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Course Hero. "Nine Stories Study Guide." Course Hero. 11 Aug. 2017. Web. 12 Nov. 2018. <>.

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Course Hero. (2017, August 11). Nine Stories Study Guide. In Course Hero. Retrieved November 12, 2018, from

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(Course Hero, 2017)



Course Hero. "Nine Stories Study Guide." August 11, 2017. Accessed November 12, 2018.


Course Hero, "Nine Stories Study Guide," August 11, 2017, accessed November 12, 2018,

Nine Stories | Quotes


They're very ordinary-looking fish when they swim in. But once they get in, they behave like pigs.

Seymour Glass, "A Perfect Day for Bananafish"

Seymour Glass's parable of the bananafish underscores a central theme—loss of childhood innocence to the ways of adult materialism—both in "A Perfect Day for Bananafish" and Nine Stories as a whole. The fish represent humanity, and the bananas, material goods or unconscious ways of thinking, or both. The fish (humans) are "ordinary" until tempted by bananas (material goods). They stuff themselves until they can't exit through the same hole they entered. In the same way, society's "peculiar habit" forces people to accept materialism as a permanent way of life until they die of "banana fever"—a zeal for materialism as a means to fill the void in their lives. Seymour, understanding what he does about superficial materialism, is overwhelmed by alienation and malaise, which leads him to commit suicide.


If you want to look at my feet, say so ... But don't be a God-damned sneak about it.

Seymour Glass, "A Perfect Day for Bananafish"

Seymour Glass's encounter with the woman in the elevator serves as a counterpoint to his interaction with Sybil Carpenter at the beach. Sybil accepts Seymour's nonconformity fully, but the woman rejects him and even turns her back when he accuses her of being "a God-damned sneak."


If Lew's mother ever dies—ha, ha—she'll probably leave me some old monogrammed icepick or something.

Eloise Wengler, "Uncle Wiggily in Connecticut"

Eloise Wengler's bitter statement tells the reader quite a bit about her personality. She not only resents Lew Wengler's family but also believes they see her as superfluous, worthy of only an afterthought. In another passage, she quips that her husband and daughter look so much alike that she needs a dog so there will be someone to look like her.

That she jokes about Lew's family "monogramming" an ice pick suggests she finds them oppressively image and class conscious. The icy afternoon setting ties in with the ice pick, reflecting the coldness that has taken over Eloise's personality since college.


He said when he'd get to be general, he'd be stark naked. All he'd be wearing would be a little infantry button in his navel.

Eloise Wengler, "Uncle Wiggily in Connecticut"

Eloise Wengler's description of her dead boyfriend Walt's odd sense of humor about how he believed the higher up he went in military rank, the more he would lose his outward appearance, mirrors her own wish for a life in which promotion, or social advancement, could lead to someone becoming more and more "naked," or authentic. She recognizes she herself has done the opposite.


A few years before, it had taken her three days to dispose of the Easter chick she had found dead on the sawdust in the bottom of her wastebasket.

Narrator, "Just Before the War with the Eskimos"

When Ginnie Mannox does not discard the sandwich Franklin Graff gave her, the narrator reveals she did not discard a dead Easter chick she found, either. Considering that the story begins with Ginnie refusing to let Selena Graff forgo paying the money she owes Ginny, clearly Ginnie does not let things go easily. But Ginnie doesn't ultimately take the money from Selena, so meeting Franklin has inspired Ginnie to grow, even if just a little bit.

The Easter chick is a symbol of hope, which Ginnie clings to in spite of the fact the chick is dead. The sandwich she saves becomes another representation of hope, or communion. Together, they represent her desire to connect authentically with people outside the narrow world of New York society, where social status is everything.


I was not even my parents' son in 1928 but a ... smooth impostor, awaiting their slightest blunder ... to assert my true identity.

Nameless Narrator, "The Laughing Man"

In "The Laughing Man," the boys spend most of their waking hours outside school with the Chief. Just as the Laughing Man is the Chief's alter ego, so is the Chief their alternative parent. The idea that the narrator waits to assert his "true identity" in opposition to his parents reflects the classic adolescent wish to differentiate oneself, but this wish is subverted at the end of the story when the Laughing Man dies, leaving the boys without their "true" parent.


The Laughing Man's last act, before turning his face to the bloodstained ground, was to pull off his mask.

Nameless Narrator, "The Laughing Man"

This quotation echoes a theme introduced in "A Perfect Day for Bananafish": A person is only truly free to be who they really are in death, whether figurative or literal.


You aren't an admiral. You're a lady all the time.

Lionel Tannenbaum, "Down at the Dinghy"

Boo Boo Tannenbaum pretends to be an admiral, blowing imaginary taps through her fingers. Her son Lionel Tannenbaum rejects her playful impersonation of male authority, preferring to see her as "a lady." In the story there is some indication he is angry with women, particularly Sandra, who has insulted his father.


Nobody's aiming to please, here. More, really, to edify, to instruct.

Staff Sergeant X, "For Esmé—With Love and Squalor"

The Nameless Narrator/Staff Sergeant X makes this pronouncement as he embarks on his story about how he met Esmé. It is a good example of unreliable narration, where the narrator makes a declarative statement, asking the reader to reach a certain interpretation regardless of what the story itself reveals.


He was rather like a Christmas tree whose lights, wired in series, must all go out if even one bulb is defective.

Staff Sergeant X, "For Esmé—With Love and Squalor"

This passage describes the mental state of Staff Sergeant X at the height of his battle fatigue. The comparison of his nervous system to a string of Christmas lights is like the comparison with the broken watch; in both cases, the narrator compares his mind to a failed mechanism.


Everybody is a nun.

Narrator, "De Daumier-Smith's Blue Period"

The narrator of "De Daumier-Smith's Blue Period" writes this in his journal after experiencing a strange epiphany: human bonds can be forged as a result of our individual loneliness and isolation. The meaning is that we are all alone, but we are alone together.


The worst that being an artist could do to you would be that it would make you slightly unhappy constantly. However, this is not a tragic situation, in my opinion.

Narrator, "De Daumier-Smith's Blue Period"

This is the narrator's (as Jean de Daumier-Smith) advice to Sister Irma, in a letter he never sends. The letter is the only sincere thing he writes to another person in the entire story. It is also the only time in the story when he mentions his feelings about being an artist, something that lies at the core of his identity.


After I go out this door, I may only exist in the minds of all my acquaintances ... I may be an orange peel.

Teddy, "Teddy"

Teddy watches as orange peels, dumped from the ocean liner, briefly float on the water's surface. Afterward, he says they exist only in his mind now. In the same way, all existence is temporal and eternal (as spirits continually reincarnate) as intangible as an image or real as an orange peel. As Teddy says in another passage, everything is God.


Nothing in the voice of the cicada intimates how soon it will die.

Teddy, "Teddy"

This Japanese haiku is an apt description for how Teddy lives his daily life in the story, despite his clear foreknowledge of his own death. He makes detailed notes, answers letters, and inquires about an activity being held later on that day. While he is living, he is alive, according to a plan. When he dies, his death, too, will be according to plan.


'The trouble is,' Teddy said, 'most people don't want to see things the way they are.'

Teddy, "Teddy"

What Teddy means here is that most people are so attached to the way they view the world—as a series of objects rather than a unified whole in which the objects are all connected—they cannot achieve enlightenment.

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