History is Eternal, Especially in a Museum Where the Exhibits Never Change
In J.D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye, Holden reflects very fondly of the Museum of Natural History. He wants to go there to find his sister Phoebe, but he remembers that “it was Sunday and Phoebe wouldn’t be there.” (119) But none the less, “even though it was so damp and lousy out,” (119) he decided to walk all the way through the park to the museum. While he is on his way to the museum, he recollects how every time you go there, “everything always stayed right where it was”(121): the museum never changed. Most people would be annoyed by this and would not return if there was nothing new to see. But not Holden Caulfield; he likes it for that very reason: it does not change. But the oddest thing that happens is that even though he had walked all the way through the cold damp park, he decides that he does not want to go in at all, exclaiming that he “wouldn’t have gone inside for a million bucks.” (122) This seems particularly odd after he exclaimed: “I get very happy when I think about” (119-120) the museum. This is one of the only childhood memories he shares with us, and he discusses it for about three pages in the book which means he is obviously fond of it, but he now wants nothing to do with it.
Why is Holden so fond of the museum? It is probably because the museum’s never changing exhibits represent Holden’s unwillingness to enter into the stages of adulthood. The Museum of Natural History has been the same since before Holden was a little kid. He idolizes the Natural History Museum for this reason, he wants to be like it and never have to grow up and start his life as an adult. One of his fondest childhood memories is the eternal museum that is always the same, and he is ashamed that unlike the museum he is changing, wishing that “Things should stay the way they are” (122). He has become more mature physically and mentally, but the museum...
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