The Catcher in the Rye
Salinger, J.D. The Catcher in the Rye. New York. Little,Brown and Company. January, 2001.
"What I was really hanging for, I was trying to feel some kind of a good-by. I mean I've left schools and places I didn't even know I was leaving them. I hate that. I don't care if it's a sad good-by or a bad good-by, but when I leave a place I like to know I'm leaving it. If you don't you feel even worse." (7)
Holden seems to be on a hunt to find meaning to his life. This passage explains that drastically. He is leaving Pencey Prep because of his failing grades while his progression to having responsibility as an adult has failed. Holden wants to feel his "good-by" so he can say it was not all for nothing. Also so he can comfort himself and say he had some sort of happy memories at Pencey. What Holden does not realize is that he has always had a reason to try in school, like making a better future for himself but he never wants that. Holden wants to be attached to something, yet does not know what it is. His hunt for emotion and meaning has only just begun. To me, this passage expertly describes the feeling of being senseless. I connected quite well because I, just like Holden, catch myself leaving a place I spent time at, but cannot exactly recall anything that I will always remember from this place. Although Holden tries to think of a fun time he had, it really was not that great. He feels like he must remember something since he spent so much time at Pencey. We both can't look to the future and where we will end up being without knowing what we are leaving behind. Holden and I are so alike is so many ways. We want to always remember our past but also move one to what we will soon become.
"I live in New York, and I was thinking about the lagoon in Central Park, down near Central Park South. I was wondering if it would be frozen when I got home, and if it was, where did the ducks go. I was wondering where the ducks went when the lagoon got all icy and frozen over. I wondered if some guy came in a truck and took them away to a zoo or something. Or if they just flew away." (18)
Where the ducks go when the weather turns cold is always important to Holden. I think that throughout the book, the ducks symbolize Holden. He views himself as this duck because although his surroundings are constantly changing, Holden still remains the same. This adds to the theme of the book and how he must find someone or somewhere to rely on when things go for the worst, or everything he once lived in (the ducks in the lagoon during the winter) turns out to be what he never really needs. Holden just keeps searching for this "thing" that is the only object that he will ever need in life, but in fact he never finds it.
What an important part of The Catcher in the Rye! Why does Holden choose to think of the ducks going somewhere at winter time when talking to "Old Spencer"? I think that he feels like such a failure in school and in his own life that he does not know where to go, like these ducks at the frozen lagoon. If you view Holden as this "duck"; will he give up in these harsh conditions and die? Will he find help in others to assist in saving him, like the guy in the truck who takes the ducks away? Or will Holden find strength in him to save himself from all the chaos and just "fly away"?
"Look, sir. Don't worry about me," I said. "I mean it. I'll be all right. I'm just going through a phase right now. Everybody goes through phases and all, don't they?" (20-21)
When talking to "Old Spencer", Holden comes to a conclusion that the way he is choosing to live his life is a phase. That he cannot help what has become of him. Throughout The Catcher in the Rye, Holden always is coming up with excuses either to comfort someone or himself. Holden hates to think that he just "gave up" on his life and he can't lay the blame on himself. Though he should be an adult, or at least be...