The Catcher in the Rye- I Dislike it a Little Less

There's a huge difference between reading a book for fun and teaching it. Using one in your classroom, if done properly, requires rereading the book for a new purpose, lesson planning, lecture writing, activity creating, and test writing. It's a lot of work. But for me, it's a labor of love, even if I think I don't like the book or play. My first year teaching Julius Caesar I dreaded it, not being a huge fan of Shakespeare, but once I put in the work myself I grew to at least appreciate it. And now I can say the same is true for The Catcher in the Rye.

When I first read Catcher in high school I thought Holden was a whiny little bitch. I thought of the book as something that was more accessible to males, first of all. And I was unsympathetic to the fact that he was unable to get over the death of his brother, considering I had turned out just fine after my dad had died just two years before. Holden needed a firm kick in the ass and to realize that just because someone didn't see it his way didn't mean they were a phoney.

Maybe I still think some of these things.

But now, in my infinite wisdom, I know that Holden is this way for a reason. It's a coming of age novel- it's okay that he's depressed, he's supposed to be a little immature, it's fine that he doesn't quite understand how the adult world works. Salinger had a plan- sometimes you have to trust the author. 

My students, for the most part, have seemed to enjoy the novel to some extent, either loving it for what it is, or just because they love to hate Holden. We've had some great class discussions, they had to do a psychological evaluation of him during their "Diagnosing Holden" assignment, and as a class we've analyzed the shit out of the themes, symbols, and motifs. We've talked about depression, sex, and teenage angst. I've worked hard at helping them understand that while they may find parts annoying that it's still possible to appreciate the text for it's literary significance. When we come back from break they'll take a beast of a test and then we'll move on to the next novel, Their Eyes Were Watching God.

And remember, love it or hate it, there's always the The Holden Caulfield Drinking Game, created by yours truly. 

1 comment:

  1. I think i'm going to play the Holden Caulfield Drinking Game with my hubby. Especially considering this is one of the 5 novels the man has read [a sad and true fact] and I could really use any excuse to get's been a while....