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Listen to the Echo of Silence: Sound in Salinger’s Nine Stories

By Sam Wang, V Form

Listen to the Echo of Silence: Sound in Salinger’s Nine Stories

J.D. Salinger’s Nine Stories opens with a Zen koan: “We know the sound of two hands clapping. But what is the sound of one hand clapping?” Reading through the book, the audience may find the unusual plots and characters do not make sense when interpreted logically. The only breakthrough to these unresolved and thought-provoking endings of Salinger’s stories is through reflecting on “the sound of one hand clapping,” to break the logic and hear the impossible sound.

In the first story, “A Perfect Day for Bananafish,” the conversation between Seymour, a veteran of the war, and the little girl Sybil seems random but profound. For instance, Seymour talks to Sybil in a nonsensical way. When asking where is Sybil from, Seymour playfully annoys her by asking, “Is that anywhere near Whirly Wood, Connecticut, by any chance” (Salinger 21).  Seymour suggests to Sybil what they can do after going to the water: “we’ll see if we can catch a bananafish,” and when Sybil mentions another child, Sharon Lipschutz, Seymour says to himself, “how the name comes up. Mixing memory and desire” (Salinger 19). The audience may find Seymour strange at first sight. However, looking back to his interaction with Sybil after knowing about Seymour’s suicide at the end, these words may intrigue the audience to think about their connotations. Seymour implies his suffering in the postwar society by bananafish, and he longs for spiritual salvation by Sybil, an innocent child, when almost everyone around him is acting like a bananafish.

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