Today in class we talked about The Catcher in the Rye, and the themes in the book. We talked about how both J.D. Salinger and Holden were represented in the book. Although the book is not an autobiography we talked about how J.D. Salinger uses his character Holden to tell his own life story. We discussed the setting of the book and how the slang used inside the book may be viewed as controversial to some readers. We also talked about how the role of Holden and what he stands for in the book was a huge reason why many readers could relate to him and feel some sort of personal connection. Finally, towards the end of class we wrote down what we thought the themes were in The Cather in the Rye.
The themes me and my group came up with were growing up and change. There were several other themes other people came up with such as death, isolation, and sexuality but most of the themes were similar to one another. Isolation is shown throughout this book through Holdens thoughts and actions, he alienates himself to try and protect himself. We talked about how he uses his isolation as a coping method and how that could either be helping him or confusing him. Holden continuously seems to be thinking about his dead brother Allie and his sister Phoebe who is away at home, but he also is alienating himself from making friends as he leaves school.
The topic of death came up a lot in our class discussion, we talked about how death is represented for Holden in two different forms. The literal and physical sense and the spiritual and metaphorical sense. Holden loses his younger brother Allie to leukemia which clearly troubles him throughout his life however he also uses his memories of Allie to comfort himself during difficult times in his life as well. Death also appears when Holden seems to be talking about himself. He references death several times when referring to his own life. He mentions in the book that he would sit on top of an atomic bomb if a war were to break lose. We talked about several other examples where Holden would imagine death upon himself and we mentioned how all of these things could have stemmed from the death of Allie. Lastly, Holden seems to relate death to being left alone. We talked about how his brother Allie’s death and his sister Phoebe not being there for him makes him feel alone and isolated however he also seems to ask for death himself because he doesn’t want to deal with other people. We related the theme of death to the theme of isolation because both seem to go hand in hand for Holden.
Another theme we analyzed in class was growing up and how Holdens struggle into maturity is displayed throughout the novel. It is very clear that Holden is frightened by adulthood and scared to embrace it however he does not want to acknowledge it. He paints the “adultworld” as phony and superficial and childhood as innocent and honest. Throughout the novel Holden does encounter several adults that match his awful perception of adults like Sally Hayes and Maurice but although he is good at observing bad traits in others he fails to apply the same to himself. He continuously lies to others and he himself notes that he is a compulsive liar however he still paints the world as black and white, and paints himself as he likes. His way of thinking of the world is still very immature, and throughout the book as he encounters more people you can see how he is scared of society and the responsibilities that come with it.
Next we talked about the theme of sexuality which is mainly seen in Chapter 13 of the book. In this part of the book Holden is with a prostitute in a green dress. We talked about how in this chapter of the book Holden seems to be very vulnerable and confused in regards to sex. He asks the prostitute to leave after lying to her about his health. Not only does he isolate himself because he doesn’t like the adult world but also because he is afraid of intimacy both physically and emotionally. After discussing the themes we ended class by talking about our In Class presentations.