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Thread: The Catcher in the Rye

  1. #1

    Question The Catcher in the Rye

    I'm starting this thread because I've just finished reading the Catcher in the Rye, and it makes me feel so depressed and all when I look into the book more.

    Basically, the book kind of revolves around this guy, Holden Caufield, wondering around New York for a weekend and having no idea what he's doing with his life. He has mixed feelings about growing up and all, and he tries to act all mature but he has these childish feelings and emotions holding him back in a way. He wants kind of to stop his sister Phoebe, he has this younger sister Phoebe, from growing up and he sees the adult world as 'phony' and corrupt.

    By the end of the book, he realises that he needs to let these feelings go and all and you shouldn't try to stop kids from growing up and all. Man, this book makes me feel so depressed and all when I read it.

    I mean, I know this goddamn thing was written in something like 1776 and they had no idea about AB/DL or anything back then, but man, the damn thing just makes me so depressed and all.

    I feel really bad for having my childish feelings and traits and the book makes you think that you need to let them go and it's bad to hold onto your childhood and protect your inneocence.
    I don't know, maybe I'm just being stupid (like usual lol) but I feel so bad about wanting to remain inneocent (I really don't like sex etc.) and I feel like I'm just pointlessly holding onto something it would be better to let go of. I have no real doubts about my AB/DL identity and I don't want to stop, but man, this book makes me feel so bad about it.

  2. #2

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    I remember having to read that in junior high or high school. It didn't make me depressed. Instead, it made me think that English teachers must be disturbed if Catcher in the Rye is their idea of good literature.

    Don't take it too seriously.

    Disclaimer: I started college at 16, so its almost certain I read it before I had pubic hair. Obviously, most of the book's content was completely unrelateable, even if I understood it intellectually.
    Last edited by Maxx; 12-May-2015 at 15:09.

  3. #3

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    It's all about balance. It's ok to have childish feelings, all of us that are AB here have them.

    I never read the book but I agree that you can't stop growing, that doesn't mean you should feel bad about wanting to keep your innocence. An adult baby means you are an adult, first and foremost, but a baby as well.

    This topic reminds me of something I've been thinking for a few years now after I reached my twenties, and it's that adults and children aren't as different as we think they are. In reality I think children are like adults but without the experience and confidence that comes with living.

    I've come to this conclusion because as a child we see adults as knowing everything and being our betters, and that is necessary because it gives us security. But once we become adults we realised that most of the time adults, when facing certain situations, are just as scared as children, except they are better at hiding it, they have learned a few "tricks" if you will, they have grown.

    Last but not least, it's ok to feel the way you feel because even adults who aren't AB act childish a lot of the times, so don't beat yourself about it and embrance all that you are.

  4. #4

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    It's a book written in one of the most closed minded, bigoted times in american history, the 1950's. Back then hardly anybody but white "Nuclear" families had rights, and like nuclear reactors, they did poision future generations with some of their morals. When this book was written (1951):
    Blacks were treated like animals
    Gays could be locked up for their sexuality
    LSD was prescribed as a prescription drug
    Asbestos was used as fake snow
    And theoretically, people like us could have ended being abused in asylums

    In other words, we should try and look at books like this as a window into the past, a time when this country was far behind in everything. There is no need to see it as anything more than a work of fiction, it's nothing more, it's on the same level as a Judy Blume book.

  5. #5

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    I vaguely remember the book from high school, but I never gave it a serious chance. Now that you bring up this topic, it sounds like it's worth the read for the theme. I had a lot of those angsty feelings when I was in high school, but I read Herman Hesse's Demian instead to find my literary connection.

    I also felt a lot of those depressed feelings regarding growing up and letting go of innocence. I'm still coming to grips with it if I'm going to be entirely honest. Some people do better than others at the transition into adulthood and I believe it stems from people having their perception of adulthood being this wonderful and magical ride shattered. As devastating as that may be at first, it's necessary to show people that the transition to successful adulthood requires significant effort and thick skin. It's sort of a necessary evil to prepare one for the evils in life. But once you understand those things and can find ways to get through adversity, it all gets better. That's part of the journey we all must go through.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Maxx View Post
    I remember having to read that in junior high or high school. It didn't make me depressed. Instead, it made me think that English teachers must be disturbed if Catcher in the Rye is their idea of good literature.

    Don't take it too seriously.

    Disclaimer: I started college at 16, so its almost certain I read it before I had pubic hair. Obviously, most of the book's content was completely unrelateable, even if I understood it intellectually.
    It's things like this that remind me of my average intelligence.

    What would you say are some examples of good literature that don't require a considerable reading comprehension skill to understand?

  6. #6

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    Milko, please don't ever feel bad about being who you are, everybody is different. Some people are butch, some people are feminine, some people are serious and other people are carefree. If you try to fight against who you are then that can cause you a lot of pain. I really think some of us are born to be... a little more little.

    You're not hurting anybody and you're not hurting yourself by staying the way you are, as long as you're happy, you can bring happiness into other peoples lives by being exactly who you are, and isn't that all that really matters? *Big hugs*

  7. #7

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    Catcher was written for the generation before me and my generation. I was in advanced classes, and "Catcher" was our mantra. It's considered one of the great American examples of literature, and I agree. I think you've misinterpreted several important issues in the book, Milko. Holden, like myself when I was in college, is having a psychotic break. You've left out the most important piece of information in the novel, that his younger brother has died. And so he wants to know, as his mind is slowly disconnecting from the world, where do the ducks go in the winter, when the pond freezes.

    I grew up in New Jersey, but know New York and Central Park well, including it's duck pond, at least the one of the 60's. Where are the ducks in the winter, he asks? The bigger question is, where do we go when we die? Is his brother being taken care of in another world? These are everyone's questions. They're universal.

    The other great part of this book deals with coming of age, how we grow up gracefully, and the things which hurt us along the way. I just finished reading Steven Kings' "The Body" which is a great coming of age story. Many of us had difficult childhoods, perhaps because of bullying, bad parenting: the list goes on. Coming of age stories help us to see ourselves, to remind us of the pain of growing up. They typically don't tell us we should grow up but that we should remember our youth and find greater insight to the present because of the lessons learned from our past.

    Our story mod, kerry had a great response to this question when it came up a year or so ago. I hope she will come on board to this thread because she teaches high school lit. and she's better equipped to defend Salinger than myself. That said, the cartoon South Park had a field day with "Catcher" saying pretty much what Maxx said, that it was over evaluated by my generation. Still, I defend it as great literature.

  8. #8

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    Quote Originally Posted by dogboy View Post
    Catcher was written for the generation before me and my generation. I was in advanced classes, and "Catcher" was our mantra. It's considered one of the great American examples of literature, and I agree. I think you've misinterpreted several important issues in the book, Milko. Holden, like myself when I was in college, is having a psychotic break. You've left out the most important piece of information in the novel, that his younger brother has died. And so he wants to know, as his mind is slowly disconnecting from the world, where do the ducks go in the winter, when the pond freezes.

    I grew up in New Jersey, but know New York and Central Park well, including it's duck pond, at least the one of the 60's. Where are the ducks in the winter, he asks? The bigger question is, where do we go when we die? Is his brother being taken care of in another world? These are everyone's questions. They're universal.

    The other great part of this book deals with coming of age, how we grow up gracefully, and the things which hurt us along the way. I just finished reading Steven Kings' "The Body" which is a great coming of age story. Many of us had difficult childhoods, perhaps because of bullying, bad parenting: the list goes on. Coming of age stories help us to see ourselves, to remind us of the pain of growing up. They typically don't tell us we should grow up but that we should remember our youth and find greater insight to the present because of the lessons learned from our past.

    Our story mod, kerry had a great response to this question when it came up a year or so ago. I hope she will come on board to this thread because she teaches high school lit. and she's better equipped to defend Salinger than myself. That said, the cartoon South Park had a field day with "Catcher" saying pretty much what Maxx said, that it was over evaluated by my generation. Still, I defend it as great literature.
    I think its greatness, if present, is locked in a particular time. I despised it when I read it. Not because Holden isn't asking some questions that might be of interest, but because the questions had no resonance with me. His speech was not my speech, his thoughts were not my thoughts. There is debate about whether the book actually represents a typical teenage experience or not, but it was not my experience. I found life getting consistently better for myself as I moved from middle school to high school and then to college. The way Holden thinks and feels about people mostly disgusted me when I read it.

    To add to the challenge, his language today (or even 13 years ago when I read it) sounds like a caricature to the modern ear. His slang is mostly impenetrable, to the point you need a dictionary or guide to translate when he's talking in common innuendo or not. And his references, even when understood, seem like a joke. Nobody talks about "phonies" that way. Doesn't mean the phenomenon is gone, but "I'm surrounded by phonies" was the sentiment of a particular generation and it didn't carry over in quite the same way as it worked downwards.

    Finally, I actively challenge whether Catcher in the Rye is a coming of age novel. Holden doesn't really grow or change, there's no comparable maturation in my opinion. Like you said, he has a break and falls apart, growing wildly emotional at various points and ultimately ending with not much of consequence. He doesn't carry through with his plans or become an adult that integrates with society (or an individual that finds his own way for that matter). At it's best the novel is a portrait of a young mind and shows how difficult it can be to cope with loss along with how people can read meaning into the most banal things. But coming of age it ain't.
    Last edited by ArchieRoni; 15-May-2015 at 06:26.

  9. #9

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    I honestly think it's one of the worst books I've ever read.

    Holden is nothing special. He's just your typical angst ridden teenager. And he spends half the book getting drunk and whining about his life. He doesn't grow at all. At the end of the book he's still the same Holden Caulfield, whiny, angst ridden teenager.

  10. #10

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    A lot of good and difficult questions brought up in this thread....

    What is great literature? Beats me. I know that a good story must have a plot, it must have interesting, believable characters, and the writer must have the skill to paint word pictures in your mind. I'm told there must be character development as the story advances.

    Catcher has all those, except perhaps the last. Well written? Yes. Great? Very questionable.



    Quote Originally Posted by BigKid25 View Post
    I also felt a lot of those depressed feelings regarding growing up and letting go of innocence. I'm still coming to grips with it if I'm going to be entirely honest. Some people do better than others at the transition into adulthood and I believe it stems from people having their perception of adulthood being this wonderful and magical ride shattered. As devastating as that may be at first, it's necessary to show people that the transition to successful adulthood requires significant effort and thick skin. It's sort of a necessary evil to prepare one for the evils in life. But once you understand those things and can find ways to get through adversity, it all gets better. That's part of the journey we all must go through.
    I suppose that's how Catcher ends up in high scool English classes. Administrators and others responsible for curriculum look for reading material that is "relateable", so seemingly intractable, depressed, angsty teens will read it. Color me skeptical. These are the same people who thought I should learn square dancing in PE because it would be good exercise when I'm old. Well, I'm old, and my ideas of good exercise are pretty much the same now as they were then: a long swim, or a long bike ride. I'm just not as fast.

    Maybe I read too much into it. English teachers were forced to read it when they were kids, so why should their students be spared the agony. I'm not that impressed by most in the field of education. There's a lot of inertia.

    Anyway, is it really a good idea to double down on the angst and depression by making kids read stuff like this, when there are so many other well-written and more uplifting choices available? A little originality please. That's overlooking entirely the seedy nature of the experience. In the 50's and early 60's there was a lot of controversy over this book in schools and libraries. Yes, the world is coarse and vulgar sometimes. Is there any value to validating marginal behavior and coarseness by putting it in the classroom? Sometimes it seems public schools are pandering to the least common denominator. And then we wonder why they perform so poorly.

    I guess the one good thing about it from a student's perspective is its short enough you can rip through it in an evening and be done with it.



    It's things like this that remind me of my average intelligence.

    What would you say are some examples of good literature that don't require a considerable reading comprehension skill to understand?
    I don't know that raw intelligence has that much to do with it, its more about your input/output circuits. A little dyslexia can really screw up comprehension. Then there's the matter of personal taste. Just because some wine connoisseur says this or that vintage is great doesn't mean you're going to like it. Same with books.

    My wife works in the local high school, so a lot of their current reading material passes through my hands. Since she's in special ed, they have a lot of things with less complex vocabulary and writing style. I found the Hunger Games trilogy very entertaining, and an easy read. Kite Runner is another good choice. Divergent series was good, not great. Personally, I like anything by Mark Twain. You've probably read Huck Finn, so try Captain Stormfield's Visit to Heaven....

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