A Response To A Review Of Raise High The Roofbeam, Carpenters And Seymour: An Introduction MAG

By Unknown, Unknown, Unknown

   My response concerns Aaron Shield's rave review of the J.D. Salinger work, Raise High The Roofbeam, Carpenters and Seymour: An Introduction, from the January issue. Salinger raises questions which are vital to one who is on a path toward true self-awareness; it is for this he is esteemed. However, Salinger's only true success is in evading the questions which he has raised by never supplying the reader with characters who reach an inner peace, but only with those who struggle toward harmony and make themselves deathly ill along the way.

Raise High The Roof Beam, Carpenters and Seymour: an Introduction is about a 40-year-old man, Buddy, dealing with the loss of his brother, Seymour (who tragically takes his own life). Buddy is coping by reminiscing about childhood. It is a very personal and moving piece of literature. However, Salinger makes no attempt to rid Buddy of the "Seymour complex" he has developed, and Buddy seems to be summoning memories not as a therapeutic aid, but rather to torture himself by clinging to his past. The lack of a resolution to Buddy's grief is evidenced by the confused ending, when he decides to "Just go to bed, now. Quickly. Quickly and Slowly."

Salinger's characters often fail to rise above their problems. Another example is Holden Caulfield, the main character of the popular Catcher In The Rye, who is entangled in the whirlwind of adolescence. He is tormented by a desensitized society comprised of "phony" adults. By the end of the novel, Holden has relayed his story of high school expulsion and disappointments to a psychiatrist, yet remains just as he was: disconcerted and frustrated.

Similarly, in the short story "A Perfect Day For Banana Fish," Seymour Glass returns to his hotel room after a day at the beach and ends his life. Those familiar with Seymour and the Glass family know of their long quest toward self-awareness, and also, their failure to succeed.

The entire Glass clan are a brilliant invention. Salinger has created a family of alter egos, while he has withdrawn himself from society's watchful eye. It is the autobiographical nature of his work that does not allow him to reach a solid conclusion. He interferes with his own storytelling. He lapses into the role of Seymour as quickly as he lapses out of it. One can conclude that Salinger thinks a lot about life, raises some pretty heady questions, but bails out when it comes time to construct some concrete paths toward self-awareness.

When Aaron Shield honored Raise High The Roofbeam Carpenters as "one of the most fantastic pieces of writing ever conceived by a human mind," it was necessary to re-examine Salinger's creative thinking and weigh it with his actual accomplishment. We should not be looking to deify Salinger because he raises meaningful questions, but, rather, we should seek to find the answers to these questions and not settle for an author who superficially probes the surface of life's major issues. .

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