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down-at-heel

Down at the Dinghy

"Down at the Dinghy" is a short story by J. D. Salinger. It is arguably the least dramatic story within Salinger's Glass family saga. It is told in two distinct segments, the first being the discussion of two house servants about a little boy who is trying to run away, and the second being the mother's intervention.

Plot summary

It features the first daughter of the Glass Family, Beatrice "Boo Boo" Glass. The story opens with the two house servants, Mrs. Snell and Sandra, discussing the peculiarities of Boo Boo's young son Lionel. Sandra is also very worried that Lionel is going to tell Boo Boo something that she said. The reader finds Lionel has a penchant for running away. When Boo Boo returns she chats with the servants for a while and then goes down to the pier. She finds Lionel in a dinghy preparing to cast off. Boo Boo pretends to be admiral of the imaginary ship, in order to win Lionel over and discover why he is trying to run away. He resists, even going so far as to throw his uncle Seymour's old goggles into the lake.

Lionel tells Boo Boo that Sandra called his father a "big sloppy kike". And while he doesn't know what this ethnic slur means, defining it as a kite when asked the meaning of the word from his mother, he picks up on its derogatory nature. Boo Boo attempts to comfort him. At the end of the story, they race across the beach toward home.

Characters

  • Boo Boo: Many allusions are made to Boo Boo throughout the Glass saga, although she is not directly encountered very much in any of the other novellas/novels, such as Franny and Zooey, or Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters and Seymour: An Introduction. She is referred to as the perpetual matron of the family, and this story brings this fact into the forefront.
  • Lionel: This is the only Glass story that Lionel plays a part in, or is even mentioned. He is the son of Boo Boo and her un-named husband Mr. Tannenbaum.

Allusions

When Lionel throws Seymour's goggles into the lake, it is reminiscent of A Perfect Day for Bananafish, another Glass story, where Seymour takes a short swim in the ocean with a little girl.

Release details

  • "Down at the Dinghy" was originally published in Harper's in April 1949.
  • It was also included in the compilation, Nine Stories.

Related works

Other Glass Family stories include:

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