CT Journal: Write a dialogue in
which one person interviews another about The Catcher in the Rye. Include
at least two direct quotations from the text.
- Shoko W.
S1: Good afternoon. How are you doing
today? Thanks for taking time out of your busy schedule to discuss the elements
of J.D. Salinger's The Catcher In The Rye.
S2: No problem; it's my pleasure.
S1: Now, for the issue that has boggled so many minds. There are three instances when Holden Caulfield mentions ducks, the first time being when he is talking to Old Spencer. He is putting much thought into "where the ducks went when the lagoon got all icy and frozen over" (13). What is the meaning of these ducks that Holden frequently brings up in the story?
S2: There are two possibilities to this question. First off. I think that the ducks represent Holden's current situation. For the whole year. he has felt safe and secure at Pencey Prep. just as the ducks do in their home. the lagoon. But now, wintertime has come and frozen the once-familiar home of the ducks. and they are left without a place to live. Holden is experiencing the same problem¡Xhe has been kicked out of school. and has to relocate. The other explanation I have is that Holden simply has compassion for the less fortunate, or in this case, the ducks. He is worried about their well-being and how they are going to survive on their own when the winter comes.
S1: Holden is very curious as to how the ducks leave the lagoon. He wonders if "some guy came in a truck and took them away to a zoo or something," or if they `'just flew away" (13). Why do you suppose this is?
S2: I think Holden is debating over if he should take responsibility over his actions and "fly away,'' or if he should wait for someone. his parents for example, to 'pick him up" and solve his problem for him. He isn't sure if he should take the easy way out, or deal with this dilemma which he is obviously struggling with. I believe that Holden does know deep down, that the ducks do actually fly down south in the winter, yet he is searching for a different answer. He isn't sure if the ducks will be able to survive on their own, without the security of their past life. This can be directly related to Holden in that he is a duck and his parents are the people who come to pick the ducks up for the winter. He knows that he will eventually have to venture out into the world on his own. but he is not quite ready to face these fears.
S1: So you feel that Holden is having inner conflicts? He isn't sure if he should straighten himself out. and start putting his life back together, or if he should let his parents fix the mess that he once again got himself into?
S2: Exactly. This is a problem that has been haunting Holden his whole life and he is now given the chance to conquer it. After he has been kicked out of school, he goes to New York City, in order to relax and forget his problems. In reality. Holden isolates himself from everyone he knows: he brings himself into an atmosphere where he is constantly thinking, and analyzing himself. This seems to be scaring him: he is taking a closer look at himself and realizes that he needs to do something about his life.
S1: Going deeper into this topic. I would like to hear your thoughts on the fish that were brought up. When Holden catches a taxi. he asks the driver about where the ducks went, but the driver somehow brings up the fish that live in the lagoon. He seems to get quite worked up about it. telling Holden that the fish stay right where they are, they "stay right in the goddam lake.'' He goes on to say that it is 'tougher for the fish, the winter and all, than it is for the ducks" (82). Do the fish have any relationship to the ducks. and what is their significance?
S2: I believe the taxi driver is implying that Holden's problems are tiny and insignificant compared to other issues going on. The driver is relating himself to the fish and Holden to the ducks. The fish live in one place their whole lives, and never get the opportunity to leave. The ducks. on the other hand. are given the chance to lead a different. maybe better life when winter comes. Perhaps the driver has lived in New York City his whole life, and is destined to have the job as a taxi driver for the rest of his life. He knows he will never live a happier life and feels hopeless. This is why he gets angry with Holden; Holden is wasting this perfect chance that he never received.
Sl: Just from this very short discussion. it is clear that The Catcher In The Rye is a very complex book. with intriguing hidden messages. I greatly appreciate your insightful thoughts, and I hope to be able to speak to you again.
- Sara M.
S1: So, what stands out to you, after reading to the point that you have read to in The Catcher in the Rye?
S2: I guess the things that stand out most to me are Holden's red hunting hat, the ducks that Holden always talks about, his mentioning of "phonies," his "deciding not to do things," his absent mindedness, and his memories about lots of people.
S 1: Those are mostly recurring themes, aren't they?
S2: Yeah, but I think they stand out the most because they really show the reader what kind of person Holden Caulfield is.
S1: In what ways do you mean that?
S2: Well, like take for instance Holden's hunting had, the ducks, and talking about his family - Allie and Phoebe. Even the time when he was going to throw the snowball, but decided not to, because the car and the hydrant looked so pretty. They all show that Holden cares for things in his life, which really contrasts from his non-caring attitude when he says things like "It is all right with me if you flunk me though as I am flunking everything else except English anyway (12)."
S 1: Okay, so you're saying that Holden Caulfield is really this nice caring guy, right? Why do you think that he's so angry about everything, then? It seems that he's really upset when you first start reading the book, and that he doesn't care about school or anything. Do you mean to say that he has a split personality?
S2: No, actually I don't think so. For example, he says "One of the biggest reasons I left Elkton Hills was because I was surrounded by phonies. That's all. They were coming in the goddam window" (13). It's really interesting how he shows these two really different personalities - the non-caring personality and the caring personality. On page 60, Holden says, "I hate saying things like 'traveling incognito.' But when I'm with somebody that's corny, I always act corny too." That phrase could also show Holden's attitude towards phonies. If he thinks that they aren't genuine - like they don't even care for him - he won't be genuine with them, or care about them either. That's why he wouldn't really care for school. I guess that's also why Jane Gallagher, Allie, and Phoebe mean so much to him - because they're really genuine in character. When he's talking about Phoebe, he says, "She's ten now, and not such a tiny little kind anymore, but she still kills everybody - everybody with any sense anyway" (68). I think that when he says "with any sense anyway" he's describing what a phony is - which basically happens to be someone who doesn't care.
S 1: You say that Allie, Jane, and Phoebe are really important to Holden. Can you elaborate on the reasons for that?
S2: Yeah, I think you can tell that he doesn't think that they're phonies by the way that he describes them. It seems like one of the biggest reasons why he doesn't think that they're phonies is because they like him for who he is. I know that sounds kind of cliche, but Holden's a pretty average teenager, and I guess one of the big concerns of a teenager is whether or not people like them for who they are - I'm making an assumption there, though. Oh, and adding to my earlier comment about what a phony is, a phony would also be someone who puts up a false appearance so that people like them, and I guess that the fact that Jane, etc. like Holden for who he really is "kills him," as he would put it, because that differentiates him from everyone else, who do things and pretend to be someone else that they really aren't. To sum that all up, basically he likes Allie, Jane, and Phoebe because they don't pretend to be anyone else but themselves, and they like him for who he is.
S1: What about Holden's hat?
S2: It seems like he's in a really depressed state - as seen by his leaving to go to a hotel, calling to go out for a cocktail, and going to the bar, etc., and the hat's something that he uses to comfort himself- not exactly like a kid's teddy bear that wards away fear and stuff- but it seems to be established by Holden as his reason to keep living, in other words, something he can put care into when he doesn't receive any caring himself. When he has someone or something he knows will miss him if he were gone, it would make him feel like he still has purpose. Since it has become such a big part of him, I guess it could also mean that he associates the hat with himself, so it makes him feel unique from others.
S1: Any comments on the ducks?
S2: Holden first introduced the ducks by saying that he lived in New York, and that there was the pond with the ducks in it. This would kick back to him and his ideas about phonies, I guess. Anything innocent, in Holden's mind, wouldn't be a phony, and we can see from Holden's care for Jane, his siblings, and his hat, that he cares about the nonphonies in the world.
S1: You were saying something about New York . . .
S2: Yeah. One thing that I noticed in the book was that all of Holden's memories go back into the past - I mean not just the immediate past - though there were some memories that did, like the chapel/farting incident, but all of the nostalgic memories go into the past. The memory about the ducks could be just a random memory or thing that he remembered, but I think that it had importance in that it draws him back to his life and memories with his family - of Allie and Phoebe in New York. Because he is currently really distressed, or so it seems, he draws back into the past, and the ducks memory was kind of the bridge or the first link in the chain, that triggered all of these other memories in him.
S1: Earlier you mentioned the snowball thing. . .how he decided not to throw the snowball. Was that also because he cared?
S2: Yeah, basically. I'm making another generalization here, but I think that when you're really depressed, you start to see the beauty in things. Holden Caulfield was going through that state then, when he was making and holding the snowball. I guess that if you say that 'when you're depressed, you start to see the beauty of things,' this would tie back into another reason why all of the memories are being triggered, including that of the ducks. Because he's really depressed now, (beyond his angry, shocked state, that ended after the visit to Mr. Spencer) he's starting to see the beauty in everything. That's why Allie's mitt could also be important. Because he cares so much, Jane and Stradlater in Ed Banky's car blew his mind. I don't know - I hope I'm still making sense here.
S1: Any last comments?
S2: Yeah, I kind of think that Holden's the typical book-hero. Like, the thing that separates the hero of the story from everyone else is that they're going through all this stuff that everyone else isn't going through, on top of whatever's going on at the moment. Take for instance Harry Potter - he's suffering with his parents' deaths and his conflict with Voldemort, on top of going to Hogwarts and facing all the exams and stuff that everyone else is doing. Yeah, just thought I'd share that - that there's this big heroism thing about Holden when you read the story (there are times when you may not think that he's such a big hero), but for the most part, he's just this guy going through school and stuff, except that he has to face all the other things that are happening, like Jane and Stradlater, and the memory of Allie and his death. It seems to be a somewhat common theme in books.
S 1: Well, thank you for your time.
S2: Thank you.
- Chris D.
P1: Hello. Thanks for coming to talk to me about The Catcher in the Rye . I have been finding it a really interesting book. I have a few questions about it, though. Could you help me answer some of them?
P2: Sure. I would be glad to help. I also really liked the book when I read it.
P1: From the first page, Holden Caulfield seems very opinionated. The first person he describes is his brother, D.B. Holden says that D.B. is a great writer, and describes one great book that he wrote. Immediately following this, he says, "Now he's out in Hollywood, D.B., being a prostitute. If there's one thing I hate, it's the movies. Don't even mention them to me" (2). This passage confused me. Immediately after praising his brother, Holden calls him a prostitute.
P2. I think that when Holden says this, he is saying that although he thinks that his brother is a good writer, he is having trouble respecting him because of his current profession. Holden says that he hates the movies. I think that Holden refers to his brother as a prostitute because he is offended that his brother sold himself out to the movies. Just before that passage, Holden says that his brother is rich. However, Holden says that in a way that makes me think that he does not care about the money—all he cares about is that D.B. is sacrificing the quality of his work in order to get more money.
P1. That makes sense. Another thing that I found interesting is that Holden failed all of his subjects except for English. He says that he only passed because he already learned all of the subject material, but his roommate, Stradlater, asks Holden to write him an essay for English, presumably because Stradlater thinks that Holden is good at it.
P2. From Holden's actions, I think that he is only claiming to have passed English because he already knew the material. He seems to enjoy English related subjects, especially reading. In the third chapter, instead of going to watch the football game like everybody else, Holden goes to his room and re-reads a book. This could also tie in to how Holden is mad at his brother for writing movies. If English is the only subject that Holden appreciates, he must be angry that his brother is selling the quality of his words for money.
P1. When Holden hears that Stradlater is going on a date with Jane Gallagher, he becomes very agitated, and starts talking about how he knows her and that he should go say hello to her. After saying this about five tunes, Stradlater tells Holden to just go and say hi. Holden replies by saying that he is not in the mood. I don't understand why Holden would not just go and say hi to her.
P2. I think that Holden was afraid to see Jane Gallagher. Later in the book, it is implied that Holden had a crush on her. This could explain why he was so agitated to see Stradlater going on a date with Jane. I think that Holden was afraid to go and say hi to Jane because he would then have to watch her leave with Stradlater, which would be very hard for him.
P1. When Holden on the train to the city, the mother of one of his classmates gets on and sits right next to him. Holden starts to tell her all sorts of lies about how great her son was, for no particular reason. I am curious as to why he does this.
P2. I think that the reason for this is as simple as Holden being bored. Early in the book, Holden states that he is a terrific liar. I think that he is lying to the woman to amuse himself. There does not seem to be any malicious intent, because Holden says that he likes the woman, even though he hates her son.
P1. Another thing that confused me was when Holden asked the cab driver, "You know those ducks in that lagoon right near Central Park South? That little lake? By any chance, do you happen to know where they all go, the ducks, when it gets all frozen over?" (60).
P2. I think that Holden is relating himself to the ducks. He doesn't know what to do with his life at that moment, because he is leaving one place and has nowhere to go. He is trying to see where the ducks go when they are kicked out of their home by the winter. Maybe he is trying to find inspiration in them.
P1. When Holden is in his hotel room, he immediately thinks of calling Jane Gallagher. It seems like he cannot get her out of his mind. Why is she so important to him?
P2. I think that although he knows that nothing happened between her and Stradlater, Holden is troubled that she would go on a date with Stradlater when she would never go on a date with Holden. This bothers him because he was once very close to her, and he cannot stand to see anybody else possibly trying to have a relationship with her.
Pl When Holden is dancing with the blonde girl at the hotel, he goes on and on about how stupid she is, even though she is a good dancer. I don't understand why he says that he was half in love with her by the time the dance is over, even though she cannot string a sentence together, which seems important to Holden.
P2. I think that when Holden says that he was half in love with her, he did not mean it seriously. I think that he was caught up in the spur of the moment, after just having danced with her. In Holden's perspective, smartness seems about as important as looks in a girl. This could also explain why he was bothered by Stradlater going out with Jane, since Stradlater would not appreciate Jane's mind, just her body.
P1. One more question. Holden refers to people a lot as being `'corny" and "phony." What exactly does he mean by this?
P2. I think that when Holden refers to someone as "phony," he means that they are not representing who they truly are. They are acting like what others think that they should act like. I admire that Holden does not act like others just to fit the mold. Because of this, he does not like people who act fake just to fit in. Holden uses "corny" a lot, but I am not sure even he knows exactly what he means by it. I think that he just uses "corny" to describe things that he does not like, or in some cases, he is jealous of, like when he is describing Ernie the pianist. He says, "He's so good he's almost corny, in fact." Holden admires his skill, and calls him corny.
P1. Thanks so much for answering my questions. The book makes a lot more sense now that I understand those parts.
P2. I'm always glad to help. I would enjoy talking about the book again sometime.
- Peter G.
Johnny Depp: In the book The Catcher in the Rye, why do you Holden Caulfield is such a compulsive liar?
Jack Sparrow:I think that he lies all the time because he doesn't want open himself up to people. He doesn't want to make himself vulnerable.
Johnny Depp: Can you give me an example of this?
Jack Sparrow: An example of this is when Holden was on the train and was talking to one of his classmate's mother. He made up an alter ego named Rudolf Schmidt, which was the name of the janitor in his dorm.
Johnny Depp; Is it possible that Holden lies about himself because he doesn't like the way he is?
Jack Sparrow: Yes. He lies about so many things; his name, age, where he's going, etc. I think that he does this to cover-up his imperfections. An example of this is when Stradlater criticized Holden's composition. Holden didn't lie, but he tore it up and didn't explain why when Stradlater asked him. He didn't want to make himself vulnerable because the composition was so personal to him.
Johnny Depp: Do you think that Holden could be lying to please other people?
Jack Sparrow: Yes that is possible, because when he was speaking to his classmate's mother, he kept saying how great a person her son Ernest was even though he thought, "Her son was doubtless the biggest bastard that ever went to Pencey, in the whole crumby history of the school" (54).
Johnny Depp: Do you think that Holden will ever stop being a compulsive liar?
Jack Sparrow: No. I think that he will always lie. It's an important part of his personality. If he's going to tell you the truth, he always says, "To tell you the truth. . ." When he is speaking, he is usually very sarcastic and criticizes others.
Johnny Depp: Can you give me an example of the way Holden criticizes others?
Jack Sparrow: When Holden was at the nightclub and there were three girls at the next table, he only talked to the one that was okay looking. He also kept saying how she was such a moron. Holden got really annoyed when they judged him by giggling because they thought he was too young.
Johnny Depp: Do you find it ironic that Holden calls other people morons when he is the one that flunked out of school?
Jack Sparrow: Yes, in some ways, because he calls other people stupid or moron at his school when he is the one who failed four classes, although, Holden has had more life experience at a young age because the death of his brother, Allie. He is also a good judge of character because many of the people he call bastard or moron really are those things.
Johnny Depp: Holden Caulfield thinks very highly of his little sister Phoebe. Do you think that he will find someone as perfect as her?
Jack Sparrow: No, but he sometimes he does find characteristics about people that are similar, like how the blonde girl he danced with danced good just like phoebe. He said to the girl, "I have a kid sister that's only in the goddam fourth grade. You're about as good as she is, and she can dance better than anyone living or dead" (72).
Johnny Depp: Do you think that Holden really likes Jane Gallagher?
Jack Sparrow: Yes, because when Stradlater got back from the date with her, Holden was really worried. When he found out that they spent the whole night in a car, he got really mad and hit Stradlater on his head, and that started their whole fight. I don't think that Holden would have done that if he didn't really care for Jane.
Johnny Depp: Why do you think Holden told the cab driver his home address instead of a hotel?
Jack Sparrow: I think he did that because he really does want to go home and be with his family. He says in the book that it was "out of habit,/,but I don't believe him. He also wants to call home to his sister, but he can't because his parents would answer since it's so late. When he got to New York, he wanted to talk to somebody, his sister, brother, Jane, anybody, but he didn't call anyone. I think he did all of this because he didn't want to be alone in a hotel, that's why he went to the night club.
- Marielle H.
Melvin Brooke regretted the day that J.D. Salinger walked into his office door. He remembered the excited gleam in Salinger's eye as he explained the finer points of his novel, the one he had worked on for years. Melvin's eyes furrowed every so often in that meeting over scandalous passages, but Salinger was quick to propitiate him with long speeches and explanations of the importance of those passages to maintain the meaning of the whole book. He also brought up the First Amendment; "It's my goddam right!"
So Melvin had published Salinger's masterpiece, and, just as expected, the book exploded into controversy. Since then Melvin's mailbox has been stuffed, his receptionist dogged and his phone perpetually rang.
Today was no different, so Melvin swallowed two Aspirin pills with his black morning coffee and picked up the phone.
"Hello?" He asked gruffly. He was sick of people calling him.
"Hello," a sugarcoated voice answered back. "Is this Mr. Melvin Brooke I am speaking to?"
"Yes," Melvin answered sarcastically. "If you dialed Mr. Melvin Brooke's office phone, then should you be speaking to Mr. Melvin Brooke?"
The woman on the other line cleared her throat.
"Yes, I suppose you're right, Mr. Brooke."
Melvin didn't want this go on any longer than it had to.
"What would like to speak to me about?"
"Well, Mr. Brooke, my name is Amanda Sobel, and I'm in charge of the New York Chapter of Concerned Parents. I would like to speak to you abo--"
"Catcher in the Rye? Right. What's your problem with the book?"
"Sir, this book teachers our children that disobeying rules, running away in the middle of the night and underage drinking is all okay. There is no moral code in this book whatsoever! This book teaches our kids nothing except very bad things."
"Ma'am, if you're concerned about your children, then just let them read the book when you feel would be appropriate."
Melvin didn't understand these people. It wasn't as if their children didn't know about or do half the stuff printed in the book. It was oblivious parents like these that filled up most of his days, and he was fed up to here with their complaints.
"Oh, but Mr. Brooke..."
"Just call me Melvin, we're both adults here."
"All right, Mel-vin," she continued. "My children are absolutely banned from reading that book. In fact, we've taken the initiative so that no library in our district carries the book."
Ms. Sobel took a breath in order to continue, but Melvin cut her off at his distinct opportunity.
"Well, Ms. Sobel, it was very nice to hear your solution to your little problem, now if you'll excuse me, I ha--"
Ms. Sobel responded in an icy voice.
"I am not done, Mel-vin." You could tell this lady was not used to being treated so brashly. Melvin decided to just let the woman state her case, then give her the old cock-and-bull lines that he gave to everyone else who called with empty complaints.
"All right, Ms. Sobel. I'm so sorry for interrupting."
"You're excused, Mel-vin." Christ, Melvin hated the way she said his name; the way she accentuated the two syllables of his name in that high-pitched voice of hers.
"Now, sir, I'd like to read you several lines of the story that I found most disturbing."
Melvin could hear a paper being unfolded in the background and feared that this long list could make this phone call much longer than he had planned.
"You can just tell me which one bugs you the most."
Ms. Sobel had spent a long time on that list, and refused to pick only one that she felt was the worst.
"They all bug me the most," she replied.
"Did you say two?"
There was a slight pause as Ms. Sobel searched through her list to find the three lines in the book that she felt were most inappropriate.
"Sir, if I may first direct your attention to page 86...." Melvin didn't even pretend that he was looking at the book, just waited for Ms. Sobel to continue. Ms. Sobel waited for the sounds of pages rustling, but when none came decided to just plow on.
"On page 86, the main character, Holden Caulfield, is in a bar listening to a piano player when he overhears a conversation at the next table. Now, Holden gives his own opinion to the story by saying 'Imagine giving someone a feel and telling them about a guy committing suicide at the same time! They killed me."'
Melvin waited for Ms. Sobel to gather her breath before continuing.
"Now, there are many things wrong with this passage; first off, this minor should be nowhere near this bar, where he has potential access to alcohol. Imagine how many children are going to run off to bars after reading this passage!"
Melvin scoffed a little. He didn't think all children were lemmings, blindly following whatever was placed in front of them. Ms. Sobel was of a different opinion.
"And he condones both inappropriate public displays of affection and suicide. Those are not matters to be taken lightly, especially suicide. Really, the character laughing off the entire situation does not teach our children to be compassionate people. '
Melvin interrupted then.
"This book wasn't meant to act as a Bible. It's a story; the reader can take what they want from it, but that doesn't mean they have to take Holden's behavior and apply it to their own life."
"Yes, sir, but children are very impressionable and need to be shielded from such material until they can safely form their own ideas without such a bad influence under their nose...."
"And as I've said, I think you've done a wonderful job keeping your children and every other child within a fifteen-mile radius of you from that horrible event. Now it is getting rather late, I'd be much oblige--"
"I am not done, Mel-vin," Ms. Sobel hissed. Melvin groaned inwardly. There was just no getting rid of this woman!
"All right, you may continue," Melvin said through clenched teeth. He really didn't want to have to talk to this woman anymore, but it seemed she was determined to give him her life story before the day was over.
"Now, sir, if you'll kindly direct your attention to page 57, paragraph two...." Melvin didn't think he would be able to sit through it.
"Ms. Sobel, how about just a brief summary of your points? I'll record them and bring them up at our next meeting. How does that sound?" Melvin tried to sound sincere; maybe that would be able to get rid of her.
Ms. Sobel made a little tutting sound at the other end of the phone.
"Sir, a summary wouldn't do my argument justice, but if you promise that my side does get voiced, I will be willing to shorten my points."
Melvin breathed a sigh of relief. He may have finally rid himself of this persistence.
"Thank you for being understanding," Melvin said. He continued to doodle on his pad of paper.
"Well, Holden is constantly promoting underage drinking. He asks multiple parties, including grown women to ‘grab a cocktail' with him. He knows perfectly well that his behavior is illegal, but he persists on obtaining alcohol nonetheless. He presents quite an improper example."
There was a slight pause, and Melvin hoped that she had really only had one point left in her. He doubted it, but a man could dream, couldn't he?
"And gosh, the lying! If you'll please, sir, look on page 58," she waited again for the rustling of pages but on hearing silence, persisted, "Holden says about lying that 'once I get started, I can go on for hours if I feel like it.' No child should ever, ever lie like that. Especially not to a mother, for heaven's sakes. "Furthermore, this whole business of calling up an unfamiliar girl when he admits that," her voice went real small and wispy, "Horny?! If that's not teaching children the wrong way to approach that situation, I don't know what...."
Melvin studied his doodles. One kind of looked like his dog, Lucky. With bigger ears. And no tail.
"And Mel-vin, his whole mood swings. I could complain about those transitions from jittery to lonesome and depressed for weeks," Ms. Sobel said, and Melvin knew it was about time the conversation stopped.
"Well, Ms. Sobel, your points are very interesting. I'm sure they'll be of great value in our next meeting."
"But Mel-vin, I am not done," Ms. Sobel's tone rose to a whiny pitch.
"Yes, Ms. Sobel, you are welcome for my time."
"Of course, I'll have my receptionist get back to you with a transcript of how our meeting went."
"All right, I'll try. You have a good day too."
And with the click of the receiver, Ms. Sobel was sent back to her New York home for Concerned Parents. Melvin was glad to finally be rid of her; it was oblivious folks such as Amanda Sobel who couldn't fully grasp Salinger's story. Melvin knew the book, despite all its controversy, to be deep and compelling. As the phone rang once more, and his weary receptionist dropped another pile of mail onto his desk, Melvin admitted that he never really regretted Salinger entering his door that day. In fact, it was his goddam right to do so.
- Paige H
Dylan: Hey! Did you read The Catcher in the Rye last night?
Carly: Yah, I read it. I actually like this book, compared to other English books we've had to read.
Dylan: Me too. The way Holden Caulfield narrates the book, isn't like most other narrations I've seen. Most narrators simply tell you the story and sometimes this can be boring, but Holden manages to take simple situations and make them very amusing.
Carly: That's true; it's funny how he swears all the time and how his attitude toward everything is so negative.
Dylan: Although, even though Holden is so negative, he tries to look for the good in people and you'll see him point out these qualities throughout the book.
Carly: Yah, like when he's telling the reader about Stradlater or Ackley. He'll mention all these bad traits about them and say why they are such horrible people, but then he'll bring up some of their good qualities.
An example is on page 27 in the book, when he's talking about Stradlater.
Holden says that Stradlater is madly in love with himself and how he thinks
he's so handsome, but then he goes on to say, "He was pretty handsome,
too, I'll admit it." This shows that even though Holden knows Stradlater
is conceited, he is saying that he has a right to be.
Carly: Why do you think Holden's like that? What do you think the reason is for him being so negative?
Dylan: Well, I think a lot of things could've influenced him to become so negative. It could be the fact that he's at a prep school that he doesn't like. Or it could be because he doesn't seem to open up to many people.
Carly: Yah, I noticed that. He always feels like he has to lie or put up a front. He seems to have built this wall around himself and he doesn't let hardly anyone in.
Dylan: Oh yah, that's true. This could all be related to the fact that his brother Allie died when he was only 13. Also, how his parents forced him to leave home and go to prep school, even though his brother had just died.
Carly: Holden seems to have some problems with his parents. First of all, he never sees them on weekends, like most other kids at Pencey do. Aiso, in the beginning of the book, he seems a little hostile toward them, like where it says on the first page of the book, "...my parents would have two hemorrhages apiece if I told you anything pretty personal about them. They're quite touchy about anything like, especially my father."
Dylan: Yah, especially how he doesn't call them when he gets kicked out, he just waits for them to get the letter themselves, rather than telling them.
Carly: That's a good point. As I was flipping through the book just now, I realized how often Holden actually mentions the ducks in that lagoon.
Dylan: Yah he does, the ducks seem to be a big theme, symbolizing a part of Holden's life, I think. What do you think they symbolize?
Carly: The ducks could symbolize a lot of things, but the main one seems to be Holden himself. He appears to be worried for their well-being and wonders what will happen to them. This happens to be what is going on in his life. Soon, he will be leaving Pencey Prep and he will have to confront what he will do with his life.
Dylan: That's similar to what I was thinking. As you were talking about the ducks, I just thought of when he was talking to his teacher, Mr. Spencer. On page 14, while they are discussing Holden's lack of interest in his future, Mr. Spencer says, "'You will. You will, boy. You will when it's too late."' Spencer is saying that Holden will only care about his future when it's too late. This seems to be relative to the ducks because they're both concerning where Holden's future is heading and the uncertainty he is feeling.
Carly: That's a great connection between the ducks and the teacher. This was a good talk about The Catcher in the Rye. Thanks for discussing this with me, but I have to go to class.
Dylan: Okay, I'll see you later!
- Melissa O.
(in bored voice) Hey.
B: (in equally monotonous tone) Hey.
A: (slumps into chair) So, what did you think about the part when Holden visits Mr. Spencer?
B: (twirls pencil) Well, I think he actually sort of liked Spencer, but didn't actually want to show it. Or, he actually didn't really like Spencer, but was trying to feel some sort of closure to leaving Pencey. You could tell Holden really regretted going to Spencer's house towards the end, though.
A: Hm. I agree. Why do you think Holden just gets up and leaves Pencey, and then goes to New York?
B: I think he was just fed up with the whole place, and that his fight with Stradlater was the absolute last straw. Maybe Holden feels like the only thing he is good at, like writing, is going unappreciated. We can tell he's good at writing, because Stradlater says "'Just don't do it too good, is all,' he said. 'That sonavabitch Hartzell thinks you're a hot-shot in English, and he knows you're my roommate. So I mean don't stick all the commas and stuff in the right place" (83). Also, not even Ackley seemed to care about Holden's misbehavior. Like when he says "All of sudden, I decided what I'd really do, I'd get the hell out of Pencey - right that same night and all. I mean not wait till Wednesday or anything. I iust didn't want to hang around any more. It made me too sad and lonesome. So what I decided to do, I decided I'd take a room in a hotel in New York..."(51). I think Holden just wants attention, and that's why he always flunks out of school.
A: (slams book on table) WHAT?! That's absolutely INCORRECT! Holden doesn't care about the attention he gets! I think he is bored with life, and that he really doesn't care anymore about what happens to his life.
B: Do you think the death of his brother Allie has anything to do with how Holden behaves and makes decisions?
A: I think Allie was a big part of Holden's life, and that it was devastating to Holden when he passed away. Allie seems to be the only thing that brought out the good side in Holden, and maybe the self-control side. You can tell Holden really liked Allie though, because he kept mentioning what a great guy Allie was. For example, when he said "But it wasn't just that he was the most intelligent member in the family. He was also the nicest, in lots of ways. He never got mad at anybody. People with red hair are supposed to get mad very easily, but Allie never did, and he had very red hair"(38).
B: Yes, I think the death of Allie was almost too much for Holden, especially since he's been shipped from boarding school to boarding school. This sort of sends a message to Holden that he isn't wanted.
A: How would you describe Holden's actions?
B: I would say they were pretty spontaneous. Like something comes to mind and he just decides to go ahead and do it. His actions also seem based on an "I have nothing to lose" mindset towards life.
A: Weil, how would you describe Holden as a person?
B: Holden acts like he doesn't care about anything, but I think deep down inside he's actually very insecure about his future. His brother, DB, is already a writer and a movie star, and is set for life. His sister, Phoebe, is a smart girl, and will probably pass school without a problem. I think Holden feels like he is the only person without a future. How would you describe Holden as a person?
A: I'd say he's a pretty nasty guy. He's annoying, he misbehaves, he doesn't care if he flunks out of school...The only good thing about Holden is that he's very honest about people. He says that Stradlater is always showing off his torso, but Holden admits that he does have a very nice torso. However, he does seem to find fault with almost every person he knows, especially Ackley. But Holden still feels sorry for Ackley. I guess he's not that nasty.
B: Do you think Holden knows what the consequences are of going to New York without telling his parents?
A: I'm pretty sure he does, but he doesn't care. He tries to justify it by saying that he "needs the vacation." He doesn't always take the blame for his actions. For example, the fencing team incident. He blamed it on the fact that he had to keep getting up to look at the map.
B: Yeah, Holden does tend to do that. But frankly, I don't think he's totally aware of what the consequences are. He seems like he still needs to learn that there will always be consequences to what you do.
A: Like Mr. Spencer said, "Life is a game." I totally agree with that statement. I think Holden has to learn the rules of the game. On a totally different subject, what did you think of Holden's reference to the ducks in the pond in Central Park?
B: I thought that it was synonymous to the way Holden's life is now. He feels like he has no place to go, just like the ducks when the pond freezes over. He is curious to find out where the ducks go, and he is just as curious to find out where he himself is going to go.
(looks at watch) Wow, we're
out of time. Great talking to you! Was a lot more interesting than I thought
it would be.
B: Yes, it was. See you later!
- Kristen O.