Wednesday, March 28, 2012

I Miss Holden

I have a foggy memory of hearing someone my age talk about how much they loved The Catcher in the Rye. I was about 11 years old. I think this was in hebrew school-- we all went around and said what our favorite book was. I remember whoever was leading the class mentioning that they were surprised that someone my age loved and understood that book. I didn't think too much about it, but from that point on I have been curious about this mysterious book that I would have to wait to be ready to read.
Thank goodness the time has come. I few weeks ago my english class and I began reading the book. And you know something? It is my new favorite book. If I had to go to a desert island and only bring one book I would bring this one. If I had to pick one person I wanted to always have around me it would be Holden Caulfield. (Or Aaron Rodgers.) If I have a baby boy some day I will name him Holden.
The hardest part about sitting here and writing this entry is the fact that there is so much to say. Maybe even too much to say. I guess I just have to pick one theme and try to control myself from talking about every other part of the book.
I think the thing I love about Holden so much is how misunderstood he is. How rare it is for me to find people that love him. This is what makes Holden so unique. He doesn't say everything point-blank. You have to find the meaning for yourself. At one point in the book Holden seeks advice from an old teacher of his, Mr. Antolini. Mr. Antolini says that if you want something, you have to get it. I took that to heart when I read The Catcher in the Rye. Someone can read the book easily and see our friend Holden as a whining bored freak. But if you take what J.D. is giving to you, I swear you can get something so beautiful from this book.
Poor Holden doesn't want to grow up. He doesn't want to grow up because he never even got a chance to be innocent and free and safe. His brother Allie died when he was so young and Holden's childhood was completely ripped from his as a result.
No child can come back from something like that. Someone who is a key part of their life being taken away forever? How would Holden or anyone be able to know how to handle any of it?
So Holden walks around by himself for three whole days. In New York City. Where an observer like Holden can look around and find something to criticize everywhere he goes. And unfortunately for Holden, people who see him do the same thing. Of course. Holden is different. He is a kid trapped in an adult's body and he is an adult trapped in a kid's body. Holden doesn't know who he is and who he is supposed to be. He doesn't know right and wrong because he never got a chance to experience both!
And of course, worst of all, Holden has such a hard time finding people who he can relate to and who can relate to him. Holden is living this complex life that is rare and hard to follow. But similar to what Mr. Antolini said, if you want something, only you can go get it.
That's what breaks my heart. If the characters in Catcher could just look at Holden and think about him maybe he wouldn't be so alone. If Holden could just look at everyone else in a not-so-negative way, maybe he would have the ability to let people in.
In the end of the book, thankfully, Holden becomes more optimistic and positive. But I and hopefully everyone who has ever read this book knows that changes and healing are not things that happen over night. Holden does not end the book as a perfect person but he does instill hope in you that it is going to be okay. Our job as readers is to just trust him. To promise him that his life isn't over and so maybe more challenges are in store, but that doesn't mean that he isn't going to be alright.

Holden is going to be fine. But what I have come to learn from reading this book is that reading is joint effort between the character and the reader. The only way that I can come to terms with the fact that Holden is going to be okay is if I allow myself. Holden tells me his story and I take it from there. If I want it, I have to get it.
As a reader of Holden's story, I can only be sure if Holden is going to be okay if I help him through it.
We have a responsibility as readers in this world. My friend Holden Caulfield taught me that.
I miss you, Holden. I know you're doing great though. I can feel it in my heart.


  1. The first time I read Catcher was in sophomore honors english in high school. my teacher was phenomenal and basically told us that he could get in trouble with some people for letting us read it because it was banned in a lot of places. obviously, that only made it more appealing to us.

    This is my favorite chracter insight that you wrote: "He is a kid trapped in an adult's body and he is an adult trapped in a kid's body." So true, and thinking of him like that helps you understand him a bit more (and not find him as such a punk).

    I also loved the end of this post. So much. One of my favorite literary theory books is called "A Walk in the Fictional Woods" by Umberto Eco. He says that "the text is a lazy machine" and that it needs the reader and his/her brain to complete itself. I love that thought.

    I love your love for Holden, too. And I miss not having your insights in my class everyday!!

    These are some of my previously typed thoughts on salinger, some more specific than others:

  2. Ms. Robbins!!
    Thank you so much for the nice comments. I miss talking in class with you about books, life, and more. I'm glad you share a similar love for Holden. I hope we can see each other soon and catch up! Lots of love from Beacon,