Blue Melody

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“Blue Melody” Analysis

"Blue Melody" is a short story by J. D. Salinger which was first published in the September 1948. It is the tragic tale of an African-American jazz singer; the story was inspired by the life of Bessie Smith and was originally titled "Scratchy Needle on a Phonograph Record." Cosmopolitan changed the title to "Blue Melody" without Salinger's consent. It is possible to interpret the original title of the story. Stratchy needle may mean time and experience of a person which scrape our life, and in this context life is a phonograph with its own track.

The story is told from the point of view of an observer, who participates in this story. He is an objective narrator with a low degree of omniscience for he just relates the story once told to him by a man he traveled with. The narrator tells us the story of one man; his name is Rudford, who tells him his own story on their way from Luxemburg City to the front at Halzhoffen, Germany.

The time of setting is the second World War,” mid-winter of 1944” which chronologically should go in the end of the story. The narrator gives us a clear picture of those hard times: an overcrowded GI truck, a distance of four flat tires, three (reported) cases of frozen feet, one case of incipient pneumonia, the forty-odd men jammed in the truck, . These remarks about the distance and such cases which happened with people are not accident, and only few of them were reported; there is more to it than meets the eye. The author wants to show the burden of war. The narrator describes what he sees from the corner. He is different from the others. He even doesn’t want to evoke a conversation with any of the soldiers. He just observes the scene of their pedestrian life. An absolute darkness in this truck makes the atmosphere more tragic and tense by the usage of dry, gloomy verbs and the choice of words help to create such sarcastically tone: truck fairly rocked with persiflage, night abruptly fell and the black-out curtains were attached, all men seemed to go to sleep or freeze to death. The narrator observes how white soldiers discuss such serious topics as “favorite statesmen”, and then they sing songs composed by “patriotic Broadway songwriters”. The author mocks them from the side, probably showing his own disapproval to such behavior. While the story unfolds we understand what the reason of his perception of these people is. Sarcastic tone add such high-flown words as “persiflage, ostensibly and elaborately”; juxtaposition (“brigadier general who seldom stepped into his command car without wearing a Luger and a photographer, one on each side”), metaphor (“perhaps permanently embittering turn of the wheel of fortune”), and the use of bookish words and expressions (“by the latter”, “persiflage”). The author even uses zeugma “He had the cigarettes and I had the ears” to emphasize his attitude towards these characters in the truck, his unwillingness to communicate with others except this man, who starts telling his story.

From that moment the author introduces a new character Radford into the story. He is the main participant of the events. Story of Rudford’s childhood is presented from the words of the narrator, stream of impersonal experience. The very fact that the narrator is recounting a story suggests the form of the narration – frame narrative, where fabula and sujet don't coincide.

The main part of the “Blue melody” is the narration of Rudford’s life, his childhood, his friends, and his experience. From the very start we understand that he is a captain in the medics, because of the Red Cross and bars on his helmet and he isn’t well, as the narrator says: foxhole cough. That is all information that is given to the readers about his current appearance.

The author uses such a technique as anticipation when he speaks about this story as he says ”a simple story of mom’s pie, ice cold beer, the Brooklyn Dodgers, and the Lux Theater of the air”. He wants to...
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