The Catcher in the Rye…
…is actually one of my most detested books of all time.
To the unintiated, the story follows the footsteps of 17-year-old Holden Caulfield as he wanders around Manhattan after being kicked out of a prestigious prep school. In the meantime, he rants about the superficial attitudes of the people he knows and meets on his way home. In the end, he decides not to become a hobo after hanging out with his little sister Phoebe.
“Everyone sucks and I want to die.” ~Holden Caulfield
I was far from relating to Holden when I read this book in my late teens. After graduating from high school at 16 and taking a year off for familial concerns, I started going to college at 17. You could say that I grew up pretty quickly. It was about that time when I met Holden.
I thought him to be an insufferable brat. I couldn’t understand why he chose to surround himself with negativity instead of seeing the beauty of the world around him. He was nothing but an angst-ridden, shallow teenager to me. I did my work diligently and wasproud of it. His concerns were never mine. The book’s prose was also not as fluid as I normally would like it to be, making it terribly unaccessible to me.
It was only in the past year that I realized how much Holden and I actually have in common. After a sort-of-depressive episode last winter, I started my practicum semester overwhelmed and not at all confident. With the threat of thousands of papers to grade, unmanageable classrooms and fussy administrators, my dream of becoming a teacher was proving to be more daunting than I had initially thought it was. I sat in my methods courses with a blank-eyed stare, not knowing exactly what it was I needed to do.
However, I’ve been assured that this is perfectly normal for most pre-service teachers. I found that, like Holden, I isolated myself when I felt like everything was going too far too fast. Suddenly, nobody understood me and nobody knew what I was going through. If I thought before that I was growing up too quickly, I was dead wrong. Part of me was still a child inside. It was the first time that I actually had to sit and learn something that may or may not be helpful in my future career.
I might not have talked back to my mother at all while growing up, but now I know how it feels like.
After all, there must be a reason why Catcher proved to be an enduring classic since the 60s, despite my contempt for it. High school students can definitely relate to Holden’s fears about being stuck in between the comforts of childhood and the perils of growing up. God knows that the stereotypical teenager uses at least a curse word every ten minutes. Children are also growing up more isolated in worlds filled with violence, even within their own classrooms. Friends constantly become enemies and vice versa. The need to feed their families renders some parents nonexistent in the household. Their teachers constantly tell them that they will never amount to anything.
But children are brilliant. Teenagers especially are treasure troves of knowledge and creativity. They understand more than we usually think of them. I’m constantly amazed of how much my own 17-year-old brother knows. He can usually keep up in a battle of wits with me, which keeps me on my toes.
As the great and powerful Neil Gaiman said:
“Everybody has a secret world inside of them. All of the people of the world, I mean everybody. No matter how dull and boring they are on the outside, inside them they’ve all got unimaginable, magnificent, wonderful, stupid, amazing worlds. Not just one world. Hundreds of them. Thousands maybe.”
And I still thinks he was talking about teenagers. They are untapped sources of intellectual power, people. Don’t forget it.
I still can’t bring myself to like the book though. I never re-read it when I had my weird episode from last semester. Maybe I should have. When student teaching starts and I find myself drowning, maybe I’ll reach for Holden’s hand.
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- corona--graminea said: I HATE THAT BOOK SO MUCH and I love you a little more for hating it too
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