Love, Death, and War in J.D Salinger’s
“Uncle Wiggily in Connecticut”
J.D Salinger was best known for his portrayal of isolationism and the loss of innocence in his literary works. Like many Modern artists of the 1950’s, such as his good friend Ernest Hemmingway, Salinger was highly interested in reflection of the individual as well as the disconnectedness between adults and children (Calloway 3). In his short story, “Uncle Wiggily in Connecticut”, Salinger uses the themes of love, death, and the war to reflect the emotional detachment between Eloise and her own life, as well as her relationships with her husband and daughter.
Eloise and her college roommate, Mary Jane are introduced to the reader at the same time, the beginning of the story. Both women have left college before finishing for reasons related to men. The setting for much of the plot resides within the living room of Eloise’s house. The language Salinger gives Eloise mirrors her critical and somewhat cold attitude. As the two women position themselves comfortable on the couch, they begin to discuss past classmates and relationships. We are first introduced to Eloise’s relationship with her mother-in-law.
Though the information regarding this relationship is brief, we are able to gather that they do not get along."I don't have one damn thing holy to wear. If Lew's mother ever dies--ha, ha--she'll probably leave me some old monogrammed icepick or something". The manner in which she speaks about this reflects her carefree attitude. After Mary Jane attempts to inquire about the relationship between Eloise and her mother-in-law, the young woman quickly changes the subject. As their conversation continues, involving other classmates and their husbands, they are interrupted by the introduction of Ramona, Eloise’s young daughter. Salinger wastes no time in feeding the reader the relationship, or lack thereof, that Eloise has with her daughter. Upon Ramona’s entrance into the house, she commands her to go into the kitchen so that Grace, the servant can help her take off her goulashes. “Ramona," Eloise shouted, with her eyes shut, "go out in the kitchen and let Grace take your galoshes off "(Salinger). It seems as though Mary Jane is more excited to see the young girl then her own mother is. Eloise does not ask to see the girl, nor speak to her, and the reader is unaware of where the girl might be coming from and how long she was out. This clues us into Eloise’s detachment from Ramona. Upon sending Ramona to be tended to by Grace, she shifts the focus back to the alcoholic beverage, which serves as a plot device and focal point throughout much of the story(Witalec). Mary Jane begins, after insisting that she does not need another drink, to inquire about Lew, Eloise’s husband. Eloise gives critical replies about how their child looks nothing like her, and how Ramona, Lew, and her mother-in-law could pass for triplets. The fact that she is separating herself from her family, in such an outright and obvious manner, exemplifies the disconnectedness that Salinger uses in much of his work. Surprisingly, when Mary Jane asks for a kiss, Ramona quickly replies “I don’t like to give kisses” (Salinger). This could be seen as a result of the lack of affection that the young girl is missing, the same way Eloise seems to lack affection. Also, the fact that she has conceived an imaginary friend, Jimmy, who is lacking both a mother and a father, could be comparable to the lack of emotional involvement she might experience from both parents(Smith 639). However, the young girl exhibits a type of love for her imaginary friend, and Eloise seems to be critical of the confidence that her daughter places in Jimmy “"You just think so. I get it all day long. Jimmy eats with her. Takes a bath with her. Sleeps with her. She sleeps way over to one side of the bed, so's not to roll over and hurt him" (Salinger). Eloise lacks this...
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