So long and thanks for all the fish.Even if it is hard to catch the imagery of fish frozen in ice as anything positive and constructive, a kind of purgatory state that is not fully human, but potentially on the cusp, like Holden Caulfied, the “catcher” positioned between savior and saved, hunter and prey…
The art of doubt; the chronic state of being alone and living with oneself.That is, life as a spiritual, and in this case teenage wasteland in which the seeker must accommodate suffering in their own, idiosyncratic manner even if a return to innocence remains a long and tortuous road in the vocation of a catcher in the rye, that peculiar occupation that invokes redemptive forces strong enough to impede children from tumbling into the cellar of adulthood and in this process very little happens and everything occurs; such is the existential despair of the aspiring saint on an epic quest to live without ego, always straddling the ambiguous line between death and desertion, that open possibility when one is poised on the edge of every cliff.
From The Catcher in the Rye:
They have this day, Veterans’ Day, that all the jerks that graduated from Pencey around 1776 come back and walk all over the place, with their wives and children and everybody. You should’ve seen this one old guy that was about fifty. What he did was, he came in our room and knocked on the door and asked us if we’d mind if he used the bathroom. The bathroom was at the end of the corridor–I don’t know why the hell he asked us. You know what he said? He said he wanted to see if his initials were still in one of the can doors. What he did, he carved his goddam stupid sad old initials in one of the can doors about ninety years ago, and he wanted to see if they were still there….
…So my roommate and I walked him down to the bathroom and all, and we had to stand there while he looked for his initials in all the can doors. He kept talking to us the whole time, telling us how when he was at Pencey they were the happiest days of his life, and giving us a lot of advice for the future and all. Boy, did he depress me! I don’t mean he was a bad guy–he wasn’t. But you don’t have to be a bad guy to depress somebody–you can be a good guy and do it. All you have to do to depress somebody is give them a lot of phony advice while you’re looking for your initials in some can door–that’s all you have to do.
Holden Caulfield is more than an archetypical delusional teenager unwilling to confront the realities of life. What drew the Chapman’s and Hinkley’s to be obsessed by the book? The evaluation of Catcher is bifuric; a tormented teen throwing his own inadequacies onto others, or whether these other people are pieces of himself arranged into a puzzle, thus the book is both esoteric with exoteric elements with an effort to fully embrace them in a unity, if only fleeting, a state of awareness, where shadow is light and vice-versa, of illusory differences, of unlearning the distinctions, of crossing the boundaries, of living in a Kafka world of being before laws which are not laws…
Hence, all who read Catcher as a basic narrative about growing up and the need of integrating in our social milieu is entirely missing the point. Controversy over the book being disseminated in school probably pertained more to this parallel universe of esotericism and the occult, the cliff overlooking the obscure that the actual content; Salinger must have agreed with Caulfield’s vision of the human race as a collection of “phonies”, a way to justify his own withdrawal from the world, apparently at the peak, of his own powers, or a reluctance to implicate with the idea of phony being a form of real or the sentiment of feeling too psychically damaged to carry the battle forward.