This section contains 2,500 words
(approx. 7 pages at 400 words per page)
Nine Stories Summary & Study Guide Description
Nine Stories Summary & Study Guide includes comprehensive information and analysis to help you understand the book. This study guide contains the following sections:
Seymour Glass is a young soldier who has emerged from World War II deeply troubled. He has been hospitalized as a result of his mental state, but has now been released. He acts strangely and inappropriately. His unusual actions are only hinted at in the story, but he has apparently wrecked his father-in-law's car by deliberately driving it into a tree, given his wife a book of poetry in German expecting her to learn the language so she could read it, and has done something unspecified to her grandmother's chair. His in-laws are concerned that he may try to harm their daughter.
When young Sybil startles Seymour on the beach, he instinctively reaches for his lapel as if for a gun, indicating his perhaps frightened and uncertain state of mind. He is at ease with Sybil, speaking to her in a playful, adult way. His one exchange with an adult is insulting and irrational. Seymour speaks resentfully of his wife, who he seems to think is idle and vain. The extent of his instability is not fully known until the end of the tale when he takes his own life.
Muriel Glass is the wife of Seymour Glass and the first character to appear in the story. She defends Seymour and his behavior to her mother, but at the same time discusses it with a psychiatrist she meets at the hotel. She has apparently waited for Seymour while he was away during the war and is still supportive of him, in her way. Muriel is presented as somewhat shallow, as concerned with hats and dresses as with her husband's strange actions. She seems to spend much of her time in the hotel room, sleeping.
Muriel's mother is the voice of worry in the story. It is through he conversation with Muriel about Seymour that his odd behavior is first described. She lives in New York with Muriel's father. She has come to disapprove of Muriel's marriage to Seymour and encourages her to leave him, offering to come and get her. Like Muriel, she seems to give Seymour's mental well-being and modern fashion equal weight in conversation.
The young girl who befriends Seymour at the seaside hotel. Seymour takes Sybil for a ride on a rubber float and tells her about bananafish.
Eloise is originally from Boise, Idaho. She came to New York to go to college, where she met Mary Jane and fell in love with Walt. Eloise did not finish college, and Walt was killed in an accident while he was serving in the military in Japan. She has stayed in touch with Mary Jane, whom she sees occasionally. Eloise is married to Lew and has one daughter, Ramona. She lives in suburban Connecticut, and is the only mother in her neighborhood.
Eloise is physically and emotionally isolated in her home. She is envious of Mary Jane's relative freedom, and resentful of her husband, who has turned out to be a different person than she thought she was marrying.
Mary Jane is Eloise's roommate from college. She was married briefly to a soldier who was put in jail for stabbing someone, and now is a private secretary for an affluent businessman. She is presented as being somewhat flighty and does not always seem to connect with Eloise's caustic sense of humor. Eloise seems to envy her freedom.
Ramona is the young daughter of Eloise and Lew. She is the only child in her neighborhood and has taken an imaginary friend, Jimmy Jimmereeno, whom she treats as if he is a real person, even making room for him in her bed at night.
Grace is the maid for Eloise and Lew. She is married and lives in New York City, but also has a room at the suburban house where she works.
Lew is Eloise's husband. He works in New York City and takes the train to and from home in Connecticut. He once told Eloise that he loved the works of Jane Austen, but she later found out that he had never read any. He only appears in the story briefly as the unheard half of a telephone conversation, during which Eloise treats him shortly.
Ginnie Mannox is an affluent teenage girl who lives in Manhattan and attends a private girls' school with Selena Graff. Ginnie is resolute and resistant to being manipulated, as when Selena tries indignantly to avoid splitting the taxi fare with her. Yet she is sometimes manipulative herself, forgiving the debt and offering friendship to Selena once she has become enamored of Selena's brother, Franklin. Ginnie has a perhaps typical low view of her older sister, Joan, and is pleased to hear her criticized by Franklin. She is perhaps a little obsessive, choosing to keep the already day-old chicken sandwich that Franklin gives her. Ginnie is the only character in this collection whose inner thoughts are described by Salinger.
Selena is a teenage schoolmate of Ginnie Maddox. They play tennis together on Saturdays, and Selena always brings fresh balls, as her father manufactures them. She pretends to be oblivious about her debt to Ginnie and becomes indignant when Ginnie calls it in. She is haughty to Ginnie until Ginnie pretends to show an interest in being friends, which seems to please her.
Franklin is Selena's brother. He is in his twenties. Franklin attended college, but has not finished. He was exempted from being drafted into the military because of a heart condition, and spent the war working in an aircraft plant. He is boyish and adrift. He has bitter feelings toward Ginnie's sister, Joan, over her perceived snobbishness. He is relaxed and friendly with Ginnie, even though he has not met her before.
Eric is a friend of Franklin's whom he met while working at the aircraft plant. Eric was also exempted from being drafted into the military, because of a bad "constitution", he explains, but it is implied that he is homosexual, which would also have eliminated him from service. Eric is a sharp dresser and lives in his own apartment. He is apparently trying to expose Franklin to higher culture, encouraging him to see an art film as opposed to the mysteries and thrillers that Franklin prefers.
The narrator of the story is looking back fondly on a specific time in his youth. As a boy, he was one of several others who spent every day after school playing sports or visiting museums with a young law student they called The Chief. The narrator was something of a leader among the boys, serving as captain of one of their baseball teams and usually getting a good seat on The Chief's bus in order to better hear the latest installment of the bus driver's oral story, The Laughing Man. In retrospect, the narrator describes a time when he felt the world held unlimited potential and he shared in the sense of adventure and possibility that were embodied in The Chief and the stories he told. The end of the Laughing Man saga profoundly affects the narrator.
The Chief is the nickname for John Gedsudski, a young man who is employed by several New York City parents to entertain their boys after school and on holidays. He drives a bus in which he transports the boys to Central Park to play sports on nice days, or to a museum on rainy days. He is a well-built, stocky young man and is very popular with the boys. He is very creative, and his installments of the "Laughing Man" stories keep the boys engaged and silent as they listen intently. The Chief eventually takes a girlfriend, Mary Hudson, which initially creates confusion among the boys.
Mary Hudson is the girlfriend of The Chief. She has attended college, but it is implied that she has not finished. She meets The Chief and the rest of the boys whenever she is in New York City to visit her dentist. The Chief picks her up in his bus. Her presence is confusing to the boys at first, who are not certain why a female should be present in their all-male world. When Mary proves she can compete at baseball, however, she is quickly accepted.
The Comanches are the young boys whose parents have hired The Chief to pick them up after school and keep them entertained. They spend their afternoons playing baseball, visiting museums, and listening to The Chief's installments of The Laughing Man.
Boo Boo Tannenbaum
Boo Boo Tannenbaum is a small, "stunning" woman of twenty-five. She is married and has one young son, Lionel. It is revealed incidentally that she is also the sister of Seymour Glass, who appears in the story "A Perfect Day for Bananafish." Boo Boo and her husband are affluent, with an apartment in New York and a lakeside home in Connecticut. She is portrayed as a loving and attentive mother to Lionel, who is a very sensitive child.
The young son of Boo Boo. Lionel is a sensitive child who is set off by unusual and unpredictable things, usually something spoken. His reaction is to run away. He frequently hides around the house.
The Tannenbaums' maid. She resents the Tannenbaums and speaks poorly of them behind their back. She finds Lionel's behavior disturbing.
Mrs. Snell is the gossipy cleaning lady who works for the Tannenbaums. She lives in the village near the lake house.
Narrator/Staff Sergeant X
The narrator of the story does not reveal his name, but includes himself as a character in it called Staff Sergeant X. X is a thoughtful, educated, literate man who begins his military career in a quiet section of England where he is undergoing training. He goes to Europe on D-Day and is present there throughout the fighting, clear through the end of the war on V-E day. He emerges from the fighting a changed man, one on the brink of mental breakdown. Indeed, he has already had a breakdown for which he was been hospitalized. He begins his recovery after reflecting on a conversation he had before the fighting with a charming young English girl named Esme.
Esme is an articulate, charming young English girl. Her parents have both died, her father in the fighting in North Africa. She has inherited a family title as a result, but does not share it with strangers, she says, because they tend to become overly impressed. She wears a large man's wristwatch, a gift from her father which she passes on to Staff Sergeant X. Esme lives with her aunt and looks after her younger brother, Charles.
Charles is the younger brother of Esme. He enjoys riddles and is of the impression that they become funnier each time they are repeated. Charles is a willful boy who only listens to his older sister.
Corporal Z is the jeep partner of the narrator during their time in Europe. He has a girlfriend, Loretta, in the United States to whom he writes regularly with the narrator's help. He is a good deal younger than the narrator and sometimes blunt about the narrator's mental condition.
Lee is the name of the "gray-haired man" who is the first to appear in the story. Lee is an unmarried lawyer at the same firm as Arthur, who calls him late at night looking for his wife. Lee is in bed with Arthur's wife. He lives in New York City.
A married lawyer at the same firm as Lee, and the husband of Joanie, the girl in Lee's bed. Arthur lives in New York City, but is thinking of moving to Connecticut to have more time alone with his wife. He does not trust his wife, and is not certain that he loves her. Yet, he is sentimental about her and cannot bring himself to leave her.
Joanie is the amorous wife of Arthur, and is "the girl" in Lee's bed. She shows some remorse for cheating on Arthur, but not much. She has violet eyes.
Narrator/Jean de Daumier-Smith
"Jean de Daumier-Smith" is the invented name of the narrator of the story. He arrives at the name by attaching the plain name "John Smith" (after rendering the first name in French) to the last name of the famous painter Honore de Daumier. Orphaned at a young age, "Jean" is raised in Paris by his stepfather, Bobby. He is an enthusiastic youth and has some artistic ability, although perhaps not as much as he pretends. He is a compulsive liar, claiming to be a personal friend of Pablo Picasso.
Mr. Yoshoto is the head of the correspondence art school in Montreal, Les Amis Des Vieux Maetres, where "Jean" take a position. He is a competent artist, and a man of regular habits. "Jean" describes him and his wife as "inscrutable". His art school is unlicensed and is eventually shut down. He speaks French, but little English.
Mrs. Yoshoto is the wife of Mr. Yoshoto and assists him with the business of the art school. She also cooks for the three of them. She speaks some English.
Bobby is the stepfather of the narrator. He was a stockbroker who lost everything in the great crash in 1929, but found success again as an art appraiser in Paris. He takes good care of his stepson, and is very charming, which his stepson only admits after hsi stepfather dies of thrombosis.
Sister Irma is a young nun who has been assigned to teach drawing at her convent school and has applied to the correspondence art school where Jean is a teacher. Jean is impressed by her work, mainly out of boyish enthusiasm, it seems. Sister Irma is not allowed to continue with the art lessons following Jean's overenthusiastic response to her work.
R. Howard Ridgefield
Ridgefield is one of Jean's art students. He creates obscene drawings of illicit scenes.
Bambi Kramer is another of Jean's art students. She favors sentimental and cute subjects.
Teddy is the reincarnated soul of an Indian holy man in the body of a young boy. He has been reincarnated as an American child, he says, because of a transgression in his previous life. He meditates regularly and claims to be able to enter infinite dimensions, allowing him to see the future. He seems to predict his own death, which comes suddenly at the end of the story.
Mr. McArdle is Teddy's father. He is a radio actor in New York and uses a very loud voice. He is demanding of Teddy and indulgent toward his daughter, Booper.
Mrs. McArdle is Teddy's mother. She indulges Teddy and is protective of Booper. Neither Mr. nor Mrs. McArdle leave their beds during the story.
Booper is Teddy's six-year-old sister. She is impatient and petulant and does not like Teddy. Teddy explains that she has not been a human being for many lives. It is implied that Booper pushes Teddy into an empty pool to his death.
Nicholson is a college professor of Education who is on the same ocean liner as Teddy. He approaches Teddy casually a few times before engaging him in serious conversation. He is sometimes politely condescending to Teddy, but eventually earnestly seeks his opinion.
This section contains 2,500 words
(approx. 7 pages at 400 words per page)