The Laughing Man (Salinger)

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The Laughing Man
Summary of the Short Story
from the Collection «Nine Stories»
Microsummary: A group of young boys, led by their mentor, bonded over sports and captivating stories about a mysterious, disfigured hero. The mentor's love interest joined their activities, but their relationship faced challenges.

In 1928, a group of young boys, known as the Comanche Club, were led by their mentor, John Gedsudski, a shy, gentle law student in his early 20s.

The Chief (John Gedsudski) — narrator's mentor; shy, gentle, law student in his early 20s; stocky, low hairline, large nose, powerful shoulders; Eagle Scout, talented athlete, and storyteller.

John, also known as the Chief, was an Eagle Scout, a talented athlete, and a gifted storyteller. The boys in the Comanche Club were around nine years old and were deeply affected by the Chief's stories, particularly the one about the Laughing Man.

Narrator — young boy, around 9 years old; member of the Comanche Club; imaginative, loyal to the Chief, and deeply affected by the Laughing Man's story.

The Chief would pick up the boys from school every day and take them to Central Park to play sports. On rainy days, he would take them to museums. On weekends, he would take them on outdoor adventures. The boys loved and respected the Chief, who was always there to guide and support them.

One day, the Chief introduced a new character into his stories: the Laughing Man. The Laughing Man was a mysterious figure with a tragic past, who had been kidnapped as a baby and had his face disfigured by his captors. Despite his appearance, the Laughing Man was a genius and a master of many skills, including the ability to communicate with animals. The boys were captivated by the Laughing Man's story and saw him as a hero.

"The Laughing Man was just the right story for a Comanche."

Around this time, the Chief began dating a beautiful woman named Mary Hudson, a former Wellesley College student.

Mary Hudson — Chief's love interest; former Wellesley College student; beautiful, confident, and independent; enjoys playing baseball with the Comanche Club.

Mary was confident and independent, and she enjoyed playing baseball with the Comanche Club. The boys were initially unsure about her presence, but they eventually grew to accept her as part of their group.

One day, the Chief took the boys to play baseball, and Mary joined them. She played well, impressing the boys with her skills. However, the Chief seemed nervous and distracted, and the boys noticed that something was off between him and Mary.

"I don't care," Mary Hudson said distinctly, "I came all the way to New York--to the dentist and everything--and I'm gonna play."

As the days went by, the Chief continued to tell the story of the Laughing Man, and the boys became more and more invested in the character. They began to see themselves as the Laughing Man's descendants, and they imagined themselves as heroes, just like him.

One afternoon, the Chief took the boys to play baseball, but Mary did not join them. Instead, she sat on a bench nearby, watching the game and crying. The boys could tell that something was wrong between her and the Chief, but they did not know what it was.

That day, the Chief told the final installment of the Laughing Man's story. In this story, the Laughing Man was betrayed by his enemies and left to die. However, he managed to escape and exact revenge on his captors. The boys were deeply affected by the story, and they felt a sense of loss when it ended.

"The Laughing Man's last act, before turning his face to the bloodstained ground, was to pull off his mask."

After the game, the boys returned to their homes, their minds filled with the story of the Laughing Man. They had learned valuable lessons about loyalty, bravery, and the power of storytelling. The Chief's stories had left a lasting impact on their lives, and they would never forget the adventures they had shared with him and Mary Hudson.