Course Hero. "Nine Stories Study Guide." Course Hero. 11 Aug. 2017. Web. 17 Jan. 2019. <https://www.coursehero.com/lit/Nine-Stories/>.
Course Hero. (2017, August 11). Nine Stories Study Guide. In Course Hero. Retrieved January 17, 2019, from https://www.coursehero.com/lit/Nine-Stories/
(Course Hero, 2017)
Course Hero. "Nine Stories Study Guide." August 11, 2017. Accessed January 17, 2019. https://www.coursehero.com/lit/Nine-Stories/.
Course Hero, "Nine Stories Study Guide," August 11, 2017, accessed January 17, 2019, https://www.coursehero.com/lit/Nine-Stories/.
Although the stories have many common themes, each story in Nine Stories is unrelated in plot and situation. As if to emphasize their lack of connection, they are presented simply in order of when they were originally published, with the earliest story coming first.
Muriel Glass, alone in a Florida hotel room, talks on the phone with her mother about the mental condition of her husband, Seymour Glass, who was released from an Army psychiatric hospital and may lose control of himself "at any time." The plot shifts to the beach, where Seymour tenderly helps a little girl, Sybil Carpenter, to conquer her fear of the waves. Seymour tells Sybil the story of bananafish (imaginary) creatures who are perfectly fine until they swim into a hole, eat so many bananas they become too fat to escape, and die of "banana fever." After returning to the hotel from the beach, Seymour pulls out a pistol he has hidden in his luggage. While Muriel sleeps on the twin bed opposite the twin bed he sits on, Seymour shoots himself in the head.
Mary Jane, a Manhattan secretary, arrives two hours late to visit her old college roommate, Eloise Wengler, one cold and icy afternoon. While the weather worsens outside, the two women drink and talk about their past, including the death of Eloise's old boyfriend, Walt. Eventually, Mary Jane falls asleep. Angry and frustrated, Eloise denies her maid's request to let her husband spend the night because of the bad weather and orders her daughter, Ramona, to stop sleeping on the edge of her bed to accommodate an imaginary friend.
Annoyed by the fact that her schoolmate and tennis partner, Serena Graff, always stiffs her on the cab fare back to their Manhattan apartments, Ginnie Mannox follows Serena home to claim her share. While Serena tries to get the money from her sleeping mother, Ginnie talks to Franklin Graff, Serena's older brother. A friend of Franklin's from the airplane factory, where they both served during World War II, arrives to take Franklin to an art film, and when Serena finally reappears, Ginnie tells her not to worry about the money after all; they are even because Serena always brings fresh tennis balls.
The narrator looks back in time to 1928 when he and some other Manhattan youths belonged to an organization known as the Comanche Club. Club activities are coordinated by the Chief, 22-year-old law student John Gedsudski, who takes the boys on outings to play baseball, after which he regales them with serial tales of the Laughing Man, a clever outlaw with a hideous face he keeps concealed behind a mask of red poppies. The Chief briefly dates a vivacious girl named Mary Hudson, who proves good at playing baseball. When he and Mary break up, the Chief kills off the Laughing Man in a final chapter of the story, to the shock of the listening boys.
Two domestic servants, Sandra and Mrs. Snell, drink tea and gossip in the kitchen of the Tannenbaums' summer home. Sandra laments that the Tannenbaums, for unknown reasons, are staying on past the season. Boo Boo Tannenbaum enters the kitchen, looking for pickles to lure her four-year-old son, Lionel, from the boat, where he has gone to "run away," an already well-established habit of his. Eventually, Boo Boo goes outside and tactfully persuades her son to rejoin the family.
After receiving the invitation to a wedding he will not be able to attend, the narrator reminisces about his days of secret military training in Britain prior to D-day (June 6, 1944). On a rainy afternoon, he stumbles into a children's choir rehearsal and is struck by a self-possessed young girl with an excellent singing voice. Later, he meets the same girl, 13-year-old Esmé, and her little brother, Charles, at a café. Esmé offers to correspond with him and, hearing he is a writer, demands he dedicate a story to her, one full of "love and squalor." The narrative shifts to some time after V-E day (Victory in Europe, May 8, 1945), when the narrator, referring to himself in third person as Staff Sergeant X, is suffering a mental breakdown in the small Bavarian town where some American troops are stationed. He opens a package that has finally made its way to him, and it contains the promised letter from Esmé, along with her father's watch, which she was wearing when they met. The watch crystal has been "broken in transit."
Lee and "the girl," who is most likely Joanie, lie smoking in bed late one night when they are interrupted by a phone call from Arthur, who wants to know if Lee has seen Joanie, his wife. Lee invents scenarios for Joanie's whereabouts and asks Arthur about a court case he defended for the law firm where they both work. Arthur alternates between insulting and praising his wife, then he finally hangs up. While Lee and "the girl" insincerely berate themselves, Arthur calls back again to assure Lee that Joanie just arrived home safe and sound and the couple is ready to make a new start, leaving the reader uncertain of knowing if and why Arthur is lying.
Following the death of his beloved mother, the 19-year-old narrator moves from Paris to attend art school and share a Manhattan hotel room with his stepfather, Bobby Agadganian. He looks down contemptuously on Americans and jumps at the chance to teach at a correspondence art school in Montreal for the summer, led by a Japanese couple, the Yoshotos. For the Yoshotos' benefit, he invents an elaborate persona, "Jean de Daumier-Smith," but they barely register his presence. He receives several student portfolios to monitor, most of them by vulgar Americans. The exception is a Canadian nun who possesses great natural talent. De Daumier-Smith writes the nun familiarly, leading the convent to terminate her participation in the school. In a fit of pique, Smith writes to kick his other students out of the school for being talentless, but he later has a change of heart and reinstates them—days before the school is closed for lacking an operating license. He returns back to Manhattan in time for the fall semester.
Mr. and Mrs. McArdle bicker casually one morning, from their ocean-liner cabin beds, while their 10-year-old son, Teddy, leans out the porthole window. They ask Teddy to retrieve a camera from his younger sister, Booper, and send her back to the cabin. Afterward, while Teddy writes in his journal, an American professor (who has spent the summer doing research in Dublin) approaches Teddy to discuss his ideas about spirituality and reincarnation. Teddy finally excuses himself to have a swimming lesson. The professor follows him down to the pool and hears a young girl scream on his way down the last flight of stairs.