesting when Seymour kisses her foot. Although she is the child and Seymour is the adult, she is the one who is more willing to return to the real world, and when she runs from Seymour back to the hotel, she does so “without regret.”

The name Sybil suggests an allusion to Greek mythology, in which sibyls are figures who can see the future. Sybil is a kind of seer because she is able to see the bananafish that Seymour describes. In some ways, she seems to be wise beyond her years, recognizing that Seymour needs for her to “see” what he sees. Her ability to “see” the bananafish ultimately suggests her ability to understand Seymour. Her connection with him, however, cannot save his life, even though it granted him a final moment of happiness.