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The Spirit of Catcher in the Rye

- - - - - Why the killings?

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#1
oak

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The spirit of Holden is in a state of mostly confusion and bitterness. He has no anchor to give his life meaning. However he takes the reader into his confidence and is truthful about his thoughts which captivates many readers. Holden puts a magnifying lens to the ugliness of human behavior, which makes the reader want to be on his side. The book faithfully keeps to an adolescent way of expressing one's thoughts and actions. It is a relief to hear a book express life in this way and creates a wide gap with perhaps all literature up to the point of publication in around 1950. I was a great fan of this book when reading it at 13 years old and felt vindicated. As an example, when Holden is being lectured about life being a game of rules, Holden thinks: "Game my a**. Some game. If you get on the side where all the hotshots are, then it's game, all right - I'll admit that. But if you are on the other side, where there aren't any hotshots, then what's a game about it? Nothing. No game."1
 
However this book is tied to famous deaths and attempted death: Chapman, Hinckley etc. So I looked at the book more closely. The first noticeable thing is that the book has the spirit of war - Salinger served in some heavy fighting during WWII and saw death camps. So "Catcher" has many violent images (mostly in the imagination of Holden): "...pretending I had a bullet in my guts...blood trickling out of my side of my mouth a little at a time...holding onto my guts, blood leaking all over the place...I'd plug him anyway...Six shots in his fat hairy belly."    2   There is also the spirit of using the Lord's name in vain. "G*d*m," Chr*s**.ke,"  is almost on every other page creating an evil affect. Also, the spirit of rebellion. He's not able to deal with education nor handle alcohol, as well as asking for a prostitute, and hating the adult world. When Holden proposes marriage to a date, and living in the woods, the girl starts talking about conventions. Holden's reply: "...We'd have to go downstairs in elevators and suitcases and stuff. We'd have to phone up everybody and send 'em postcards from hotels and all...playing bridge...There's always a stupid horse race...It wouldn't be the same [as his escaping into the woods] at all." 3
 
 For our times this is mild and probably will not raise any eyebrows. But why do some of the readers and great followers get inspired to kill. I feel the things that I wrote about contribute to a hatred of any kind of authority. Plus, Holden innocently states his belief  in an early part of the book, when speaking about his red hunting cap: "This is a people shooting hat..."I shoot people in this hat." 4
 
 
 
Oak 
    
 
  1 J.D, Salinger, The Catcher in the Rye, 8. 
(Little Brown, and Company) 
 2Salinger, Catcher, 103-104
 3Salinger, Catcher, 133
 4Salinger, Catcher, 22


#2
oak

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 "For if anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself." Gal 6:3  






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