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Catcher In The Rye Book Notes

9167 words - 37 pages

CHAPTER 1Who is this person talking to us so casually in the opening sentences of thenovel? We don't know his name, how old he is, where he's from. In fact, hedismisses such information as "all that David Copperfield kind of crap," andbegins talking about himself reluctantly, as though our need to hear his storyis much stronger than his need to tell it.We don't even know it's a boy talking until he mentions an ad his school runsin "about a thousand magazines" claiming that they turn boys into youngmen. We won't know his first name until his visit to a teacher at the end ofthe chapter, and we'll have to wait even longer to find out his last name.No, he isn't going to give us anything as formal as an autobiography. All hewants to do is tell about "this madman stuff" that resulted in some kind ofillness, from which he's now recuperating in a place not far from Hollywood,California.NOTE: As you read on and get to know Holden, you'll begin to see that hetends to dismiss many important things with throwaway phrases like "thismadman stuff." It's a way of downplaying things that bother him; it makeshim seem untroubled by things; it's a way of sounding tough, somethingthat's important to many teenage boys.Holden talks briefly about his brother, D. B., whom he obviously admires.He's pleased that his brother visits him often. He likes D. B.'s sports car andthe fact that he's rich, and Holden's really proud of a published collection ofD. B.'s short stories. But a tough guy can't say things like that about someonewithout backing off a little, so Holden ends by saying that his brother is inHollywood, being a prostitute-using his talent to make money, instead ofcreating beautiful stories.We get all this information-directly or by implication-in a single paragraph.As is often true with people we've just met, the way Holden talks tells us atleast as much about him as what he says. His language tells us that he doesn'twant to be mistaken for someone soft, even when he's expressing affectionfor his brother.His language also tells us that he doesn't want to be thought of as one ofthose "splendid, clear-thinking young men" his school claims to mold. Sure,he's read Dickens' novel David Copperfield, and you'll soon find that he'sread-and appreciated-much more than that. But he doesn't want anyone tothink he's a "brain," so he'll remind you from time to time what a terriblestudent he is.As he begins his story about the "madman stuff," Holden is standing aloneon a hill, looking down at a football game attended by almost everyone fromhis school. He's wearing a red hunting hat that further sets him apart fromeveryone else at school. Hold onto this image of him as a loner, apart fromthe group he's supposed to belong to. It will help you understand much ofwhat is to come.One of the reasons Holden is alone during the football game is that he'spreparing himself for an unpleasant chore. He's going to visit his historyteacher before leaving for Christmas vacation, because he...

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