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'For Esme with Love and Squalor'
on March 17, 2006
For 'Esme with Love and Squalor' is one of Salinger's best stories. It also appears in his first collection of stories called 'Nine Stories.'
It tells the story of an American G.I. who for one part of the story is in Devon England where he is in training. On one lonely day off he goes into a tea-room and meets an English child and her small brother. Her name is 'Esme' and she is a precocious beautiful and sensitive child with whom the G.I. has a friendly, and somewhat from his point- of- view ironic conversation. The language is pure Salingerese. The little brother acts up and is chided by his sister. He recites a riddle , : What did one wall say to another" and hilariously gives the answer "Meet you at the corner" When the soldier returns the answer at his asking another time he gets upset. But at parting the soldier asks him the question and the little boy gets his spirit back by again giving the answer. More important the soldier and the little girl in some way assauge each other's loneliness. She is lonely for her father who has been lost in the war. He is lonely, lonely.
The scene then changes to an Army headquarters in the heart of the European theatre. The same soldier is on the verge of breakdown when he receives a letter from Esme , which somehow brings him back to a sense that there is something beautiful, whole , humane in the world, something worth living for.
The story of course must be read to be felt truly. My summary is poor. It is such a beautiful story.
I truly suggest you read it. "It will make you laugh. It will make you cry. And you will never forget it."