Many critics consider J. D. Salinger a very controversial writer,for the subject matters that he writes. . J. D.
Salinger’s works weregenerally written during two time periods. The first time period wasduring World War II, and the second time period was during the 1960’s. Critics feel that the works during the 1960 time period were veryinappropriate, because of the problems for which he wrote. The maincharacters were generally misfits of society. In most of his works,he has the protagonist of the story go on a quest for happiness.
Salinger does not conform to the material happiness; the charactersundergo a spiritual happiness. The characters generally start out asin bad conditions, through the end of his works they undergone changesthat change them for the better. The works of J. D.
Salinger show the quest for happiness throughreligion, loneliness, and symbolism. Salinger’s works often usereligion in order to portray comfort. In Salinger’s Nine StoriesFranny Glass keeps reciting the “Jesus Prayer” to cope with thesuicide of her brother Seymour (Bloom in Bryfonski and Senick 69). Salinger is able to use this prayer as a means of comfort for Franny. The prayer stands for the last hope for Franny in this situation. Franny would be lost if their was no prayer.
(Bryfonski and Senick71). Salinger shows us comfort in Catcher in the Rye. HoldenCaufield, the protagonist, is very much in despair for losing hisgirlfriend, so Caufield reads a passage in the Bible. This helpsHolden change his outlook on life (Salzberg 75). Holden was all aloneat this point and had no one to turn back on, until he found the Bible(Salzberg 76).
In both stories the characters had found themselves inbad situations. The characters in these works have obstacles whichthey must overcome in order to achieve happiness (Salzman 34). Happiness is the very substance which all of these characters arestriving for in Salinger’s works. Salinger uses religion in his worksto comfort them so that they can proceed on their quest to achievehappiness. Salinger uses religion as a means for liberation.
Salingeruses much of the Zen philosophy, as in the case of Nine Stories, toachieve this liberation (Madsen 93). In Nine Stories one of thecharacters, Seymour Glass, is portrayed as Buddha in the sense that hewants to be liberated as Buddha was in his life (Madsen 93). SeymourGlass in Nine Stories has a certain philosophy about life, it issimilar to the Eightfold Path used by Buddha when achieving nirvana(French in Matuz 212). Seymour Glass is on a quest to become freefrom all of the suffering in his life as Buddha was from his life(French in Matuz 213). Seymour follows the Eightfold path to becomeliberated from suffering (Madsen 96). Seymour achieves “nirvana” byliving a good life and end anything that causes suffering.
Seymour isable to attain nirvana by committing suicide (Lundquist in Matuz 211). Salinger shows us that when Seymour committed suicide he let go ofall of the suffering that he encountered, thus attaining the happinesshe longed for (French, Salinger Revisited 132). Salinger showsliberation as an end to all suffering, thus creating happiness for thecharacter. (French, Salinger Revisited 133). The final function ofreligion as a means to attain happiness was to gain peace In “TheYoung Lion,” Salinger uses religion to gain peace through afictitious war.
In the story many of the soldiers were dying and thecountries were in turmoil (Lundquist 312). The leaders in the storysee a vision on the battlefield that changes them, and stops the war(Lundquist 315). Salinger shows how religion can be a force used tocreate happiness in a story, by creating peace (Lundquist 313). Salinger is able to use religion as a means of attaining happinessthrough peace. The story seemed very dismal, until religionintervened and stopped the conflict.
Salinger creates happiness forthe characters by stopping the conflict. In “The Stranger” Salingercreates peace through a war by using more of the Zen philosophy. Salinger’s creates a “Pact of Peace” which stops the conflict betweenthe Germans and Polish during WWII (Hamilton in Bryfonski and Senick143) . The “Pact of Peace” was a teaching used by Buddha in the Zenphilosophy (Hamilton in ryfonski and Senick 143). Salinger uses Zen,in this case, to stop the conflict between the Polish andGermans(Hamilton in Bryfonski and Senick 143).
In many of Salinger’sworks the conflict, becomes a source for much of the unhappiness inthe story (Wenke 212). Salinger uses religion as a medium to createtranquility, consequently the characters to achieve happiness (Wenke215). In many of Salinger’s works loneliness is used to isolatecharacters from evil. Salinger portrays all of society to be bad, andfor many character’s isolation from society is the only way to achievehappiness (Grunwald 103). In Salinger’s Catcher in the Rye HoldenCaufield’s entire plot deals with him trying to isolate from society. Holden realizes that society has become bad, and wants no part inthis terrible life (French, Salinger Revisited 192).
Salinger usessociety as the source of discord in this case to be isolated from. Holden is shown as a hermit at the end of Catcher in the Rye (Grunwald68). Grunwald explains “Holden’s tranquillity, at the end, can beascribed to his isolation from society” (68). Holden only wants to beseparated from the society which considers him a misfit. InSalinger’s works a source of unhappiness is usually the fact thatsociety feels the characters are misfits. The characters canonly become happy if they isolate themselves from this society.
Salinger uses loneliness also as a means to change in life. In “Raisethe Roof Beam High,” Salinger is able to use isolation to change thelife of Seymour Glass (Salzman 130). Seymour feels that society hasbecome corrupt and must change his lifestyle in order for him tobecome happy (Salzman 134). Seymour sees that society has no morecompassion on people, and that he must do something to change it(Salzman 136). In order for him to change society he must firstisolate from society (Salzman 140).
Salinger uses loneliness again tobenefit mankind. Salinger in this case makes a person change hislifestyle to isolate from society (Salzman 132). The benefits of thisaction are good not only for the person who has changed, but also helpparts of society which are affected (Salzman 132). Loneliness inSalinger’s works benefits the character’s greatly. Salinger is ableto isolate the characters in his works in order for them to attainhappiness (Grunwald 265).
Salinger describes Seymour as “A recluse,who will never be part of society” (Grunwald 260). He shows thatSeymour wants nothing of this world and wants to be as far away aspossible. The characters see that society has become bad, and inorder for them to become happy they must get away from society, andlive their own lives. Salinger uses many lucky symbols in his works to show to fulfillthe quest for happiness.
In “Soft-Broiled Sergeant” one of thesoldiers wears a pair of lucky underwear, which saves him in battleand helps in finding the love of his life (French, J. D. Salinger 42). The underwear gives the soldier the happiness he is looking for(French, J. D.
Salinger 45). Salinger many times uses funny luckysymbols like this, but can be found to provide happiness for thecharacters (Salzberg 121). Another example of lucky symbols is in“For Esme” Salinger portrays the sun as a lucky symbol to JosephCarney (French, J. D. Salinger 63). The sun is lucky to Joseph in thatit helps Joseph turn his entire life around, from the rut it had beeninto a life of great prosperity (French, J.
D. Salinger 66). The sunprovides inspiration for Joseph to change his life (French, J. D.
Salinger 66). The characters in J. D. Salinger’s works start out in badsituations.
Through the use of lucky symbols their life is changed towhat will make them happy. Salinger uses symbolism in his works alsoto foreshadow a better life. In “Long Debut of Louis Taggett” thesymbol of a cigarette being put out foreshadows the end of a marriage(Galloway in Curley and Kramer 58). The end of this marriage forLouis Taggett, means good for his life (Galloway in Curley and Kramer61).
Louis at the end of the story is able toconcentrate more on his job, where he meets the woman that will reallylove him, and find wealth and prosperity (Galloway in Curley andKramer 59). This symbolism to foreshadow is one of many examples ofhow Salinger uses symbolism to predict a better life (Galloway inCurley and Kramer 61). Salinger many times use subtle, but importantsymbols to foreshadow better things (Galloway in Curley and Kramer62). The character, in this work, has suffered through hardships.
The character’s life is in a total mess at the time. Salinger alsoshows foreshadowing to a better life through “The Last Day of the LastFurlough” (Matuz 157). In the story John Hendren is able Salingeruses symbolism for the character to fulfill his quest for happiness(Matuz 148)John Hendren who is in World War II, has always wore largewooden necklace given to him by his mother (Matuz 148). This samenecklace stops a bullet, which could have killed him(Matuz 149). Johnis later awarded a medal of respect for his valiant effort, giving himlots of fame(Matuz 149). Salinger shows how such symbols providehappiness to the lives of people (Wenke 237).
Salinger uses allusion from other works to show how happiness willbe fulfilled. In Salinger’s Catcher in the Rye, Salinger refersgreatly in one chapter to ducks in central park. The ducks are incontext to a scripture in the Bible, which tells of how the ducks arefree (Galloway in Bloom 53). Salinger later explains that Holden willbecome free as these ducks (Galloway in Bloom 54). In Catcher in theRye Holden’s main purpose was to be free from the suffering (Gallowayin Bloom 58). The ducks represented how he would feel, being happy(Galloway in Bloom 56).
Salinger also shows his symbolism from otherworks through the work of Mark Twain. Salinger portrays how Holden inCatcher in the Rye changes to a different man when he is at the waterfountain in Central Park, as the case in Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finnin which Huck changes when he is on the Mississippi River (Grunwald inBloom 64). Salinger uses symbolism from other books in his books toconvey how the characters in his works will change for a better life(Grunwald in Bloom 67). Salinger uses much of the symbolism to showhow the life of the characters has become happy. Salinger usessymbols to show the turning point of the character’s lives. He showsthat these symbols will change their lives for the better.
The works of Salinger show the quest for happiness throughreligion, loneliness, and symbolism. Salinger’s writings deal withcharacters fulfilling their quest for happiness. He would have thecharacter’s accomplish their quest by going through obstacles, inwhich they learned about their lives. He employed the religion,loneliness, and symbolism as means for the characters to understandhow to obtain happiness in life. The writings of the Salinger, becomevery important for this time period, because he goes against the grainof society to show how it is wrong. The writings of Salinger, whilethey may have been excellent in style, have become very controversialfor what he has portrayed in the society during this time period