The Glass Family Series
“Hapworth 16, 1924”
The New Yorker June 19 1965
“Hapworth 16, 1924” is another account of Seymour Glass delivered by his brother, Buddy. Six years have passed since he wrote “ Seymour-An Introduction” and seventeen years have passed since Seymour's suicide. Buddy has just received a registered mail from his mother, Bessie. Opening it, he discovered a letter written by Seymour to his family back in 1924. The letter is addressed from the infirmary of Camp Simon Hapworth, Maine, where Seymour and Buddy spent the summer when they were seven and five. “Hapworth 16, 1924” is an exact copy of that letter.
Unlike “Seymour-An Introduction,” which emphasized Seymour's saintliness, “Hapworth 16, 1924” reveals a child truly flawed. It is an extremely long letter and a mass of contradictions that display Seymour embroiled in a kind of tug-of-war between spiritual maturity and the confines of his earthly young age.The letter relays Seymour and Buddy's camp experiences, both poignant and painful. Seymour tells the story of how he gashed his leg on a cart wheel and has been sent to the camp infirmary, where the letter is written. Some portions of the letter are shocking. Seymour sternly lectures his parents and siblings while relentlessly issuing them orders. He reveals a burgeoning sexuality to his mother with something of relish and goes on at great length about his physical attraction to the camp director's pregnant wife. But for admirers of Seymour Glass, the letter's most shocking portions are his frequent outbursts of anger and his intolerance for those he deems intellectually and spiritually inferior.
Yet, “Hapworth” also contains many beautiful moments. A long section of the story is devoted to Seymour's request for an enormous supply of books, each with the spiritual-savant's cursory critique of the author's merits. This portion of “Hapworth” has been highly criticized as being boring and over-drawn but it contains insights that are remarkable if read with patience. Also remarkable is a section of the letter that Seymour addresses to God. In it he gives himself over to the will of God completely and dedicates his life to His service.
“Hapworth 16, 1924” can be difficult to read, a fact that has made it unpopular. When released in 1965, literary critics dismissed it. The novella's negative reception has often been cited among the reasons that J.D. Salinger's never published another work.
After decades of silence from the author, the novella was due to appear in hardcover in 1997, but after a frenzy of bad reviews, Salinger withdrew the offer.
More Glass Series Sections:
Franny & Zooey
An overview of Salinger's third book and second story collection, Franny and Zooey provided with a short synopsis of both stories that make up the volume.
The publication of this book aroused the fury of critics but was Salinger's most contemporarily popular publication among readers.
Raise High & Seymour
An examination of Salinger's final book, published in 1963, Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters and Seymour - An Introduction which consists of two stories that center around the eldest of the Glass children just as Franny and Zooey had told the story of the youngest.
A Glass Family Chronology
A cursory timeline of the major events that molded the lives of the Glass family, of Bessie and Les Glass and their seven fascinating and diverse children, Salinger's delightful and gifted "wonder kids".