Catcher in the Rye
Hi I’m Linda Hirw and this is the Brightstorm course for Catcher in the Rye. I can’t tell you how psyched I am to be able to work on this book with you. This is one of my favorite books. In fact, it’s probably my number one favorite book. It’s the book that really changed my life in high school because it was the first book I read for school with a character who is like me. He wasn’t perfect, he wasn’t in the Victorian era. He was screwed up and confused and he drank and he swore and he was a real person. I’m talking of course about Holden Caulfield. You should actually feel really lucky that you’re reading this book for school. It might change your life too.
To start out with, we’re going to do some plot summary today. I’m going to show you plot diagrams to help you keep track of the things that are going on in the novel. We’re also going to work a little bit talking about background information about the author as well as the time period. Get ready my friends, my alienated youth and other people who just really want to figure this book out better this is go you let’s get going.
Who is the man behind this incredible amazing phenomenal book? Can you tell it’s my favorite book ever? Alright Jerome David Salinger. He was born January 1st 1919. A member of the upper-middle class of New York city, does that sound familiar? He went to prep school, he went to military school. I point these things out because there’s a lot of similarity between Mr. Salinger and certain Holden Caulfield.
Check out this quote, “My boyhood was very much the same as that of the boy in the book…it was a great relief telling people about it.” There you go there’s someone who completely owns up to the fact that he is part of his character which, I think would be a really natural thing.
In the middle of his life, he actually wrote a short story about Holden and that 1941. I think that’s really cool because later it turns into a book, but at this point it’s just a short story. Actually if you click the link, that’s in your bonus materials and that should be on the screen right now, you can read the first Holden story. Check it out see how Holden evolves from this very first iteration to what he became in Catcher in the Rye.
Now he wrote the story in 1941, but it wasn’t published until 1946. It was published in The New Yorker Magazine, that’s the magazine that published almost everything that J.D Salinger wrote.
Family life; Mr. Salinger is a bit of a player. He first married in 1945, he married a French woman and they divorced in 1947. He remarried again in 1955. This wife he had two children with, but then they divorced in 1967. So we could probably say that his love life was tumultuous, is may be a nice way of putting it.
Let’s talk a little bit more about his background with writing. He wrote mostly short stories and like I said before, they were usually published in the New Yorker Magazine. He wrote Catcher in 1951 and it’s the only novel that he’s ever had published, which I think is really interesting. Salinger was really uncomfortable with his success, which is bizarre. If I wrote something as amazing as Catcher in the Rye, I would tattoo it on myself and let everybody see that I was this fabulous author. But Salinger is just really kind of uncomfortable with the fame and the success, he really doesn’t like literally criticism. He didn’t like people critiquing his work or really even interpreting it. So I’m sorry Mr. Salinger because you’re watching, but he just had some weird reaction really to his success and to people kind of analyzing what he had to say. He didn’t like the idea of people putting messages into it, that he thought weren’t there, in any case.
H e also at one point sold the rights to one of his short stories to someone in Hollywood and they made a movie about it. He thought it was horrible and he vowed to never ever sell the rights to any of his work again. He’s kind of territorial about what he writes, and I think this is really interesting. He said, “There is a marvelous peace in not publishing. I like to write. I love to write. But I write for myself and my own pleasure.” J.D. Salinger is still alive and has confirmed that he has to complete novels at home in his house that he’s written but not published. It just kind of blows my mind.
So we know a little bit about the guy behind the book, now let’s talk about what was happening in the world at the time the book was written and published. Salinger wrote Catcher in the late 1940s. And 1946 is the year in which the book is set. Now let’s think about America in 1946. It’s just after the war ended, and it was a really bloody horrible war. People completely wanted to distance themselves from that feeling and those memories. It was time of American prosperity, everybody’s rich, everybody’s happy and then we have Holden Caulfield in the mix. How does that work?
Everybody wanted it to be a time of new beginnings and prosperity and excitement, and we’ve got this idea of Holden being, what we would think as you know a pretty realistic guy but he was so negative for the time period. It was really shocking to people in jarring and not everybody liked this character in the way that he looked at life.
The response to the book when it came out, it was really criticized. People didn’t like various elements of it, starting with Holden’s whole out look on life and he’s negativity and the way he saw things. I personally don’t think they gave him a really fair shake because Holden did see good things and bad things and that’s kind of the whole conflict that he’s got with himself. The book was really criticized for profanity, its irreverence and its use of sexuality or all the things I like to call the good stuff. Speaking of those things, let’s get to them and let’s start talking about plot.
We’re going to talk about plot today using this plot diagram. I’m assuming you’ve probably seen it before in English class. It’s pretty traditional. If you don’t like it I actually have a really cool circular plot diagram that I’ve linked in your bonus materials. If you like that one a little better just use that one instead, but for our purposes right now, we’re going to use this one.
Let’s review it just in case you’re a little bit rusty with it or may be you haven’t seen it before, let's look at some of these words because some of them look really fancy' some of them are in French and they seem a lot more complicated than what they actually mean. I can break it down for you pretty easily.
The first part if we go back and look, is exposition. All exposition is, is background information. It’s kind of the stuff we need to know to get rolling in the story. In Catcher in the Rye, Chapter one we know that Holden is in a California hospital and that he’s going to tell us the events of what happened in last December. This is the quote that kind of backs that up, “I’ll just tell you about all this madman stuff that happened to me around last Christmas just before I got pretty run-down and had to come out here and take it easy. I mean that’s all I told D.B. about, and he’s my brother and all. He’s in Hollywood. That isn’t too far from this crummy place, and he comes over and visits me practically every weekend.” That’s where I got all that information. If you’re saying how did she know that it’s in California? How did she know that he’s in a mental institution? It’s kind of a little bit of mystery work, you need to do a little bit of detecting. We know that Hollywood is close by, establishes the idea of California. Here’s kind of our background information, this is the exposition that we need to understand the plot.
The next thing we’re going to talk about, is rising action. With the triangle, this is the part that’s kind of going up. Really this is what establishes the conflict. Here’s where we start seeing problems. What do you think the rising action is, in Catcher in the Rye? Holden’s unsuccessful attempts to connect with people, classmates, girls and preserve innocence. There’s the issue.
The first half of the book, Holden is really desperately trying to connect with anyone. It’s really kind of heart breaking. He tries to connect with Ackley and Stradlater in his school. He tries to connect with different girls on the phone. He even tries to connect with all the cab drivers and nothing is really happening. He’s not making those connections that he really craves. He’s trying to preserve innocence in a number of different ways with Jane Gallagher, with his sister, with children in general. So that’s kind of leading up in our rising action.
Next we have the climax. This is the tip of the triangle peak. This is the turning point of the story. In Catcher, I would say that this happens when Holden goes home, cries with Phoebe and then goes to Mr. Antolini’s apartment. He’s upset by what happens there and he flees. This is a big turning point and it’s leading up to his break down. Right after the climax which is the peak, we’ve got to go down again so it’s the falling action. The definition for the falling action is, as the conflict unravels, it shows the result of the climax. In Catcher this is when Holden flees. He runs away from Mr. Antolini’s apartment because remember in the climax he was very upset by what happened there. He didn’t know what was going on.
The last thing is the resolution and if you’re fancy or French or you want to impress your teacher, you can call this the de numo. The definition here is the conclusion. It’s how the main character ends up. In Catcher, I would call this the Carousel scene at the park. Holden realizes that he has to be able to let Phoebe fall. That’s really significant, we’re going to talk about that a little bit later, really extensively. Also we see Holden in the hospital after the break down that he has, and those are really where things wrap up in this book.
You need to remember though, like for example here when I had two different things in the resolution, there is certain amount of having to be subjective here. You might have slightly different ideas and that’s perfectly fine. Remember in literally analysis as long as you can back up what you’re saying, and explain it, and state your claims and give examples, you’re totally in the clear. If you have something a little bit different, it’s totally fine.
In case you were busy watching skateboard wipe out videos online, when you should have been paying attention to this episode, here’s the gist of what you missed. We talked a little about Mr. J.D. Salinger and how he was this really interesting, reclusive kind of guy, whose life may have impacted his character in Catcher in the Rye. We also did some plot summary and I showed you some different graphic organizers that you could use to keep you thoughts in line and in order.
Next we’re going to be moving on to character. Character counts and we’re going to be talking about all these people that Holden is going to interact with through out the course of the novel.