so we can appreciate a novel that constructs its conflicts primarily through plot -- the layered ambiguity of a fatal car accident caused by a vehicle owned by Gatsby but driven by someone else for instance but in this image drenched world sometimes we struggle to appreciate and celebrate books where the quality arises not exclusively from plot but also from the language itself. Holden caufield by the way was aware of this because he too lived in an image driven world. I mean on the very first page of the book hollden calls his brother a prostitute for abandoning book writing for Hollywood and says, “ if theres wone thing I hate, it’s the movies” And the novel frequently identifies itself in direct opposition to film and for instance when holden says “I don’t remember if he knocked me out or not but I don’t think so. Its pretty hard to knock a guy out except inb the goddamn movies” Okay so if youll allow me one biagrahcal note here sallinger once wrote in a letter “ the catcher in the rye is a very novelistiv novel. There are ready made scenes – only a fool would deny that – but for me the weight of the book is in the narrarators voice, the non stop peculiarities of it, his personal extremely discriminating attitude yo his reader- listener. He cant legite,mately be separated fromn his own first personb technique” Alright but before we examine that first person technique lets go to the thought bubble. Catcher in the rye is the story of holden cauhfields expulsion from pencey prep and his journey back home to new York city, where he bums around for a few days while trying to get someone to listen to him and meaningfully respond to his fears about becoming an adult – holden has grown six inches in the past year and one side of his head is full of grey hair, both symbols of impending inevitable adulthood. And its accompanying adulteration of innocence. Hes so obsessed with an protective of innocence that he cant even throw a snowball at a car because the car quote, “looked so nice and white”. Over and over again holden tries to reach out to people who might tell him that adulthood will be okay – friends, old teachers, a prostitute, a nun, cab drivers – but he can never quite find a way to ASK these questions directlyand anyway, no one ever listens to him. Nothing else much happens; there are no explosions or car vhases ande certaintly no akoodilypooping as holden Caulfield Is perhaps the first person in human history
ever to pay a prostitute not to have sex with him. What holden really wants is not sex or money or power or any of the dramatic stuff in Hollywood movies: he wants to stop time. AS HE FAMOUSLY SAYS WHEN THINKING ABOUT THE NATURAL HISTORY MUSEUM, the best thing though in tha museum was that everything always stayed right where it was” holden wants to be a protector of innocence – a catcher in the rye – but he also wants to stay innocent himself.
- Fall '13
- The Catcher in the Rye, Holden Caulfield, Joan Caulfield