Skip over navigation

A Perfect Day for Bananafish

J. D. Salinger

Important Quotations Explained

Historical Context

How to Cite This SparkNote

1. “Did you see more glass?”
“Pussycat, stop saying that. It’s driving Mommy absolutely crazy.”

This exchange between Sybil and her mother, which appears about halfway through the story, is an example of how difficult clear communication is for the characters in the story. While Sybil is referring to Seymour Glass, Mrs. Carpenter hears “see more glass” and thinks Sybil is being silly. Mother and daughter are speaking different languages—Seymour Glass is a figure who exists solely in Sybil’s world of childhood, whereas the phonetic interpretation, “see more glass,” is Mrs. Carpenter’s adult take on the phrase. This exchange also reveals Sybil as an outsider in her mother’s adult world, just as Seymour is. This exchange is markedly different from the conversations between Sybil and Seymour. Seymour, unlike Mrs. Carpenter, understands Sybil and is kind and patient with her—in a way, he speaks the language of childhood.

2. “If you want to look at my feet, say so,” said the young man. “But don’t be a God-damned sneak about it.”

As Seymour returns to his room at the end of the story, he accuses a woman in the elevator of looking at his feet. When she denies this claim, he becomes irate. This unfounded anger illustrates two parts of Seymour’s character. First, such a violent and unprovoked outburst shows that he really is mentally unstable. While Muriel has spoken with her mother about Seymour’s psychological condition, this is the only direct evidence in the story that Seymour is in fact not well. Second, Seymour is angry with the woman for being a “sneak”—that is, for being inauthentic. This is a criticism against the materialistic world of the hotel, where appearances rule. Shortly after this exchange, Seymour commits suicide, and in a way, this outburst is an attempt to have one final interaction or communication with the adult world. His effort is inappropriate and disturbing, but its violence reveals the extent of Seymour’s psychological distress.

3. 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.

The final sentences of the story demonstrate Salinger’s control of language to create tone and tension. These short phrases portray Seymour’s actions as calm and matter-of-fact—there is no room for doubt or hesitation in the abrupt phrases. Tension builds as the actions pile up, and until the last moment, there is some ambiguity about whom Seymour will shoot—this may be the crazy act that Muriel’s mother worried Seymour would perpetrate. Instead, Seymour shoots himself, ending his life and the story at the same time. The suicide is so sudden, and at first Seymour’s reasons for doing it seem wholly unclear—he seems unhappy and cut off from the world, yes, but his afternoon on the beach with Sybil did little to suggest that this was to come. However, the story can be read as a slow, simmering buildup of actions and problems, which makes Seymour’s suicide shocking but not necessarily a surprise.

Follow Us