Wife of Seymour Glass. She is quite shallow and is inextricably tied to her family, who wishes her to move back to New York and leave Seymour behind. Seymour commits suicide while Muriel is lying asleep in bed beside him.
A young man recently returned from combat in World War II. He seems to suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder and has recently completed a stay in the hospital. We're not quite sure what provokes being committed to the hospital, but he has allegedly wrecked his father-in-law's car by deliberately driving it into a tree, done something to his grandmother's chair, and alerted his in-laws that he might harm their daughter. Seymour commits suicide in "A Perfect Day for Bananafish."
A young girl who befriends Seymour Glass on the beach and goes into the water with him. Her name 'Sybil,' often is used for characters who possess seer-like qualities, and Sybil here is the character who can see the bananafish - and remind Seymour of the innocence he has lost.
An unhappily married suburban housewife who reminisces about her college days and her old love, Walt, who was killed in the war. Eloise, has experienced both the phony world she despises and the beautiful world she appreciates. Specifically, the phony world involves her loveless marriage which she fends off with a terrible alcohol habit. Eloise has watched herself decline from a loving, hopeful girl into a cruel and bitter one. She tells Mary Jane she remembers being a 'nice girl' once upon a time.
Mary Jane is the secretary to a New York executive named Mr. Weyinburg and has most of the day off as a result of her boss's sickness. She stops off at Eloise's house, as Eloise is her friend and former college roommate, and ends up lending a supportive ear as Eloise pours her heart out.
Ramona is Eloise's daughter and nearly blind. Despite her disability, however, she has a vivid imagination and sees her imaginary boyfriend named Jimmy in her mind's eye. Eloise, however, appreciates Ramona's imaginary friend because she remembers once upon a time being naive and innocent - whereas now she is just cold and bitter. When Jimmy dies in Ramona's imagination, she quickly replaces him with Mickey.
With the full name Virginia Maddox, Ginnie is an adolescent girl who demands her friend Selena reimburse her for cab-fare after tennis. She seems to be usually something of a diminutive presence in relation to Selena. She summons up her strength and stands up to Selena for the money (or, rather, the principle of fair exchange) - only to back down shortly thereafter, in a conciliatory gesture.
Franklin is Selena's brother. He works at an aviation factory during the war because of heart troubles and has a crush on Ginnie's sister.
Franklin's friend, Eric is a dandy, clad in fancy clothes and with a taste for Cocteau.
Full name John Gedsudski, 'The Chief' is an N.Y.U. law student, described as "extremely shy" and "gentle", who leads an after-school organization for young boys called the Comanche Club.
Mary is a strikingly beautiful girl in a relationship with the Chief.
The Laughing Man
The Laughing Man is the hero of a running story-saga the Chief tells his Comanches. Disfigured in his youth, the Laughing Man wears a red poppy-petal mask and commits crimes around the world.
Boo Boo Tannenbaum
Boo Boo Tannemnbaum, or Beatrice Glass, is the rich mother of three children, who consoles her son Lionel after he overhears a maid call his father a "kike."
One of Boo Boo's maids.
The other of Boo Boo's maids.
Esme is a thirteen year-old girl who the narrator of "For Esme - with Love and Squalor" meets in a Devon tearoom shortly before the D-Day Invasion. Precocious and bubbly, Esme masks her insecurities with big words and lots of verve.
Esme's younger brother, who revels in the following joke: "What did one wall say to the other wall?" "Meet you at the corner!"
Husband of Joanie, Arthur remains quite worried that his wife has not come home from a party. Arthur is also worried about losing his job.
Arthur's coworker Lee tries to console Arthur, all while knowing full well where Arthur's wife is.
Arthur's wife Joanie has disappeared, leaving Arthur bereft. In reality, she has gone home with his friend Lee.
The directeur of an unlicensed correspondence art school in Montreal.
M. Yoshoto's wife.
A nun at a convent near Toronto, Sister Irma needs to learn drawing in order to better teach it. The nineteen year-old narrator of "De Daumier-Smith's Blue Period" decides she has a rare talent, and endeavors to nurture it.
Full name Theodore McArdle, Teddy is a boy-genius known by professors across America and Europe. Teddy engages with conversations with Nicholson about the fragile nature of life - and in the end appears to act on his thoughts by pushing his little sister into the pool.
Bob is a grad student who speaks with Teddy about his ideas. In particular, Bob is impressed by the breadth and depth of Teddy's spiritual knowledge.
Teddy's younger sister, who may or may not be pushed into the pool by Teddy in the story's ambiguous ending.
Mr. and Mrs. McArdle
Muriel's mother balances a casual concern for Seymour's problems with the belief that her daughter should just abandon him and go off on a cruise. She seems to treat everything with almost a fatal casualness, and ironically it's Seymour himself who ultimately treats his own life with nonchalance, ending it while his wife is asleep beside him
Nine Stories Questions and Answers
The Question and Answer section for Nine Stories is a great
resource to ask questions, find answers, and discuss the novel.
Seymour explains that bananafish have a tendency to swim into holes filled with bananas. While perfectly normal fish before entering the holes, once inside the bananafish become ravenous and devour all the bananas they can spot. The result: they...
Boo Boo attempts to reach out to her son Lionel on his turf, to play a game by his rules, and must share in a kind of imaginary landscape Lionel has established in order to do so. Boo Boo must show patience and understanding to do this. The story...
When he described the size of it on Esmé's arm, I thought it served to emphasize her fragility, that she really was a little girl, in contrast to her confident verbal demeanor. And, then when she sent it to him, this keep-sake of her father,...