Sunday, February 14, 2010

J.D. Salinger - Not really mystery

When we read Catcher in the Rye in High School, I remember the teacher asking what would happen to Holden when he grew up? What would he be? Or do? Presumably catching the children as they ran through the rye was not an actual adult occupation. Some people guessed a teacher; some an artist; none guessed he'd be a success. I was not so sure. At the time I really identified with Holden Caulfield and many of his criticisms of society and his outsider status. I didn't realize he was an "unreliable narrator" since I was unaware of that literary device. No matter what I read I couldn't help but naively take the narrator at face value. I was deathly afraid Holden would have grown up and compromised his outsider quality in order to fit in with his upper class milieu. I was afraid that I would also lose my self-perceived outsider status and become a materialistic, status seeking middle class type with no sense of truth or beauty. I need not have worried as it turns out. I didn't know then that there are many ways to live and there are a lot more than two choices. I was, I guess, also unreliable. I wonder what would have happened to J.D. Salinger if he had grown up. I guess we'll never know now.

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