I ran my hands through my hair brushing it back as I reached to open the door to my dorm. I quickly rushed myself inside and shut the door behind me.
“The bloody cold,” I muttered to myself, walking into the room. “Where the hell is everybody? It’s like a goddamn morgue out here.” I glanced over to where Caulfield was arched back in my chair, he didn’t bother to answer or even look. The kid loathed me, I could tell. Probably jealous about taking his dream girl Jane Gallagher out on a date. She was a sweet, innocent gal with long brown hair and a pretty little face. Jane had the hots for me. All the girls in our grade did. Who could blame me, I was the sexiest goddamn guy in the district. No wonder the kid was bloody mad.
I started to get undressed, removing my coat and unbuttoning my dress shirt.
“Thanks for the tooth kid,” I nodded to Caulfield, the least I could do was thank him for lending me his hound’s tooth. I loosened my tie and asked if Holden had written my English composition yet. I asked him to make a few grammar mistakes here and there, I wasn’t as smart as the kid when it came to English. He held the paper out and I snatched it from his hand. I read over it and stroked the back of my neck. What the hell had this kid done? I was furious, all I had done was ask him to complete a small, simple task. It was him who was better in the subject anyways, he had always done assignments for me, since he had moved to Pencey Prep. It wasn’t my fault he was getting expelled, the poor kid had flunked all his classes. I had always seen him as an odd fella, Caulfield, he was always isolating himself from social groups and the school crowd. I had always questioned why he was so weird out and about with his red hat he would always wear. I hassled him about the paper, I honestly couldn’t understand this kid.
“For Chrissake Holden. This is about a goddamn baseball glove.”
“So what?” he shrugged.
“God damn it,” I shuffled around in circles, tightly gripping the papers in my hands. What the hell was that kid’s problem, writing about a freaking baseball glove. Abruptly, he snatched it out of my hand, tearing it into pieces and threw it into the wastebasket without a word. How could he do something so juvenile? He had always agitated me, and I agitated him. We were silent for a while before he lit a cigarette and lay on his bed. The kid loved to annoy me by smoking, it wasn’t allowed in the dorms and it made me feel a little uneasy. I told him to go to the can and get the hell out, but he only sighed creating a trail of smoke that hung in the air around him. I was clipping my toenails when he asked me about Jane. Why did he care? I had taken Jane out earlier in the evening, we went out to a little corner cafe in the middle of town where we ordered black coffee. She was a nice girl, she had the looks and the smarts. I could see why Holden seemed so shaken about me taking her out.
“Did you give her my regards?” I replied with a nod. He asked me all these stupid questions about her, about where we went and what we did. Then he asked me if I gave her the time in my coach Ed Banky’s Hudson convertible. What did he think? I replied with sarcasm to piss him off. In a blink, he had gotten up and trudged towards me, and swinging his fist at my head. Old Caulfield couldn’t even throw a damn punch.
I stroked the side of my head. Damn kid made my blood boil, honestly. I stood up from my chair and pushed him forcefully onto the floor and pinned his shoulders, spitting in his face.
“What the hell’s the matter with you Caulfield?” I could feel the blood rush to my head, my face turning red. He gripped my wrists tightly, writhing from underneath me. He kept calling me a sonuvabitch and all. “Just shut up Holden. Now.” he continued to resist and yelled until he was all blue in the face. “You don’t even know if her name is Jane or Jean do you, you goddamn moron!” he yelled at me. What was he to ask me such a thing. For all he cared, I actually cared about Jane. She was different from most girls out Pencey.
“I warned you, Caulfield.” The kid wouldn’t shut up about his damn girlfriend, so I threw another blow knocking him out cold for a few minutes.
I stood up wiping my forehead with the back of my arm. A tiny part of me felt bad for the kid, but he was so goddamn restless. He didn’t know how to let go, to just drop it. I stood over him until he woke up, raising his hand to his blood-covered nose and face. The kid scared me, thought I hurt him bad, the frail boy. I nervously paced around the dorm, biting my nails. Had I actually hurt him badly? Getting into trouble had always made me nervous, my father had warned me the last time I got into a mess.
“Why the hell don’tchya shut up when I tell ya? You asked for it goddamn it.” He didn’t even get up, he just laid there, glaring at me calling me all the names under the sun.
“Go wash your face kid, you hear me?” He was silent, he looked pale and shaken. I walked towards the door to leave, glancing back at him once more. He kind of laid there lifeless, blood smeared all over his face and hands, his eyes hazily glaring at the ceiling. I faced the door, pausing for a moment, looked at my feet, and then left.
Writing Question: Analytical
The Catcher in the Rye was written in 1951 but is still relevant within the lives of teenagers today. To what extent do you agree with this statement? Compose a response that evaluates this statement, making reference to the role of the narrator, language and themes used within the text.
Despite being written in 1951, J.D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye remains relevant within the lives of young adults today. Originally written for adult audiences, the book has also gained significance in its relation with modern-day adolescents. J.D. Salinger explores themes of inauthenticity, loss and suffering, depression and a sense of belonging that remains present in our society. The protagonist, Holden Caulfield is introduced to the audience as a convoluted character with a negative outlook on society. Throughout the novel, Holden dissects the “phony” aspects of society, and all the fakes themselves. The Catcher in the Rye tackles the subjects of loss and suffering and the sense of belonging, which are issues that are faced by a large majority of adolescents around the world today.
In modern-day society, adolescents and young adults constantly feel isolated and alienated from the people they are surrounded by on a daily basis. A strong sense of belonging is a human need, just like the need for food and shelter. Belonging is a primary theme explored in the novel as Salinger communicates Holden’s heightened sense of alienation and isolation from others. Throughout the novel, Holden communicates that he feels trapped in a world where he doesn’t belong. His strong feeling about society affects his ability to gain a sense of belonging, and this causes him pain and his desperate need for human contact and love. In the quote “my hunting hat really gave me quite a lot of protection, in a way, but I got soaked anyway” J.D Salinger utilises a motif of Holden’s hunting hat. Holden first bought the hat to appear unique and separate himself from society, and that the hat “protected” him in some ways but he still got “soaked”. This leads to Holden’s realisation that no one can exist entirely separate from society. Healthy relationships and a strong sense of belonging are essential for our happiness and give us purpose. Many teenagers and young adults experience issues similar to those of Holden’s feelings of isolation and lack of a sense of belonging.
Loss of loved ones and grief are situations that everyone must face at a point in their lives. One of the central causes of Holden’s breakdown at the end of the novel is his feelings of social isolation and dislocation. Throughout the novel, Holden communicates his loneliness to the audience, and attempts to counteract his loneliness by befriending other people, however he is constantly confronted by his own awkwardness when doing so. Holden is caught in a paradoxical cycle of wanting to be known which always finding safety from rejection in his own solitude. The theme of loss and goodbyes recurs throughout the novel and each occurrence reinforces Holden’s negative attitude towards change. When Holden reflects back on his childhood and his regular school visits to the Natural History Museum, he finds comfort in the static and unchanging displays in the museum and the continuity he finds there. In the quote “The best thing, though, in that the museum was that everything always stayed right where it was. Nobody’d move.” It is significant that in the final sentence Holden uses the second-person pronoun “you” instead of the first-person “me”. It is an attempt to distance himself from the inevitable process of change. Significant changes in one’s life can create a large impact as change is not dealt with well with a majority of people.
It is evident that despite being written for adult audiences in 1951, The Catcher in the Rye remains relevant within the lives of young adults and teenagers today. Loss of loved ones and a lost sense of belonging are issues that a majority of young adults face on a daily basis.
Writing Question: Discursive
Using The Catcher in the Rye as your focus, compose a discursive piece of writing commenting on the role of literature in shaping your life.
When The Catcher in the Rye was first assigned as our novel study, I had no prior knowledge of the book or what it was about. I have to admit, I was a little disappointed as I was hoping we were going to study The Great Gatsby, as I had watched the 2013 film and was interested in reading the original book. As I began to read the first few chapters, I continuously questioned the protagonist’s thoughts and actions. The novel told a story of a complex teenager Holden Caulfield, who had just been expelled from his fourth school. Throughout, Holden dissects the ‘phony’ aspects of society, and the ‘phonies’ themselves, and communicates his negative outlook on society. The book tackles society, love, loss and expectations. I kept reading, desperate to connect with or even understand an aspect of convoluted character and his thoughts. As the holidays approached, I set the book down, disinterested to complete it. I contemplated reading a summary instead. When we returned to school, I noticed that the chapters dragged on, which I disliked. It wasn’t until I decided to finish the novel that I came across the chapter that revealed the story behind its name. I had finally discovered the metaphor; that Holden wanted to become a “catcher in the rye”, to try to catch all of the youth before they fell off a cliff and into the “fake” society. The book had finally brought some meaning and now I could understand it at a deeper and contextual level, and I began to enjoy reading it.
From a young age, I was consistently pushed to read books by my parents and books played a significant role in my life. I was always reminded by my mother and father how much literature would develop my comprehension skills and knowledge. My mother would encourage me to read for an hour everyday. Reading and literature was once a pleasure and not a chore. I used to love visiting the library and being presented with a whole variety of genres to choose from and would bring home a whole pile of books to spend my time reading. During Years 6 and 7, one of my favourite series was My Story, and is a historical-fiction novel series retelling stories based on young adults from different periods and locations in history. I loved the historical-fiction genre, and reading the My Story books transported me into their world, it felt like I was there experiencing famous historical events myself. However, this passion I once had began to die down.
As I approached Years 9 and 10, my interest in books began to came back, and I experimented with different types and genres by renowned authors including Charles Dickens, George Orwell and Ernest Hemmingway. Throughout high school, reading has become an obligation rather than for enjoyment. We are constantly hassled to read during every roll call period and are told off when we don’t bring in a book. In English, we are assigned random books and texts that have no relation to us and don’t provoke a response. For this reason, English began to fall down the list of my favourite subjects. I lost my motivation to read books and only read ones that were needed to complete an assessment task or assignment. Books no longer interested me the way they used to.
Although literature doesn’t directly have an impact in my life, I believe literature is a significant aspect in young adults lives today. The Catcher in the Rye explores themes of inauthenticity, depression, loss and belonging. These issues still remain relevant in the lives of teenagers and young adults, and the novel portrays the protagonist Holden Caulfield as a person many teenagers today can relate to. To conclude, I believe that literature is underappreciated by modern-day society adolescents and students, and that they, and will continue to play a significant role in my life.
For my writing portfolio assessment task, I have submitted my imaginative piece for formal marking. I have not had much time in class to explore and develop my skills in writing creative pieces. I chose this piece as it is one of my weaker ones of the three, and would like to receive feedback that will assist me in the following years to come. To write this creative piece, I first read over chapter six in a more thorough manner, making annotations on character’s actions and feelings. I then recounted the events of the chapter in order, from Stradler’s perspective. I handed in my creative draft and received feedback asking to “voice” Stradler’s inner thoughts, instead of focusing on Holden’s actions. I found this to be the hardest part of the task, as the The Catcher in the Rye is in the first person and focuses on recounting Holden’s events and thoughts. I was unsure of how to make Stradler feel about his fight with Holden and shone his arrogant tone but still made him sensitive towards Holden’s feelings. I found this assessment task interesting as I got the opportunity to attempt writing a discursive piece, and it was a new and challenging experience. Overall, I enjoyed this task as it challenged me but would have preferred if all the pieces were marked rather than only one and a reflection, as I believe it would have motivated me to hand in drafts for all tasks rather than only one.