Why the Eskimos

j   Wed May 02, 2007 4:31 am GMT
J. D. Salinger
from Just Before the War with the Eskimos (1953)

"They're all goin' over to the goddam draft board," he said. "We're gonna fight the Eskimos next. Know that?"

"The who?" said Ginnie.

"The Eskimos.... Open your ears, for Chrissake."

"Why the Eskimos?"

"I don't know why. How the hell should I know why?


from Abby Mann's novel (and film) Judgment at Nuremberg.(1961)

... Then he bent over [American Judge] Haywood and spoke quietly, sardonically. "There are no Nazis in Germany. Didnít you know that, Judge? The Eskimos invaded Germany and took over. Thatís how all those terrible things happened. It wasn't the fault of the Germans. It was the fault of those damn Eskimos."


Repeating the Ginnie's question: '"Why the Eskimos?"
furrykef   Wed May 02, 2007 4:32 am GMT
I haven't a clue.
Guest   Wed May 02, 2007 6:13 am GMT
When Quinn the Eskimo gets here, everybody's gonna jump for joy.
Uriel   Thu May 03, 2007 3:04 am GMT
It's meant to be absurd, so that the absurdity will put the real matter into perspective.
j   Thu May 03, 2007 4:58 am GMT
Thank you, Uriel, for your reply.
I perfectly inderstand this is an absurd. By why just 'eskimos' in such position? Does this word have phonetic similarity with some specific word? Are there any jokes related to eskimos?
j   Thu May 03, 2007 5:38 am GMT
Since the Salinger's short story was originally published in 1948, can we consider Salinger invented the phrase and then it was repeated consciously in the movie?
Rene   Thu May 03, 2007 2:25 pm GMT
I would assume that he picked eskimos beacause they have never harmed anyone and because you immiately picture igloos and giant fury parkas and all that crazy stuff.
Uriel   Fri May 04, 2007 3:26 am GMT
No, Eskimos have no immediate connection to anything else. I think both writers just happened to pick them because they are so unlikely, obscure, and far-fetched as an enemy.

There are a few Eskimo jokes, but they don't really relate to the subject at hand. I don't think there's any real linguistic connection or play on words being exploited here.
Nathan   Tue May 08, 2007 6:25 pm GMT
I suspect that Uriel's response is accurate; part of the Salinger charm is that he does not provide us with public appearances to promote his work, subsequently he forces his audience to take from his work what they may. A closer understanding of his life reveals the prevailing truth of literary efforts, a writer writes about what he knows, what he understands and thus, Uriel's conclusion seems to apply; Salinger's character, Franklin, a manifestation of the author, is cynical and fragile, pay attention to the transition of mood in the story, Ginnie's attitude changes when she observes Franklin's suffering as symbolized by his wounded finger. Several times at this point of the story the author draws either obvious or subtle attention to the injury, particularly with the position of the finger with the character's mood and his subsequent revelation about the war with the eskimos. As she departs Ginnie resists throwing away the sandwich as Salinger explains a connection to a dead easter chick, perhaps suggesting a shocking contradistinction with our vision of youth, religion and celebration in the shadows of reality--his observation of indifference, a current that unites most of his published literary works.