Saturday, January 30, 2010

Holden Caulfield

Mirriam-Webster on-line Dictionary
. . . . . . . caul . . . . . . .
Etymology: Middle English calle net, probably from Old English cawl basket
Date: 14th century
2 : the inner fetal membrane of higher vertebrates especially when covering the head at birth

I subscribe to an INFJ list serve on line. Today the following post urged me to an old rant about Holden Caulfield whose very name suggests that I may be correct.

After hearing references about this book, Catcher in the Rye, most of my life I finally bought a copy to read at Christmas.
I am sure that some Podlings have read the book, interesting to hear comments.

Hi, Des,

I read Catcher in the Rye as a first year teacher in
1962. Subsequently, I have read and taught Salinger at least thirty
times in my forty year career as an American high school English

My perceptions about Holden and about Salinger differ. One is a
character. One is the creator of the character. Really impt! Way too
many folks confuse the two.

Holden's little brother has died recently as he starts his tale of
being kicked out of prep school for the umpteenth time. After his
little bro died, Holden's parents dealt with the tragedy not by
grieving, but by sending Holden off to yet another prep school.

Obviously the kid is supposed to be a T wandering around in a mind
that has absolutely no idea how to deal with the intense emotional
issues at hand, in this case, not being allowed to grieve the death
of a younger sibling.

Holden is 16 going on 17 - trying to cross the adolescent bridge
between childhood and adulthood that American foists on it's teen
agers with no help from any of the adults surrounding them. I think
his STJ parents are busily avoiding any contact with this kid who
reminds them of what they (ought - could) be feeling - Who's stuffing
in this book! Absolutely everybody.

What's Salinger's point? Stuffing is bad for us. Making money at the
expense of creating relationships is death. Using the job (Tiger
Woods) to avoid dealing with messy, fragmented family ties is not

When Holden finally has a breakdown and destroys all the windows in the
garage, his parents try to help the kid by sending him off to yet
another boarding school..a psychological institution - from which he
begins to tell us this tale (the first lines of the novel) - probably
part of the recovery program. " Here, patient, write out your story. "

So, Holden may seem sarcastic - wonder where he learned that tool? At
the breakfast table when he was seven, maybe. Don't blame the kid for
what his models taught him to do in order to survive.

Mostly Holden is one of the most vulnerable characters in all of
American literature. Hell, the other iconic American hero,
Huckleberry Finn, is a master of survival in contrast. Which, by the
way, is how Americans generally like their heroes.

I could go on for pages on this topic. I happen to have known maybe
1000 Holdens during my career. Most, but not all of them, lacked his
parental background ( here I mean Salinger) but several were as
brilliant, as astute, as upset and as vulnerable.

If you know kids who remind you of Holden, stop and offer them some
sincere heartfelt compassion, give them some quality time, listen to
them, feed them a good meal, remember they are looking for a role
model who is not into the American Dream (Edward Albee) - financial
success no matter what it costs - Cause they need you! They really,
really need your undivided, uncritical attention.

Oh, and although I addressed this note to Desmond, I really mean it
for everyone. American teens may have most of the material stuff they
need, but right now while their parents are undergoing one of the most
frightful economic tragedies of their lifetime, the teens are badly in
need of friendship, nonjudgmental acceptance, and just a little plain
ole love from the adults around them.

regards to all..this is a tough ask, I know..

from whence I have temporarily escaped