'Course, it's just the first day of singing it. But still. I'm just freakin' amazed at how fast everything moves in this choir.
I've been feeling really down lately. Like... sick, scared, unhappy, depressed. It's not pleasant at all. I mean, I couldn't stop crying last evening... and I'm a little afraid that's going to happen again tonight. I'm really horribly anxious about the future. I'm afraid that I won't be able to handle school. I'm afraid that I won't be good enough to get into college. I'm afraid of failure, but I'm also afraid of success. If I make it into my choice college... then what? Where do I go from there? Am I going to be able to get a good job? Am I going to be able to handle adulthood? When am I going to have to grow up all the way?
I'm also afraid of dying. Which is a little scary, because I'm only afraid of dying sixty years from now. Dying right now, I'm perfectly comfortable with.
Dad found me "The Man Who Shot McKinley". Phwaaa... happiness. It's an out-of-print book, so I know he definitely had to do some searching to find it. And now I have it. *luxuriates in Czolgosz-ness* Heeheehee.
Two Views on The Catcher in the Rye
As with any novel, readers experience and interpret The Catcher in the Rye in many different ways. In "Holden Caulfield--American Whiner" and "Holden At Fifty", George F. Will and Louis Menand take a look back at The Catcher in the Rye and how its success both changed America’s outlook and illuminated feelings already festering in developing culture.
In "...American Whiner", George F. Will takes a cynical look at Holden’s own cynicism and finds nothing heroic, new, or stimulating about Holden’s despair and alienation. He compares Holden to such 1950s cinematic figures as James Dean and Marlon Brando, who were instrumental in the 50s sense of social rebellion. But he also implies that neither figure introduced any kind of new or poignant concept to society’s consciousness, just as Holden was unable to. He says "... in the 1950s, worry about ‘conformity’ became the conformity of the intellectuals". He also points out that "... critics, confusing self-absorption with sensitivity, invest Holden’s banal discomfitures with more mean than they can bear..." All in all, Will brands Holden’s plight as being "limited and tiresome".
Will makes many good points in his article. Because Holden’s story is not new, especially now that we have had fifty years of distance between the time The Catcher in the Rye was published and the present, it is hard to feel real sympathy for his plight when many of today’s teens have had similar thoughts and feelings. However, it is easy to identify with Holden, if not sympathize with him, which may explain some of the novels continuing popularity among teens and young adults. However, one begins to realize as they are reading the novel that Holden’s feelings are not particularly new and unique, lessening their impact upon the reader and causing one to reconsider the value of such ‘mass nonconformity’.
Menand is slightly more positive about the intentions of The Catcher in the Rye in "Holden at Fifty". He also recognizes that the novel is supposed to draws kids in through self-recognition and the voice it gives to modern day concerns about "phoniness". But, truthfully, Menand observes that what it really does is provide teens with reasons for their unhappiness and other emotions beyond their immediate control. He says "Holden, after all, isn’t unhappy because he sees that people are phonies; he sees that people are phonies because he is unhappy". Menand compares Holden to Hamlet, Shakespeare’s quintessential tragic character who is fully disappointed by what life offers. Both characters offer their grief to readers for sympathy and as a bridge between the masses.
Menand also speaks about Salinger himself and how his persona has influenced Holden’s and vice versa. Salinger’s reclusiveness has caused many readers to associate the man directly with his character. Menand also speaks about Salinger’s other stories, particularly those starring the precocious Glass family, and the prevalence of stories written after The Catcher in the Rye that seem to echo its misery and darkly personable voice, particularly Sylvia Plath’s "The Bell Jar". He ends with his thoughts on nostalgia and the idea that "When people who grew up in the nineteen-fifties give 'The Catcher in the Rye' to their kids, it’s just like showing them an old photo album: That’s me."
As human beings, while we want to remain individuals and be unique, we also desire to belong to a consciousness and to identify with others, whether it is through a character in a book, a particular song, or any other medium of expression. Menand’s essay is easier to swallow because he seems to understand this desire and doesn’t berate the reader for it. He also offers more practical insights into human nature and, while still realistic about Holden’s collective effect on readers, is not particularly cynical about it. He also makes many good points about Holden’s character and his strange way of speaking like an adult while saying childish things. Salinger’s back story is also informative and interesting when paralleled to Holden’s own feelings of disgust, guilt, fear, and unhappiness.
Both writers struggle to identify and pinpoint the reason for Holden’s effectiveness in the American culture; Will does so suspiciously and Menand does so thoughtfully. And both illustrate the complexity of Salinger’s novel by doing so, but in very different ways.