(1919-2020), America

J.D. Salinger’s Top 10 Stories Ranked

While J.S. Salinger is certainly best-known for his one novel, The Catcher in the Rye, he also wrote numerous short stories. Many of these stories use similar themes and characters like those found in The Catcher in the Rye. Throughout his life Salinger published stories in various newspapers and literary journals, many of his best appeared in The New Yorker, his favorite publication. Ten of the best stories from his entire literary career can be found below.

1. “A Perfect Day for Bananafish”

In “A Perfect Day for Bananafish” Salinger writes about Seymour Glass’s suicide. The story is set in a seaside resort in Florida where the family talks about and dismisses Seymour’s possible psychiatric trouble. He was recently discharged from the Second World War.

2. “For Esmé—with Love and Squalor”

“For Esmé—with Love and Squalor” is certainly one of J.D. Salinger’s most popular stories. After writing it, he described getting more letters about that one story than anything else he’d ever written. It describes  a meeting between a sergeant and a young woman before he’s sent out into combat during WWII.

3. “The Laughing Man” 

This frame story was inspired by the Victor Hugo novel for the same name. The main character describes experiences from his youth and then delves into the story of the Laughing Man as it was relayed to him. His story is told by the Chief who goes into serialized detail, adding the next chapter to the story each night the child spends at the Comanche Club. 

4. “Franny and Zooey”

While “Franny and Zooey” is made up of two stories, it is often thought of as one two-part story. The two were first published together as a book in 1961. Both stories focus on sisters, Franny and Zooey, also members of the Glass family. One story tells of Franny Glass, who is seeking out a spiritual release from her mundane world. “Zooey” happens after “Franny”. It is set in the Glass family apartment in New York City and describes Zooey’s attempts to help Franny through her spiritual crisis. 

5. “Just Before The War with The Eskimos”

“Just Before The War with The Eskimos” was also published in The New Yorker and later in Nine Stories. It will appeal to those who found Holden Caulfiled’s perspective on the world to be relatable. Salinger taps into themes of alienation and redemption, while making use of the American post-WWII landscape as his setting. The story focuses on a few young people and is filled with symbols of religion. 

6. “Uncle Wiggily in Connecticut”

This short story was originally published in the March 20, 1948 in The New Yorker. In it, the main character pines for a relationship with Walt Glass, one of the many Glass family members. Despite Eloise’s best attempts to come to terms with her marraige, she can’t shake off Walt’s death. Salinger wrote this story while in Stamford, Connecticut. It is one of many that delves into the lives of upper-class Americans in the post-WWII period. Eloise, as are other characters in Salinger’s stories, is forced to see herself clearly for the first time. 

7. “Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters”

This is one of two stories, the other being “Seymour: An Introudction” that were included in a volume of the same name. The two novellas were quite popular. “Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters” is one of the many Glass family stories that Salinger wrote. In this one, Buddy Glass narrates and describes Buddy’s trip to Seymour’s wedding during the Second World War. Its in this story that a reader can find many of the elements that lead to Seymour’s suicide, one of the pivotal events in this universe. 

8. “Teddy” 

“Teddy” was published in The New Yorker in January 1953 and finished the year before in November. IN this story, Salinger uses a young child, Teddy, to speak about Zen enlightenment. The story is split into short segments, or vignettes that provide the reader with an overall image of the dynamics on a ship. 

9.“Down at the Dinghy”

“Down at the Dinghy” was originally published in Harper’s in April of 1949. It was later included in his best volume of stories, Nine Stories. Salinger wrote it when he was at Lake Geneva, Wisconsin in 1948. It features one of the most important members of the Glass family, “Boo Boo” Glass Tannenbaum. It was originally titled “Killer in the Dinghy” and takes on elements of anti-semitism and family dynamics but focuses on the power of human connection despite differences or histories. 

10. “Seymour: An Introduction”

This story is the second in a small collection titled Raise High the Roof Beams, Carpenter. In it, Salinger provides important details about Seymour, Buddy Glass’s brother, who commits suicide. The story is narrated by Buddy in a stream of consciousness style. It also makes use of many of the subjects, images, and themes that are present in Salinger’s other stories. 

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Emma Baldwin
About Emma Baldwin
Emma graduated from East Carolina University with a BA in English, minor in Creative Writing, BFA in Fine Art, and BA in Art Histories. Literature is one of her greatest passions which pursues on Book Analysis.

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