There is a difference between sad and depressing and it is this: sad is what you feel when you read about Seymour. In “A Perfect Day For Bananafish” you are sad to see Seymour, a character you adore because of his kind and not-condescending way of speaking to little kids, so cut off from the world. You do not like it when he’s in pain, you do not like the fact that he has witnessed war, you hate it when other people talk bad about him. While he makes you sad, he still manages to make you smile by the things he notices about the world and about other people.
However, you are downright depressed by Zooey. At least I was.
The difference here is that Zooey does not make you smile. Zooey is mean to his mother (just imagine Seymour bullying his mother like Zooey does!). And you want to like Zooey as much as you like Seymour because you know that he’s very intelligent and can see the world like Seymour did. But you can’t, because Zooey is so very mean.
But then you see the way Zooey talks to his sister Franny, like he desperately wants to help her someway, but can’t. And you realize that there is more to Zooey, more to this book. From what I think of him, Zooey cannot help disliking some people, people with superficial thoughts, especially people who try to show off knowledge they do not have. However, he also dislikes himself for being so bitter and is trying to have a kinder outlook. He knows that he cannot change people, but perhaps he can try seeing beyond their shallowness. He’s also embraced Seymour’s idea of being the best you can be for the Fat Lady, striving for perfection and not being condescending, and the Fat Lady is – everybody.
“But I’ll tell you a terrible secret – Are you listening to me? There isn’t anyone out there who isn’t Seymour’s Fat Lady.”
We also have Franny, who accuses Zooey of being destructive. Yes, he is, but not nearly as much as Franny. Franny also dislikes people, for the same reasons as Zooey but her own bitterness depresses her and she does not know a way out. She’s going crazy because she has recently noticed that people are awfully phony, with their huge egos and selfish desires to fling themselves into the spotlight. She does not want to understand them or like them. And there is also the possibility that she might be becoming one of them, wanting to be loved and admired.
“I’m sick of not having the courage to be an absolute nobody.”
“I’m just sick of ego, ego, ego. My own and everybody else’s. I’m sick of everybody that wants to get somewhere, do something distinguished and all, be somebody interesting. It’s disgusting.”
Which makes you think… if Seymour also thought of “the Fat Lady” as everyone in the world, and tried to do the best he could, be the best he could be for the Fat Lady… then why did he kill himself? If he saw people’s deficiencies as endearing, and forgave them for their egos, then why did he end his life?
Franny and Zooey is about Franny’s mental breakdown, and the rest of the Glass family (Zooey in particular) trying to help her. And they also helped me. Being sick of people and being sad about it isn’t going to change anything. You just have to shine your shoes for the Fat Lady.