For Esmé—with Love and Squalor (Salinger)

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For Esmé—with Love and Squalor
Summary of the Short Story
Microsummary: An American soldier stationed in England during World War II forms a brief but meaningful connection with a young girl named Esmé, who is wise beyond her years.

In April of 1944, an American soldier named X is stationed in Devon, England for a pre-Invasion training course. He is not very social and spends his free time wandering the countryside or reading. One rainy day, he attends a children's choir practice at a local church and is captivated by the voice of a young girl named Esmé.

Esmé — young girl; wise beyond her years; intelligent, compassionate.

They strike up a conversation and Esmé reveals that she aspires to be a professional singer.

I purely came over because I thought you looked extremely lonely. You have an extremely sensitive face.

They discuss various topics, including her family and her father's death in the war. Eventually, they part ways, but not before Esmé asks X to write a story for her.

You’re quite sure you won’t forget to write that story for me? It doesn’t have to be terribly prolific! Just so that it isn’t childish and silly.

Several weeks later, X is back in Germany after the war and is struggling with his mental health. He receives a package from Esmé, containing a note and her father's broken wristwatch. The note expresses concern for X and offers the watch as a lucky talisman. X is comforted by the gesture and feels sleepy, finally finding some peace.