The Adventure Begins Anew…

April 4th’s class emphasized two things: the formation of a literary plot structure, and how Huckleberry Finn‘s multiple themes fit into this composition. Beginning primarily with the plot structure, we learned that Huckleberry Finn follows a linear structure. While fairly typical in literary canon, the structure nonetheless includes five key elements to its construction: exposition, rising action, climax, falling action, and resolution.

The exposition acts as an introduction. It emphasizes the setting, major characters, and overall story arch. Rising actions then dictate the main plot, emphasizing the rise of character development and growing tensions within the story. The pivotal point, however, comes with the story’s climax. Acting as a catalyst for the remaining story progression, the climax highlights a specific turning point, usually characterized by a certain decision or character action. The climax leads into the falling action, in which characters adapt to the consequences of the climax as they attempt to reconcile with the change/major point in the story (it is important to mention that our professor says that sometimes plot structures will eliminate the falling action segment of the work). Lastly, the resolution ties up the story’s loose ends. While our professor does note that there is the possibility for an open-ended work, resolutions usually finalize the story, uniting these previous elements into a solid component.

While this linear structure follows a set style, our professor also mentions that it is possible to have disparities between what one actually labels as a book’s exposition, rising action, climax, etc. For example, while our professor showed the class a standard plot structure for Huckleberry Finn, my own interpretation would be a little bit different. In fact, I would label my plot structure as follows:

-Exposition: Huck introduces his history and current situation; Huck goes to live with Widow Douglas and Ms. Watson; Huck goes to live with his father, Pap; Huck runs away from Pap and society, escapes to Jackson’s Island; Huck joins Jim. (Chapters I-IX)

-Rising Action: Huck and Jim’s adventures down the Mississippi River, including run-ins with the Grangerfords, Shepherdsons, the King, the Duke, and leading confrontation with the Phelps. (Chapters X-XXXIX)

-Climax: Tom and Huck instigate a rescue plan for Jim, Tom is shot in the leg. (Chapter XL)

-Falling Action: Jim returns to the Phelps; Jim is revealed to be a free man; Pap is revealed to have died. (Chapters XLI-XLII)

-Resolution: Huck plans for a new adventure out West. (“Chapter the last”)

Yet despite these plot structures, equally as important are the thematic elements dictating our understanding of the story. While on Tuesday’s class we discussed multiple examples of themes (including racism, independence, societal hypocrisy, etc.), what I thought was really significant were the themes we had to come up by ourselves.

The class had many interpretations on Huck and his story, and thus the themes were broad and meaningful. Some themes included youth and innocence, the importance of friendship, and dispersions in societal stigmas. My own group came up with the idea of a never-ending adventure, and that Huckleberry Finn is no more a presentation on societal realism than it is a support for wanderlust.

Twain’s important final detail, “But I reckon I got to light out for the Territory ahead of the rest”, emphasizes childlike fascination with newfound adventures and unexplored territory (Twain 220). This important factor ties in the whole story to many discussions we have had on what constitutes as appropriate children’s literature. While we as a class have debated on Huck being a role model, we cannot deny that even if he may or may not be an influence on children, he is the epitome of 19th century American idealism. Twain’s stories portrays life in 1800’s U.S., including all of the unpleasant realities in the American South.

As Tuesday was our class’ final day on this book, our discussion of themes help to evaluate the book in terms of its cultural context. The child himself, Huck, presents an embodiment of maturity and youth. His independence and general knowledge adapts well to the environment, but his longing for the next journey emphasizes child-like curiosity. Whether or not we as a class are aware of Twain’s true intentions does not undermine the significance of Huck’s role in verisimilitudinous literature.

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Huckleberry Finn 4/4/17

Today in class we discussed about how Huckleberry Finn has a linear plot. It starts off with an exposition in which Miss Watson is trying to civilize Huck, and then his father shows up and kidnaps him. Then there is a rising action in which Huck escapes his father and Jim escapes as well. In the climax Jim rips up his letter to Miss Watson explaining where Jim is. In the falling action Huck and Tom try and free Jim from the Phelp’s farm. The resolution is that Tom gets shot and explains to Huck that in Miss Watson’s will Jim is to be set free and Huck decides to move out west.

We also talked in groups of four about the different themes in the book. The first theme is friendship. One example of friendship is Tom and Huck. This relationship focuses more on a childhood friendship. Jim and Huck’s friendship is more of a philosophical friendship and they both learned so much through their friendship. Huck realized that his conscience of trying to help Jim escape was the right decision in the end. He went against everything he had every known and found a real friendship in Jim. Jim learned to trust Huck which shows great strength in their relationship. Independence is another theme in the book and this was very evident when Huck escaped Miss Watson and his father. It really showed how Huck could survive on his own and he really grew as a character throughout the book gaining more independence. Desire for personal freedom is another theme and this is very clear when Jim is trying to get to the free states in order to work and save money for his family. An example of conflict between the individual and the society is Jim versus racism. He had to fight racism throughout the whole book which even made him question if he should trust Huck. Huck and Jim try to make sense of the world as they go through all these adventures together and work together to try and figure out who the frauds are. The moral dilemma in the book is when Huck is trying to decide if he should send Miss Watson a letter explaining where Jim is and about him running away. Huck really struggles with doing the “right” thing and actually doing the right thing. He grew up listening to white people and it was the norm to have slaves and he thought it was “right” to tell Miss Watson but for some reason it didn’t feel right to him morally because of how close him and Jim have gotten. Racism is a very consistent theme in this book. Jim is seen as a “runaway” whenever they encounter someone they always asked if Jim was a runaway. He was always seen as different because he wasn’t being a slave when they were going about their adventures. Jim also encounters a lack of acceptance. He isn’t accepted for who he really is. Hypocrisy of the civilized society is also a dominant theme because there is always a lack of balance of trying to do the right thing but also being racist. Tom really portrays honest listening and caring when he explains how Miss Watson wanted Jim to ultimately be free. Accepting one another is the final theme of the story that we discussed and this is very true between Jim and Huck’s friendship. Huck saw and accepted Jim for who he really was. Huck wanted to help Jim find freedom and they really trusted one another.

These are just some of the themes that are presented in the book. These themes such as lack of acceptance were very evident during this time period in history and reading this story really puts things into perspective of how bad people were judged and really shows how bad racism was. We discussed realism at the beginning of class and the racism seen in this book is something that was very real during this time in history. It is hard to believe some of the adventures that Huck and Jim went through but that doesn’t mean that they could not happen. This book could very well have been someones reality.

March 30, 2017

We started off class on Thursday, March 30, 2017 with a presentation over Pink Panther. There are many different versions of the Pink Panther, but according to the presentation, a majority of them were a major flop. After the presentation on the Pink Panther we discussed The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, chapter 1-17. The Tuesday prior we discussed chapters 1-5 so we briefly covered those again.

The characters Jim and Huck, experience extreme growth in their relationships with one another during these first 17 chapters. The story begins and Jim and Huck have no major relationship, Jim is a slave and Huck is a boy who lives and is cared for by Widow Douglas and her sister Miss. Douglas.

Huck and his father, Pap have a very poor relationship. Pap is an alcoholic and Huck wants nothing to do with him. When Huck finds out Pap is back in town he sells his fortune to Judge Thatcher, in hopes of derailing his father’s objectives. Pap kidnaps Huck, but Huck runs away.

Huck waits for his father to pass by, and then heads to Jackson Island. Huck spent a few days alone on the island and then runs into Jim. Huck is surprised to see Jim, who tells Huck he ran away the same day Huck disappeared, because he was afraid he was going to get sold. The two seek shelter in a cave to hide and Jim predicts it will rain.

The rain brought a flood and washed a house past the island. Inside the house, the two find a dead body. Jim does not let Huck look at the dead man’s face. This moment is very important in the book because this is the first moment Jim treats Huck in a fatherly, protective way.

Huck goes into town dressed as a girl and learns that people will be looking for Jim. Huck’s cover as a girl is thrown when he says his name wrong, when he is reasked and when he nearly kills a rat with a rock. He reveal his “true” identity as George Peters, a runaway. Once he arrives back at the island he builds a decoy fire and him and Jim head out. Along the way they steal to survive and Huck thinks about Widow Douglas, showing the effect her attempts to civilize him had on Huck.

Along the way Huck over hears some robbers, and tells Jim they have to cut their boat loose so they can’t escape. At this time Jim realized their boat had drifted away so Jim and Huck steal the Robbers boat. Huck feels bad about taking the robbers boat, and goes to get help. Huck thinks of how proud Widow Douglas would be, again showing the effect Widow Douglas had on Huck, even though he resented her desire for him to be civilized.

Huck and Jim get separated for a little while, but once reunited Huck tries to play a trick on Jim and say he thought the whole thing up. Huck eventually apologizes to Jim, showing that he has grown. Along the way Huck comes across a few men who want to search his boat for slaves. He convinces the men his family is on board and they have small pox, and that he is trying to find help. This deters the men from checking the raft. Huck has an internal struggle about helping Jim escape his owners, and not giving him up. He then decides that he would have felt just as bad if he had given Jim up.

Huck and Jim canoe get stolen, so they take off on the raft. The raft breaks apart and Huck makes it ashore. Huck is immediately surrounded by a pack of dogs. A man called the dogs which saves Huck’s life. He takes Huck, who introduces himself as George Jackson, to his house. After determining that George (Huck) is not a Shepherdson, his hosts tell him he can stay for as long as he needs.

Throughout these 17 chapters we see Huck and Jim’s relationship grow from almost nothing to family. Although he does momentarily question turning in Jim or not, in the end he decides not to.

March 30, 2017

Today we started by going over chapters 1-17 of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.  In these chapters we talked about how Mark Twain satirized the problems he saw in the Antebellum South.  Twain shows the his issues with the South by having the characters that interact with Huck be over the top in their ways.  Whether it is the Widow Douglas trying to civilize the orphaned Huck, or Miss Watson placing high value in her slaves.  Huck sees no point in becoming civilized and conforming to the ideals of the Antebellum South and the Widow Douglas.  However, Huck does end up seeing the Widow Douglas along with Miss Watson as mother figures.  He ends up later in the story asking himself what the Widow Douglas would think of him at that moment and his actions in certain situations.  She ends up not being completely successful in civilizing Huck, however he does seem to develop a conscience.

Huck and his friends decide to start a gang along with Tom Sawyer, who Huck knows from Mark Twains previous book The Adventures of Tom Sawyer.  Huck is happy with the creation of the gang since he is longing for his old life of adventures and mischief with Tom, especially since he is now stuck with two women who are both trying to control and civilize him.  This is because during those adventures Huck feel like a kid with his best friend Tom, without any adults controlling him.   Tom dazzles the rest of the kids in the gang with stories of his previous adventures.  Tom becomes a big brother figure to Huck, as one he looks up to and aspires to be.  The kids in the gang end up having to say an oath where they are bound to secrecy by death.  The members of the gang end up getting restless due to their lack of activity and adventure and end dissembling the gang.  Tom soon becomes an afterthought, as Huck hears of his father’s return only to take the wealth Huck had acquired from one of his previous adventures.  Huck quickly has to grow up as he soon will have to face the real world without the help of anyone else to help him.

After Huck deals with the reappearance of his father and his attempt to outsmart him by selling his fortune to the judge, Huck decides that he needs to run away and ends up on a journey to the free states along the Mississippi River with one of Miss Watson’s slaves Jim.  Jim is on this journey with Huck so that he can earn a living and can purchase the rest of his family as a free man.  Initially Huck and Jim make camp on a island near St. Petersburg, Missouri. Huck ventures into town disguised as a girl, where he hears that people will be coming to the island on the hunt for Jim.  Huck then hurries back to the island to tell Jim of this news.  Huck makes a fire on the other side of the island to draw the people over there so that Jim and him could escape onto the Mississippi River.  While on the river Huck and Jim run into robbers who are mid-crime.  Huck and Jim end up stealing the robbers’ boat leaving the people on the boat without help.  We ended talking about whether Huck was going to turn Jim in or not, and whether he feels any loyalty to Jim.

Jim and Huck start to develop a friendship along their journey as they both start to look out for one another.  Huck does however face an inner conflict on whether or not he should turn Jim in and what the Widow Douglas would think of him.  The time with the Widow Douglas and Miss Watson has definitely had a big influence on Huck, since Huck throughout his adventure thinks to himself what either of the two women would think of him at that very moment.  Huck also makes resolutions to himself of what he will do next time in a similar situation that would make either of them happy.  Huck however, runs into a problem when resolves to turn Jim in to make the Widow Douglas happy, but this conflicts with the friendship him and Jim have developed.

March 28, 2017

On March 28th we went over the first five chapters of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. The book starts off with character named Huckleberry Finn, or Huck for short, a rich kid that cannot talk too good that came from a drunk father. He is narrating a story about him and his life. Huckleberry stays with Widow Douglas and her sister Miss Watson, two wealthy sisters whom adopted Huck. Throughout chapter one, Miss Watson wants to teach Huck about religion and the affects is can have if he continues to have a bad behavior. Tom Sawyer, Huck friend, influences huckleberry bad behavior.

Chapter two goes into a continuance of Huckleberry and Tom friendship and the trouble they make. Tom is trying to mess with Jim, Miss Watson slave, as Huck tries to avoid getting caught. However Tom does not listen and leads Jim to a story of how a witch took Tom hat. Tom and Huck meet up with some other boys to make plans on kidnapping people to make money at the end of the chapter.

After a night out with Tom, Huck is stuck with being punished for messing up his outfit. However chapter 3 main points was that the two sisters, Miss Watson and Widow Douglas wants Huckleberry to understand the points of God, showing him why it is important to pray. Later through the chapter Huck finds out his dad died and was found in the river.

Chapter 4 and 5 goes into detail about Huck and Pap relationship. Pap was Huck father. He was a drunk, uneducated, who was jealous of how Huck became on education. Pap would take advantage of Huck, from trying to demand money to being abusive. Pap would go to jail at the end of chapter 5, and have a bad impression on the new judge and Widow Douglas.

In class we began to have an open discussion on uses of certain words in the book. We wanted to decide if these words promote certain values and outlooks to children. My personal opinion would be it could help show children how the world has been in the past and where the world could go in later life. These words give an open view of how people can act but also show children how to avoid these bad judgments. Children over ten should know what certain words are and how it can affect people if used. But also how these words can shape a person to face ignorance from others because the word could still be used today, so if children are aware it can help them get over of how they are treat to make a change.

We continue discussion with a comparison of how this book and the actions of Huckleberry can be compared to Pinocchio. We notice they acted the same with them starting to go down the wrong path with bad behavior. They both did not want to listen to those whom loved them and wanted the best for them. However, at the end of the story, Huckleberry and Pinocchio began to see that their actions were not worth the trouble they had to go through. An example of this was huckleberry and Tom relationship. Tom created a lot of trouble for Huckleberry and at the end they was not even friends any more.

Our last class discussion was could this book have a slave narrative, we determine that was a no. This book did not have a major potion of the lives of slaves. Even though sections explained what Jim, the slave went through because of Huck actions; it still could not count for slave narrative.

My last topic of this blog is the presentation of the Storks. However, I cannot talk about it due to my absent of the presentations. I had a tardy today in class and was not able to receive a copy of the PowerPoint.

Class 03-30

Today’s class began with a presentation of The Pink Panther in its various adaptations over the years. Matt and Steven showed a video of the main theme song from the 1963 adaptation, which is one of the catchiest songs known to man. This story was based upon the story of Sir Charles Lytton and his attempt to steal the Pink Panther diamond. There have been many films based upon this story, some successful and some unsuccessful, but all in all, this is a timeless franchise. The film’s propriety is somewhat debatable, but is ultimately up to the parent’s discretion. We still aren’t sure whether or not the movie was nominated for a Golden Globe award or a Golden Glove award…

Before we began our discussion of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Professor Soudabeh cleared up some confusion regarding our book presentations, to take place the last two days of class. After a feeling of general panic, everyone got a grip on the assignment and we now understand that each individual will pick a topic from eLC, choose a children’s book covering it, and give a 3-4 minute presentation over it. Some students chose their topics and let Professor Soudabeh know, but there will be a sign up sheet in class on April 4th. Books are available at the main library and at the children’s literature collection in Aderhold Hall.

Next, we truly began our discussion of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. For this class, we were to have read through page 79, or chapter 17. Everyone in the class broke off into pairs to discuss one chapter of the novel, summarize its events, and choose the most important event in the chapter. My partner Lindsey and I were assigned chapter 14, and we discussed what Jim and Huck were up to in this chapter, including stealing from the shipwreck. Lindsey and I felt that the most important thing that happened in this chapter had to do with character development rather than plot development. Huck and Jim sit on the bank and discuss whether or not the French speak English. While Huck thinks that they do speak English, and Jim is convinced that the French do not speak English. The fact that the two characters are having this discussion creates a situation in which readers can see the two different viewpoints they have of the world.

Each group presented their chapter, and through this we were able to discuss many different topics. Some of the most notable questions/discussions are as follows:

  • What is the purpose of the gang in terms of identity?
  • Do the children feel that they are adults because they are a part of the gang?
  • Are readers afraid of what the children will do?
  • What is the significance of Huck’s relationship with his father?
  • Huck vs. Jim
  • Is Huck’s fortune a positive or negative thing in his life?
  • What is the role of foreshadowing?
  • How does Huck change through this river adventure?
  • What is the role of the robbers in the shipwreck scene?

Through discussion of each of these questions, many students in the class were able to share their thoughts. Many of my classmates feel that identity and the struggle to find one’s identity is a large part of Huck’s adventure in the novel. His father, however, is something that holds him back in this endeavor. Despite this, it isn’t clear whether or not his caretakers, Widow Douglass and Miss Watson, are really individuals who are encouraging him to create his own identity. Additionally, we discussed the ways that Huck is already changing in this adventure. For example, he can see the importance of attempting to save the robbers despite their bad behaviors, thinking to himself that Miss Watson and Widow Douglass would be proud of him for doing so.

Seeing that a few of the students in the class have already read this novel, it is interesting to see how their impressions of the characters and the plot has changed through a second reading at a different stage in their lives. I’m sure that the class would agree that this reading is a little different from their reading in high school. Having already read this book, I am interested to see how the rest of the class reacts to the rest of this novel! I know that the discussions will be very enlightening.

 

Class on 3/28

Today, we started off the class with a presentation by Maggie on the children’s movie Storks. The movie is about storks that used to deliver babies to people who would write the company letters, but the CEO became greedy and wanted to make more profit, so he started to deliver packages. One of the main characters, Tulip, received a letter while working in the mailroom from a little boy who was hoping for a little brother. Tulip started up the baby factory machine again to grant boy his wish of becoming a big brother. Maggie then focused on some of the major themes the movie portrayed such as: family, identity, corporate culture, and mainly, parenthood.

We then shifted focus to begin our discussion of our next class book, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn written by Mark Twain. Professor Soudabeh started off a discussion of Mark Twain and where he came from. He was born in Hannibal, Missouri in 1835 to a rather large family of 7 children. His first job was with a printer. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn was published in 1884. He got his license for steamboats in 1885, which the symbolism of steamboats played an important role in his writing.

The class had an open discussion on whether we believe that the text of the book should be changed or not. The majority of the class made comments about how they wouldn’t appreciate turning it into an anti-racist book. They feel like it’s one thing to read an offensive word, but it doesn’t force you to say it out loud of use it in everyday life because its still wrong. Leaving the words in the book shows how harsh things were during that time period and it gives us perceptive today on the reality of this harshness.

We worked in groups of two and filled out a character chart, where we described the characters’ traits, their relationships with the main character, Huck, and if they were abusive or helpful to him along the way. After all of the groups filled out the chart, we came back together and had an open discussion about all of the characters thus far in the book.

The first character we discussed was Jim, who was one of Miss. Watson’s household slaves. Jim is described as patient and protective over his family. He understands the reality of what’s going on around him unlike Huck. His relationship towards Huck is definitely a friendly one, which really develops later on in the book. At the beginning of the book, their relationship wasn’t really developed yet. Their relationship develops as they run away together; Huck running away from his abusive father and Jim running away from being a slave, so he isn’t separated from his family.

The next character we discussed was Widow Douglas, who is a wealthy woman who adopted Huck. She is very friendly towards Huck and tends to have a lot of patience with him. She isn’t as strong with her beliefs, as her sister, Miss. Watson is. Widow Douglas and Huck seem to have a pretty good relationship, even though she tends to feel obligated towards taking care of Huck.

Miss. Watson is the wealthy sister to Widow Douglas. Her relationship with Huck is similar to Widow Douglas, where she is tough on him, but her beliefs are more strongly laid out. She is always discussing her beliefs regarding religion and telling him stories.

Next, we discussed Tom, who is Huck’s best friend. Huck and Tom are really close friends, but it’s almost like Huck idolizes Tom in terms of a big brother figure. It was described that Tom is everything that Huck is not. He seems to be the dominating one in their friendship, where his passion for romance novels allows him to easily act in a way of cruelty regarding their so called “gang”.

All of these relationships are affected in a different way because Huck is still a child. Some relationships are affected negatively and others are affected positively. Among these relationships so far in the story, Huck is most comfortable with Tom because of their past together. It is brought up in the story that Huck knows Tom from the novel of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. It will be interesting to continue reading and see how these particular characters further develop in this story.

 

3/23 Class

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.

March 23

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.

3/21 Class

Our class on March 21st started off with a presentation on the movie Trolls given by Camille. It was a great presentation that really described the movie very well, especially since I have not seen the movie. I felt like, after the movie, I really knew everything about Trolls without having to sit through the movie. The central theme for the movie is finding happiness. The Bergens from the Trolls movie found happiness in eating the trolls, but the trolls were able to show that they can find happiness within themselves. Our professor tied this into the topic of discussion for the day: our readings from Catcher in the Rye.
We discussed, as a class, J.D. Salinger’s intention for the The Catcher in the Rye. Holden is a representation of J.D. Salinger. We see that Holden is very similar to J.D. Salinger, and that, while the book is not an autobiography per se, Salinger pours his life out through Holden.

Before going into the discussions for the day, we split up into groups of two and were given a list of discussion questions, broken down by chapter, and sought to answer them in our groups so that we can discuss with the class. One of my group’s questions was in direct reference to his confusion about sex and sexuality, which was discussed later on in class.

We broke down Holden’s characteristics into a small list of items that encompassed all of Holden which we have read so far. These include loneliness, his obsession with death, his desperate pursuit of preserving his innocence, confusion about sex and sexuality, depression, and his inability to trust others.

We discussed Holden’s loneliness as seen throughout the readings. At first, we noticed that Holden has been lonely since the death of his brother, Allie. His sister Phoebe is away from him, at home, and his other brother D.B. is in Hollywood, which leaves Holden alone. He struggles with this as he is continually thinking about Phoebe and Allie, and also alienates himself from his group of peers as he leaves school.

Holden’s obsession with death can be seen through his continual thought of his deceased brother, Allie. He constantly lives with them and reminisces of times when he had Allie by his side. The thought of Allie often helps Holden, but sometimes it leads him into a depression.

We also discussed about depression in Holden’s life. We discussed that Holden believes that he drew the short end of the stick in life. He knows his situation, yet lacks the motivation to fix or come out of that situation. The physical, emotional, mental, and behavioral aspects of his depression tend to keep Holden down.

His confusion with sex and sexuality is especially interesting. For the discussion questions related to chapter 9, we had questions that related to Holden’s issues with sex and sexuality. The first one related to him noticing the “screwballs” outside his window: one man dressing as a woman, and a couple spitting a drink into each others’ mouths. This made Holden feel a bit aroused, shockingly, and he goes to call a girl that he does not have much knowledge about. He has the idea to call a few girls that run through his mind that he has some sort of relationship with, but insists on calling the stranger. My group discussed how this was indicative of his confusion with sex and sexuality.

Holden also has a desperate pursuit of preserving innocence, although he is unable to do so throughout the story. We discussed how Holden sort of forced himself into the world of adulthood by alienating himself from his peers and into the unknown, where he really cannot afford to be innocent. He sees the innocence in his sister Phoebe, but falls into a bit of a depression as she is the embodiment of innocence to him, but he cannot attain to it.

We ended class with discussing our In Class Puppet Theater presentations. Our professor told us that we should have our presentations ready for the end of April. My group is doing our presentation on Cinderella, so look out for it 🙂