I’m almost ashamed to admit that I’m only 200 pages into Orwell’s 1984, (I’ve forgotten when I even started the novel!), but I guess my excuse is my 20-page paper which is due at the end of the month. Nothing ruins pleasure-reading like grad school!
Right now I’ve just reached the part where after all the planning and toiling over Hate Week, Winston learns that his country of Oceania has just switched their enemy of Eurasia to Eastasia–and no one bats an eye over this turn of events, as if if had always been and will always be that way.
1984 is such a perfect read given that Veteran’s Day is tomorrow, because it demonstrates just how incomprehensible and useless war really is. Granted, I haven’t finished the book, but I hope that Winston and his comrades will be able to escape the iron grip of Big Brother some way–even if it has to be in death. But no spoilers!!!
I wanted to honor literary veterans by discussing my favorite war story: “A Perfect Day for Bananafish” by J.D. Salinger. This short story was published in 1948, right after World War II. It features Seymour Glass, of Salinger’s famous fictional Glass family. Seymour and his wife Muriel are on vacation on a Florida beach, but Seymour exhibits rather odd behavior.
He tells a young girl named Sybil about creatures called “bananafish.” He explains:
“Well, they swim into a hole where there’s a lot of bananas. They’re very ordinary-looking fish when they swim in. But once they get in, they behave like pigs. Why, I’ve known some bananafish to swim into a banana hole and eat as many as 78 bananas…Naturally, after that they’re so fat they can’t get out of the hole again.”
Naturally, Sybil asks what happens to bananafish, and Seymour replies that they die. It’s at this point where you realize that this story has a much deeper meaning than a simple family vacation, and that Seymour is not okay. I won’t give away the ending, but I can’t think of a better story which addresses war and the PTSD from which many veterans suffer, often unnoticed by the people around them.
Salinger is an exquisite writer, and I loved this short story so much. Feel free to share your favorite war stories in honor of our literary (and real) veterans!
PS: Speaking of war, “The Hunger Games” trailer will be shown on Good Morning America this Monday! May the odds be ever in your favor!