Laughing Man

“The Laughing Man”, the fourth short story within the “Nine-Stories” series, uses death in a different way, not so bluntly. The story leaves for a lot more meaning and reflection, as intended by J.D. Salinger and all of his stories. The story is told by a Narrator, a man looking back on his youth, in the summer of 1928, when he used to participate in an afternoon sports camp/club called the “Comanches Club.” The club is ran by a man named John Gedsudski, but rather known to the kids as “the Chief.” The narrator vividly remembers the stories the Chief told the kids as the sun went down, before driving them home. The stories revolve around a creation of the Chief’s, a shadowy figure known as the “Laughing Man”, and the narrator provides the reader with an accurate retelling of his story. The Laughing Man was an “ugly”, distorted looking man who was ugly enough to make people faint in front of him. Although people thought of him as ugly, the animals did not, and that’s where he found his peace. The animals represent the children in this story, and the Laughing Man represents the Chief, the children being his only friends in the world. The Chief described the Laughing Man as a lonely but courageous individual who had a lot to offer, and was more than what’s shown outside of the box. One day, a character is introduced by the name of Mary Hudson. Mary Hudson and the Chief appear to have a sort of hidden “love” relationship for one another. After she was brought into the Comanches life, the Chief brings on a new installment of the Laughing Man while waiting for Mary to get on the bus, and begins explaining. The Laughing Man’s best friend, a timber wolf named Black Wing, was captured by the Dufarges, who offered the Laughing Man Black Wing’s freedom in exchange for his own. The Laughing Man agreed, giving himself up be tied to a tree in the forest by Dufarge and his daughter. Dufarge had lied and duped the Laughing Man, causing the Laughing Man to finally take the mask hiding his ugly face off, and confront him. He was met with a round of bullets, and the story stops there. The Chief becomes irritated waiting for Mary, but shortly notices her. They don’t really speak, but the Chief appears to be upset, towards her and the Comanches. The Chief then finishes the installment, bringing it to an end. The Laughing Man almost survives the gun shots with the help of a friend, but in the end dies. The Laughing Man has died, and we can assume that throughout the entire Laughing Man saga, that the Laughing Man was a part of the Chief that he did not want to admit, and that the final bullets that had killed him are metaphorically Mary. The Laughing Man dies with a “peculiar and heart rending gasp of final sorrow.” This story is very different from the others, as the main character technically did not die, but a piece of him has. It shows that real world events can change a person, for the better, or for the worse. Death is brought into this story, showing the death of ego, the death of a person’s perspective on life, and the death of relationships which we, the readers, will all go through.