The Pain of the Seer in the Civilization of the Blind: Faulkner and Salinger

  • Raymond J. WilsonIII
  • Jerre Collins
Part of the Analecta Husserliana book series (ANHU, volume 106)


In Seymour, An Introduction, J. D. Salinger’s character Buddy Glass juxtaposes words of a literary artist (Kafka) and a philosopher (Kierkegaard) in Buddy’s agonized attempt to understand the suicide of his brother Seymour, a suicide that echoes in many ways that of William Faulkner’s character Quentin Compson. Both of Salinger’s quotations depict an author’s inability to fully realize his or her vision of characters, depiciting this failure as the defiance of the characters against the author. Buddy says that the ideas reflect danger to the eyes, a reference that calls to mind Jacques Derrida’s interpretation of Rousseau—that civilization advances at the price of blindness to its inhabitants. Interestingly, Faulkner’s Quentin also fears for his eyes at one point. Both the Quentin section of William Faulkner’s The Sound and the Fury and J.D. Salinger’s “A Perfect Day for Bananafish” lead up to a suicide which shocks the reader, and then each author wrote other works to reveal the back-story as if to help explain the suicide. Both story and novel-section have parallels in action (the main character spends time before the suicide with a little girl), image (fish), and character (both are aspiring authors and “seers”). Both Quentin and Seymour regret the idea that girls must grow into women, and both see flaws in their respective societies too well to live comfortably in them. Quentin sees the heritage of slavery and racial hatred that has formed the South of his day, and Seymour sees the aspects of society that are hostile to the imagination. While not fully explaining Seymour’s suicide, the similarities of “Bananafish” to the Quentin section of The Sound and the Fury provide a suggestive background that makes Seymour’s suicide more comprehensible, and especially why Seymour chose to shoot himself in the head over the sleeping form of his wife Muriel, rather than to slip quietly into deep water as Faulkner’s Quentin did.


Literary Artist Real Story Clerical Error Roof Beam Literary Talent 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Loras CollegeDubuqueUSA
  2. 2.University of Wisconsin-WhitewaterWhitewaterUSA

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