Post- Traumatic stress disorder and relationships do not seem to coincide with one another. Veterans who suffer from PTSD truly can’t hold on to a relationship due to their disorder. J.D Salinger, a post war trauma veteran who deals with PTSD, had a difficult time with people and especially dealing with his marriage.
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Salinger flashes back on his own personal encounter in the story, A Perfect Day for Bananafish. He described his own perspectives and personal encounters of the issues he dealt with through Seymour Glass. In this story, Seymour Glass suffers from PTSD and is having communication and personal connection problems with his wife Muriel.
This became a serious predicament that they both faced due to his PTSD and is breaking apart their relationship by distancing them from each other and nearly making them strangers. Living with PTSD causes many problems which Seymour is experiencing first hand. He is having trouble dealing with the world around him and in turn is creating a world that fits him and that he can live in. Due to Seymours PTSD there seems to be a big separation between Seymour and Muriel causing them to live in two completely separate lives. Salinger describes how Seymours PTSD is causing a separation from his marriage which reflects on the disconnection of Seymour and Muriel’s marriage.
J.D Salinger was a veteran who fought in World War II. A iconic battle in WWII, was D- day which was an impactful day for Salinger and what really struck his experience during war. After being hospitalized for PTSD, and returning home, Salinger cannot find peace and he is in constant conflict with his wife. Salinger was married to his wife Sylvia. Salinger and Sylvia’s relationship began to suffer when Salinger returns home from war. Salinger kept his relationship with Sylvia a mystery, mainly from his family. After his experience at war, Salinger started to try and get his life back together. Salinger and Sylvia moved to the town of Gunzenhausen. Salinger purchased a car for himself and Sylvia and to complete their family, they added a dog to the clan. Salinger and Sylvia enjoyed driving in their new car, and enjoying their complete family.
However, as much as it seemed that their marriage was going well, Salinger and Sylvia began to grow apart. They started to not speak to each other and began to fight. As Stated in, J.D Salinger: A Life, author Kenneth Slawenski writes, When they were happy ,they were ecstatic; but when they disagreed, the aggression became vicious. Salinger’s penchant toward gloomy sarcasm and Sylvia’s apparent intractability would prove the couple’s undoing. (144). Slawenski demonstrates the different perspectives of both Salinger and Sylvia’s difficulty coping with one another. They each had different views towards the world, being driven into different directions. Salinger still continued to grow with issues with PTSD, giving Sylvia a difficult opportunity to help their relationship repair, but Sylvia began to overlook their relationship. Sylvia was an attractive lady who focused upon her looks and also, was well educated.
As Sylvia began to dismiss her relationship with Salinger, Sylvia mainly focused on herself, giving up the aspect of trying to help Salinger overcome his hard issues during war. This had become too difficult for Sylvia. Shorty after, Salinger encounters a flashback of a postwar incident which for Salinger, was an illusion. Soon after, Sylvia and Salinger’s house was sold, the car was sold, and their marriage was over. According to Kenneth Slawenski, author of JD Salinger: A Life, Salinger admits, He and Sylvia made each other miserable, he said, and he was relieved to see the relationship end (145).
Salinger’s failed marriage reflects upon his troubles with PTSD and being able to cope with the disorder, however, Salinger adapted to his writing abilities focusing his mind on that releasing his stress from the marriage and the disorder. When Salinger’s marriage ended, he encounters relationships with women starting at the age of fourteen, where he seemed to connect more with these younger women. Salinger’s relationship were more intimate with these women and none of these encounters go any further than just being stated as a girlfriend. After Salinger’s marriage ended, Salinger began to write a lot more especially reflecting toward his failed relationship. Conforming to J.D Salinger: A Life, Slawenski adds, Some researchers believes it was an early draft of A Perfect Day for Bananafish’ (145). This leads into the symbolism of the main character, Seymour who is a replica of Salinger.
A Perfect Day for Bananafish, by J.D Salinger, touches upon the disconnection between Seymour and Muriel as they had taken a vacation to recover from his depression from the war. Muriel, Seymour’s wife, focuses on herself and only herself. Muriel is not concerned about Seymour’s health, she had not given him any attention while he struggled to cope with himself, Muriel, and his surroundings. Seymour distanced himself from his surroundings due to his PTSD. Muriel did not take an extra step to help Seymour get through this traumatic experience. Seymour caused a sense of isolation and only connected with a young girl named Sybil Carpenter. However, similar to Salinger, where Salinger began to connect with younger women after his marriage has ended.
As Muriel continued to tell her mother on the phone that Seymour no longer had any issues, Seymour made a connection with Sybil who saw through him unlike anyone else. According to JD Salinger, author of A Perfect Day for Bananafish, Where is he? On the beach.’ On the beach? Does he behave himself on the beach?'(5). The telephone conversation demonstrated the detachment between Muriel and Seymour. The whole time on vacation was spent apart from one another, not knowing if Seymour could be in danger through his isolation from society. Muriel gave a sense of inattentiveness towards Seymour not standing by Seymour’s side throughout the trip. Muriel seemed to take the vacation for herself more than Seymour needed it. This is evident during the conversation that Muriel had on the phone with her mother, who seemed to be concerned of Seymour more than Muriel was. Muriel and Seymour disconnection with each other seemed to touch upon the fact that Seymour’s PTSD leads Muriel to have a carefree attitude toward Seymour, and she didn’t seem interested in fixing their relationship.
Salinger’s own experience with PTSD is stressed upon Seymour. Salinger focuses on the disconnection between Seymour and Muriel but also, places emphasises on the connection between Seymour and Sybil. When Seymour connected with Sybil, this symbolized the start of the relationship of Salinger and Sylvia which implied the happiness that was in their relationship. When Salinger is content with Sylvia their life flows easier making it easy to forget about what occurs wrongly. However, when Salinger displays the disconnection between Seymour and Muriel, this illustrates the rough times between Salinger and Sylvia.
Muriel and Seymour can be seen as a friendship more than a relationship because their is no sense of love. Salinger implied a theme of love, which argues the reason why Seymour connected more with Sybil showing the love and the happiness each bring to one another, even with the age difference that is between them. When Salinger and Sylvia begin to grow apart from one another, Salinger began to become more intimate with younger girls, similar to the way Seymour is with Sybil. Salinger’s interpretation of Seymour relates to his relationship before and after Sylvia.
According to Harold Bloom, author of J.D Salinger, Bloom states, However the full realization of the compassionate inner self is forever out of reach, because, as seen in Seymour,’ the existential facts of life make the inner self one of the ineluctable mysteries. Seymour’ shows the self as unavailable, no matter how seriously sought, in metaphysical terms expressive of the vision at its fullest (65). This demonstrates the difference between Seymour and his surroundings. Salinger created an individual who is different from the rest of society, like himself, where there becomes a disconnection between a love one and himself. Seymour disconnects with Muriel because of his PTSD causing isolation in their relationship. Seymour is unable to cope with the world because Seymour is not able to understand the way that his surroundings do. Seymour’s powerless ability to stand on his own leads to his own suicide, which also reflects on Salinger himself. PTSD impacts Salinger’s life through his rough marriage, but being able to express it through Seymour captures the difficulty of any individual who tries to survive with PTSD.
Salinger expresses his experience of PTSD through his writing. Salinger creatively implies the disconnection between his own relationships, leading to more depth with Seymour and Muriel’s relationship. PTSD can damage one’s relationship, but treatment for this disorder can successfully contribute to an individual who is suffering. Treatment for PTSD is highly recommended and support from family and friends can help the individual cope with themselves, as well as their surroundings.
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