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The Glass Family

Are a fictional family, based in a large apartment in Manhattan. The Glasses are the subject of most of J.D. Salinger's published work; "Franny" and "Zooey" and "Raise High The Roof Beam, Carpenters"/"Seymour - An Introduction" are both centred on them, as are some of the short stories in "For Esmé - With Love And Squalor" (published as "Nine Stories" in the US). There are theories that some of the stories in "For Esme..." may be narrated by Buddy, due to coincidence of dates, but Salinger has never confirmed or denied any of them himself. There are also rumors that Salinger has a large amount of unreleased material written featuring the Glasses, that he has earmarked for posthumous release; we won't know the truth about this until he does actually die.

All seven Glass children appeared, at one time or another, on a coast-to-coast radio program called "It's A Wise Child"; a program whose format was considerably changed by Seymour, and whose long run may have something to do with the Glass children, who all appeared under the pseudonym Black. This is just my opinion, but the family in The Royal Tenenbaums reminded me of the Glass family a great deal.


The Family:

  • Les Glass and Bessie Glass (née Gallagher) are the parents. Les never appears directly in any of the stories, but Bessie turns up in "Zooey", as a traditional Irish mother, fussing about her children, oblivious to their lack of appreciation for her fretting. The couple are retired vaudevillians (retired in 1925), who toured the U.S.A. and Australia with their song and dance routines.
  • Seymour Glass (February 1917 - 18th March 1948) is the eldest of the Glass children, and is described by Buddy as the only poet among them. Although Seymour only directly appears in one story ("A Perfect Day For Bananafish"), he is probably the most written-about of the Glasses. "Raise High..." is concerned with his wedding day, as seen through Buddy's eyes, and "Seymour - An Introduction" is Buddy trying his best to describe his brother. Seymour graduated from college at the age of 14, and committed suicide at the age of 31, while on holiday with his wife Muriel in Florida. He died of a gunshot wound to the head, inflicted while his wife lay sleeping beside him. Buddy still keeps Seymour's telephone, which is in their old room in the Glass apartment, connected, as he claims that he would go mad if he couldn't see Seymour's name still in the telephone directory.
  • Buddy Glass (born 1919) is the author of the family, and the guise Salinger takes when chronicling their lives; "Raise High..." is written in the first person as Buddy, as are "Seymour" and "Zooey" (although Buddy never appears directly in the story). Buddy never actually graduated from college; he couldn't upstage Seymour's feat of graduating at 14, so he decided not to bother. Still, he teaches English Creative Writing at a girls' college somewhere in upstate New York, and refuses to get a telephone installed in his cabin; to Bessie's great annoyance. Buddy is forever haunted by his brother's suicide, which caused him to be the one the rest of his siblings look up to.
  • Beatrice "Boo-Boo" Glass (born 1920) is the eldest daughter in the family, and makes only one appearance - in "Down At The Dinghy". She is a housewife, married to one Mr Tanenbaum, with three children, including a son, Lionel, who also appears in "...Dinghy". She also served with the Women's Naval Reserve (Waves) during the Second World War.
  • Next come the twins, Walter (1921 - Autumn 1945) and Waker Glass (born 1921). They don't appear in any of Salinger's published stories directly; all we know of them is that Waker is a Catholic priest and was a conscientious objector during the Second World War, and that Walter died in an accident in Japan, while serving as a G.I. in the Second World War, leaving behind his wife, Eloise, and daughter Ramona, both of whom appear in "Uncle Wiggily In Connecticut".
  • The youngest of the Glass boys is Zachary Martin "Zooey" Glass (born 1929). An actor by profession, he is probably the most outgoing of the family, but harbors a deep resentment of Buddy and Seymour, who inundated himself and his younger sister, Franny, with classic literature and religious texts (such as the Jesus Prayer) from an early age. Zooey is quite a forceful and opinionated character, who analyses and despairs of most people he meets - a trait he acquired from all the reading he did as a child. Zooey is noted as giving the "most consistently rewarding" performances on "It's A Wise Child", and was second only to Seymour in the audience's affections.
  • Frances "Franny" Glass (born 1934) is the youngest of the Glass children, generally referred to as "the Baby" by her siblings. Like Zooey, Franny's life has been greatly affected by the influence by her two oldest brothers, neither of whom are available in her hour of need. Franny is majoring in English when we first meet her, and dating a young man named Lane Coutrell, who Zooey dismisses as a phony. Like Holden Caulfield, and Zooey, Franny is concerned about people's phoniness; she is very disillusioned with most of her teachers. Zooey chastises her, however, as her disillusionment is with her teachers' "types", whereas she hates them too personally. According to "Seymour...", Franny is a professional actress; presumably, she finished her education first, as she would have been in her mid twenties by the age Buddy is supposed to be in "Seymour...".


References:

  • http://www.bbc.co.uk/dna/h2g2/A809912 : H2G2 article on J.D. Salinger's life and works.
  • http://www.salinger.org : The definitive J.D. Salinger website.
  • http://chimple690.tripod.com/shootinjism/id8.html : A pretty decent mini biography of the Glass family, which I neither cut nor pasted.

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