Sunday, February 7, 2016

Holden and Douglas: Being Them, Teaching Them

I'm here because I want to talk about The Catcher in the Rye, because every time I pick it up I read a few sentences, and that's enough to
make me want to cry.

I think that I identified with this book the first time around (junior year of high school) because of how much Holden judges his surroundings and finds them lacking - he feels like a victim of circumstances, and he is extremely harsh and critical, looking at external details and fitting them into the perception he is constructing of the world, and becoming very jaded by what he finds.

His perspective is not helpful to him, and he constantly talks about how he is feeling and what his preferences are, but he doesn't do it with any sort of understanding. He is confused and believes the world exists to throw him in and out of chaos, and that his only mechanism for survival is to define himself and isolate himself.

His only real friend is his hat (although it is a good friend. It keeps his ears warm. Do your friends do that?)

It's interesting, because I expected to find myself somewhere along the spectrum of normal reactions to this book: either disgust at Holden's attitude and the viciousness of the narration, or agreement with it because of a similar perception.

I've been in both places at this point, and hopefully wise enough to know why one is beneficial and the other harmful.

My objective in reading this narrative now is to understand Holden. I am incorporating his viewpoint and its causes, along with those of Douglas Spaulding from Bradbury's Dandelion Wine, into my senior project (at least, I am hoping to; it feels very fragmented right now and I'm stressed about it).

My job is to argue that these writers show adolescents as a product of their environments.

The career I am building right now is all about understanding adolescents like Douglas, who are contributors to their communities and find joy in this, and those who isolate themselves because the world seems so unfriendly to them, like Holden.

These books are important to me because they reflect every person's struggle to enter this world: the ways that this struggle can be healthy and facilitated by the environment, and the ways that it can be difficult and painful and make us want to give up.

I am Holden, and I am Douglas, and I want to spend the rest of my life helping both of them through this transition by teaching them to do what they do in their respective novels - processing the world around them through symbols and narrative.

So, now that I've hashed out the reasons for the heart-wrench I get every time I pick up Catcher... back to my own struggle. That is, back to looking up critical articles on these books and failing miserably to find anything useful.

Wishing you well.

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