Through his writing, Salinger critiques his cultural environment—the United States in the post–World War II era. In “A Perfect Day for Bananafish,” Salinger critiques the materialistic consumer society of postwar America, which reveled in excess and gluttony. The country’s economic boom prompted people to buy things that they or their parents had never before been able to acquire. This prosperous period marked a drastic departure from the scarcity necessitated by the war and the Depression that preceded it. During this time, women were the target audience of marketing campaigns for products ranging from kitchen appliances to luxury clothes to magazines. For a returning solider like Salinger or Seymour who was coming home from a devastated Europe, this new American boom led to disorientation and unease.
The criticisms conveyed in “A Perfect Day for Bananafish” would not become a mainstream movement for another ten years, and Salinger’s work fits into the larger artistic movement of postmodernism, which began in the 1960s. Postmodernist writers created works that were often minimalist in style, ambiguous in content, and heavily reliant on dialogue to convey meaning. The postmodern writing of Hemingway, Faulkner, and Salinger was the building block for the antiestablishment movement of the 1960s. The antiestablishment movement in literature, music, and society in general rejected the empty materialism of the postwar era and strived to regain a state of childlike innocence. Salinger’s influence on this movement can been seen in writers such as Jack Kerouac and Tom Wolfe, both of whom use outsider antiheros of dubious moral worth.
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