I'm reading the memoir Dream Catcher by Margaret Salinger (daughter of J. D. Salinger). In this paragraph I have some difficulties:

While the war was often in the foreground of our family life, it was always in the background. It was the point of reference that defined everything else in relation to it. […] As long as I’ve known him, my father has never taken being warm and dry and not being shot at for granted. […] The constant presence of the war, as something not really over, pervaded the years I lived at home.

What is meant by "my father has never taken being warm and dry and not being shot at for granted" (it is bolded in the text)?

1 Answer 1


It means JD Salinger did not assume that his life would be secure and trouble-free. Physiological needs (such as warmth) and the need for safety (such as not being shot) are the two bottom layers in Maslow's hierarchy. As such, they are fundamental to human existence. Higher-order needs such as love and belonging, self-esteem, self-actualization, etc. depend on these lower-order needs being met. When Margaret Salinger says "being warm and dry" and "not being shot at" were things her father did not take for granted, she means that he did not assume that his basic physiological and safety needs would be met. He felt insecure about even these most fundamental needs being satisfied.

Margaret attributes this insecurity to JD Salinger's wartime service. JD was born during World War I and served in the army during World War II. He was among the soldiers who participated in the storming of Normandy during D-Day. According to Margaret, the experience of war made JD Salinger excruciatingly aware that bodily comfort and safety were not givens. As a result, he always felt a vague threat in the background: that he would find himself back in a war zone, cold, wet, and being shot at.

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    Supporting dictionary definition: "take X for granted" is an idiomatic phrase meaning "assume X".
    – bobble
    Apr 15 at 22:00
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    It doesn't have to be insecurity. It can also mean that he was grateful for those things, that he didn't assume they were his by right.
    – Mary
    Apr 16 at 0:45
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    @Mary The war's being often in the foreground and always in the background as a "constant presence" suggests insecurity to me.
    – verbose
    Apr 16 at 2:46

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