Class started with a heartwarming and educational presentation on the story of Dumbo, the flying elephant. I have never seen the movie Dumbo, so a lot of what the presenters shared with us was very new to me. The movie Dumbo had many themes, but the two that stood out to me the most were not judging others based on the way they look, and how powerful and influential just a single encouraging voice in someone’s life can be. One thing I thought that was particularly funny about the movie was the whole controversy about underage drinking and the infamous ‘Pink Elephant’ scene. It was interesting to see how Disney tried to tackle the idea of presenting drug use to children, by showing some animals hallucinate about other animals after taking a few sips of alcohol. The scene itself was so fun that if anything it might have possibly had the opposite effect on children. Other than that, it was also interesting learning about how Dumbo was the first main character in a Disney movie that did not speak, whose whole story was told through the words of others. Ultimately, this is probably a movie I would show to my children one day, or at least take them on the Dumbo ride at Disney World.
After talking about Dumbo, we went into talking about The Catcher in the Rye and about how Holden continued to make bad decisions until the end of the story. We finished the book by this class so this was the wrap up day where we split off into groups and all answered some questions about Holden and the themes of every chapter. After each group answered the chapter questions they were given, we all went over some of them for the whole class to hear and reflect on. Some of the questions ranged from analyzing the ‘homosexuality’ of Holden’s old teacher and what his intentions truly were, to trying to figure out just what was going through Holden’s mind when the story ended, and why he decided to stay after all and seek out mental help. We then discusses as a class if the book seemed to have a satisfying ending or not, if the absence of a happy ending made it too unsatisfying or if it made it seem like the book was left open to a sequel. I personally felt pretty unsatisfied with the book from start to finish. After reflecting on the whole story, it just seemed to me like I was viewing the story of someone consistently making increasing bad and irrational decisions without learning any lessons or thinking about anyone else in a positive light. The only saving grace Holden had was his affection of his younger sister, and how him caring for her finally shows that he actually does have the ability to be empathetic and care for people other than himself. However, just as we start to see this caring side of Holden, the book abruptly ends and we find him after an unspecified time skip as a patient undergoing mental care and therapy. We, as the readers, never get the payoff of witnessing Holden make his first good decision of the book not running away, or his long awaited revelation that maybe the world was not as bad as he thought it was and that maybe he was the one who needed help. Either way, it is reassuring to know that the saga of Holden Caulfield ends with him receiving the help he so badly needs rather than him being off in some ditch somewhere after a drug overdose. That can be happy enough, since it says to the reader that even though we do not get to see it, there may be a happy future for Holden after all.
After talking about the ending for a bit, we transitioned back into our class groups to create our own questions about the story that we wanted to present and ask to the class. Many of these questions related back to the appropriateness of the story for children, and what the overall morals or purpose of the story were. One of the questions, I can not remember which one, led the class into a short but interesting discussion on how the audience was meant to relate back to Holden, since Holden displayed several symptoms of mental disorders like depression or other conditions. It was interesting to hear several other people’s ideas about this, someone said that we might not have been meant to relate to him but rather learn what living is like for someone with a mental disorder so that we can all become more empathetic in our own lives. Someone else raised the possibility that the book was not for mainstream readers, but it was actually meant to be read by children with similar mental conditions who actually could relate to the character. The class ended after each group was able to ask their questions.