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A Perfect Day for Bananafish Discussion Questions

Instructor: Grace Pisano

Grace has taught high school history in several states with a master's degree in teaching.

~'A Perfect Day for Bananafish~' is a short story written in 1948 by J. D. Salinger. It was published in the New York Times and is a quick read for high school students. Use these questions to help students think critically about the plot.

''A Perfect Day for Bananafish'' by J.D. Salinger

''A Perfect Day for Bananafish'' is a short story written by J.D. Salinger and published in 1948. In the story, we see a troubled relationship between a husband and wife, a mother and daughter, and a man and a young girl. The plot is full of twists, by which Salinger is able to send a clear message to the reader. Use this guide after reading the story.

Although the reading level is appropriate for high school students, there are sensitive issues discussed. Be sure to debrief students after reading and discussing ''A Perfect Day for Bananafish.''

Critically Discussing the Story

  • How would this story have been different if it were written in the 21st century?
  • What literary elements does Salinger use to quickly develop the plot? In your opinion, which is most effective?
  • Based on what you know about when the story was published and world events, what do you think was going on with Seymour in the book?
  • The author is making a statement about identity (and loss of identity). How does Salinger reinforce the importance of this theme at the end of the story?
  • Did the story frustrate you at all? If so, how?
  • Give the story a rating out of five stars. Justify your rating.

Analyzing the Plot

  • What does the following quote (from one of the first paragraphs) tell us about Muriel? ''She looked as if her phone had been ringing continually ever since she had reached puberty.''
  • Throughout the first few pages, we see glimpses of a conflict emerging, but not a direct statement of the problem. What did you guess was happening while Muriel was on the phone with her mother?
  • It seems that the conversation between Muriel and her mother quickly transitions from very serious topics (physical and mental safety) to light topics (like fashion trends). What is the author saying about women of the time by doing this?
  • Who is Sybil? Based on her conversation with her mother, how old do you think she is? What phrase does she keep repeating?
  • When Sybil runs down to Seymour, what do we learn about their relationship? Does it seem odd? Why?
  • As you're reading the conversation between Sybil and Seymour, what stood out to you the most? What confused you? What did you predict was happening?
  • What happens to Seymour on the elevator?
  • Describe the conclusion of the book. Did this surprise you? Why do you think it happened so abruptly?
  • Knowing what happened in the conclusion of the story, if you had bumped into Seymour on the elevator, what would you have said to him? Do you think this would have changed the way it ended?

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