Friday, June 08, 2007

"The Laughing Man" by J.D. Salinger

From: Nine Stories by J.D. Salinger. Little, Brown and Company, 1953.

The Laughing Man is a larger-than-life rogue whose tall tales are told by John Gedsudski, a twenty-two-year-old law student known as the Chief to twenty-five boys he drives to afterschool sports, the Comanches. Salinger's story covers the course of Gedsudski's romance with Mary Hudson as seen through the eyes of a nine-year-old narrator.

The narrator describes Mary's insinuation into the Comanches' exclusively male environment, first through a picture the Chief displays on their bus, then joining in their baseball games. The narrator's animosity toward Mary evolves into a crush, but he is unable to relay Mary's interaction with John beyond describing their most obvious actions. And though readers are more aware the romance isn't going well, we never learn exactly why.

In The Laughing Man's penultimate adventure, Gedsudski leaves him shot by his lawman nemesis. Finally, The Laughing Man manages to kill his enemies by spitting their bullets back at them, but not before losing his faithful pet wolf. Without his beloved pet, The Laughing Man loses the will to live, leaving the boys for whom he was so real shaken.

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