Week #4 (Passage Person): If You Have Love in Your Heart

The passage I chose was when Holden went to look for his sister Phoebe. He writes a note to her while sitting on the school stairs, intending to give it to the principal or someone who can deliver it to her. He ends up not going through with it– feeling sick and sitting back down.

All I wanted to do first was say good-by to old Phoebe. So all of a sudden, I ran like a madman across the street–I damn near got killed doing it, if you want to know the truth–and went in this stationery store and bought a pad and pencil. I figured I’d write her a note telling her where to meet me so I could say good-by to her and give her back her Christmas dough, and then I’d take the note up to her school and get somebody in the principal’s office to give it to her.

This is the most enthusiastic about seeing another person– Phoebe– Holden has ever been. He’s created this “I hate everybody” act, but here he is really shown to care for someone. Before giving the note to an old woman working in the principal’s office, Holden sees some profanity scrawled on the wall of the school, and worries about his sister or other children seeing it. It’s a moment of vulnerability for him, where the reader gets to see a bit of his true self beyond the depressed yet self-righteous character he’s created for himself.

– Vivienne K.

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Week #1 (Researcher): Teens and Post-War Life

Catcher in the Rye is set in the 1940’s, 1946 to be exact, just after the end of World War II, a time which was characterized with an economic boom due to wartime industry. It was also around this time that “teenagers” became a demographic of their own, though in the beginning the term was used mostly to describe white, middle-class girls. Holden, while very much a teenager, wouldn’t necessarily fit into this group, which in 1944 Time magazine described as “[living] in a world all their own- a lovely, gay, enthusiastic, funny and blissful society”. Holden is jaded and rather depressed, angry at the world and the people in it. This, too, was common, with teens left adrift, directionless after the war ends. Many have good jobs, but often found new ways to rebel to find their place in life. At this point in the book, though, Holden has little to no friends, no apparent affection towards his family, or ties to any one particular place or hobby. He is more directionless than anyone, tending to do things for no specific reason, and to not care outwardly about anything, which makes him seem like more of an outcast.

The Invention of Teenagers: LIFE and the Triumph of Youth Culture

Youth Culture in the 1940’s

—  Vivienne K.