The Sound of Silence

From: John Gedsudski <>
Date: Mon Feb 03 2003 - 19:57:44 EST

>So, did holden have 'Banana-fever'?
>"He was an Old man who fished alone in his skiff in the Gulf Stream and he
>had gone eighty-four days now without taking a fish."
> Ernest Hemingway

No, Daniel, Holden Morrisey Caulfield did not have Bana-fever. It is too bad
this question has gone unanswered on this list for so long. It goes to show
you how those professors/professional critics (running with those sharpened
scalples no doubt) are as dodgy as sweaty politican. Answering questions
only after researching the zeitgeist or status quo or little birds perched
around those ivory towers. Forgive me if I'm headed towards that typical
John G. ignominy many on this list have come to loathe (many private
emails-from lurkers no less- have reinforced this stance) but a straight-out
Salinger question like this, and a particularly open-ended one, should have
been addressed long before this ponderous writer replied.

While their are many characters in the work of JD Salinger whom display an
insatiable drive towards material satisfaction, Holden, like most of the
young characters, is an exception. The most telling symptom of banana-fever,
as described by Seymour, is the fact fishes are perfectly normal going in.
Yet, after a short while they consume so much fruit they die because they
cannot escape from the consequences of their lack of vision. Such is the
case with Eloise, Rhea, and Mary. All of them older women, of course, but
the category is not exclusive to this age group, as evidenced by Muriel and
Sybil. More importantly, the Fat Lady helps best interpret what bananafever
does to a person. While it does not kill them physically, the disease leaves
it's carrier spiritually bankrupt, which is worse than a physical death
(according to Vedantic tradition and Seymour's mystical approach). So Mrs.
Fedder and the Fat Lady continue to live a life of desperation but are
oblivious to it while seers like Seymour and Teddy suffer.

In Caulfield's case, he appears to refuse the elite status he was born into
(e.g.hiding his good luggage so his roomate would feel better) while at the
same time making an effort to live a spiritual life. He's never
self-absorbed, as a matter of fact he comes across as humble. Giving those
nuns that money. Just wanting to talk to Bunny. Asking Old Luce about
Eastern philosophy. Crying when Phoebe gives him the money. Missing
everyone. There are so many instances of his thoughfulness, albeit
misdirected and often off-base, that one cannot blame him for "going crazy."
After all, his younger brother dies of cancer, his older brother sells-out,
and the one teacher he admires molests him. Every time I read that book I
respect his mental fortitude and physical constitution more and more,
because it takes quite a battering through the story. While he does end up
institutionalized, he does not suffer from banana-fever, unlike his brother

Most of Salinger's characters contract banana-fever early in their lives.
They also choose not to go down that path, as exemplified masterfully by the
Anonymous Man in DDSBP. Some ride the fence, such as Nicholson in Teddy,
someone who may take a passing interest, even commit serious study to the
Way yet fail to grasp it. I would bet those professors who "grilled" Teddy
are good examples of what I am talking about. Intellectualization, in this
tradition, never leads to Realization. That is precisely why Buddy failed.
While Seymour's briliance was unparalleled, he also believed in
indiscrimination. So those obese smelly white trash ladies loafing on the
porch are just as important as the revered and awe-inspiring Billy Black.
Buddy never could accept this, which is why we sense the judgements in his
description of the Matron-of-Honor and also Muriel of course. But it is her
book-club mom, whom Seymour pulls for, that he really dislikes. So, like
Zooey, he avoids human contact and hunkers down somewhere obscure in life.
While he records the life and times of his late, reticulate brother, Buddy ,
as a person, is nothing more than a murmer under the resonate voice of his
brother. Exactly why the Glass family points out his mimicry, and why he
retreats to his comfortable hermitage.

I hope you found this, if not an answer, at the least benefical, as it felt
good to write it.


John Gedsudski
Adjunct Professor of Sanctimony
North Philistia Community College
Whirly Wood, Conn.

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Received on Mon Feb 3 19:57:46 2003

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