Welcome to Scribd. Sign in or start your free trial to enjoy unlimited e-books, audiobooks & documents.Find out more
Download
Standard view
Full view
of .
Look up keyword
Like this
6Activity
0 of .
Results for:
No results containing your search query
P. 1
The Psychological Structure of The Catcher in the Rye

The Psychological Structure of The Catcher in the Rye

Ratings:

4.5

(1)
|Views: 3,818|Likes:
Published by sexteen

More info:

Categories:Types, School Work
Published by: sexteen on Jun 07, 2008
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial

Availability:

Read on Scribd mobile: iPhone, iPad and Android.
download as PDF, TXT or read online from Scribd
See more
See less

10/30/2011

pdf

text

original

 
http://www.jstor.org
The Psychological Structure of The Catcher in the RyeAuthor(s): James BryanSource:
PMLA,
Vol. 89, No. 5, (Oct., 1974), pp. 1065-1074Published by: Modern Language AssociationStable URL:
Accessed: 03/06/2008 07:03
Your use of the JSTOR archive indicates your acceptance of JSTOR's Terms and Conditions of Use, available athttp://www.jstor.org/page/info/about/policies/terms.jsp. JSTOR's Terms and Conditions of Use provides, in part, that unlessyou have obtained prior permission, you may not download an entire issue of a journal or multiple copies of articles, and youmay use content in the JSTOR archive only for your personal, non-commercial use.Please contact the publisher regarding any further use of this work. Publisher contact information may be obtained athttp://www.jstor.org/action/showPublisher?publisherCode=mla.Each copy of any part of a JSTOR transmission must contain the same copyright notice that appears on the screen or printedpage of such transmission.JSTOR is a not-for-profit organization founded in 1995 to build trusted digital archives for scholarship. We enable thescholarly community to preserve their work and the materials they rely upon, and to build a common research platform thatpromotes the discovery and use of these resources. For more information about JSTOR, please contact support@jstor.org.
 
JAMESBRYAN
ThePsychologicalStructureof
TheCatchern theRye
STANDINGBY the"crazycannon" on
ThomsenHillone sunlessafternoon,listen-ingtothecheersfromafootballgamebelow,"the two teamsbashingeach other all over theplace,"Holden Caulfieldtries to"feelsome kindofagood-by'"to theprepschoolhe hasjustflunked outof:
Iwaslucky.All of a suddenIthoughtofsomethingthathelpedmakeme knowI wasgettingthe hell out.Isuddenlyrememberedthistime,inaroundOctober,thatIandRobert Tichener and PaulCampbellwerechuckinga footballaround,infrontoftheacademic building.Theywereniceguys,especiallyTichener.Itwasjustbeforedinnerandit wasgetting prettydarkout,but wekept chuckingtheballaroundanyway.Itkept gettingdarkeranddarker,andwecouldhardlyseetheballanymore,butwedidn't want tostopdoingwhatweweredoing.Finallywe hadto.This teacherthattaughtbiology,Mr.Zambesi,stuck hisheadoutof this windowinthe academicbuildingand toldus togoback to thedorm andgetreadyfor dinner.If Igetachancetorememberthatkind ofstuff,Icangetagood-bywhenIneed one.1
Acarefullookat this first scene in the novelpro-videscluesforinterpretation,byno meanscrucialinthemselves,but illustrative ofapatternofsceneconstructionandsuggestiveimagerywhichdoesyield meaning. Appropriateisthis adoles-cent'ssenseof his"darklingplain"where,ifanextravagant metaphorbeallowed,"ignorantfoot-ballteamsclashbyafternoon." Inapatternre-peatedthroughoutthenovel,he thinks backtoatimewhen he and two "niceguys"passedafoot-ballaround,sharedratherthanfoughtoverit,thougheven thentheidyllicstate seemeddoomed.Holden ispoisedbetween twoworlds,one hecan-not return toandthe other he fears toenter,whiletheimageofafootball conflict isprobablyanironiccommentaryon Holden'sadolescence,foot-ball'sbeingacivilized ritualization ofhumanag-
gression.
WhatisforcingHolden's crisis?Everythingintheidyllicscenepointstotheencroachmentof time-theseason,thetimeofday,even suchverbalechoesfrom hisfriends'names as"ticking,""bell,"and"pall."Accrualofthis sortof evidencewilljustifywhatmayseemoverinterpretationhere,especiallyof thesignificanceofabiologyteacher'sendingtheboys'innocentpleasurestheiridyllalreadysentencedbytime,darkness. Morethananythingelse Holden fearsthebiological impera-tivesofadulthood-sex,senescence,anddeath-which aredelicatelyforeshadowedintheinnocentOctoberscenebythe unwelcomecallto dinner.Muchof the Catchercriticismhas testifiedtoHolden'sacute moralandestheticperceptions-hiseyeforbeautyas well as"phoniness"'-butthesignificanceof hisimmaturityinintensifyingtheseperceptionshas notbeensufficientlystressednorexplained.Preciselybecausethissixteen-year-oldacts"likeI'mabout thirteen"andeven"likeIwasonlyabouttwelve,"he ishypersensitivetotheexploitationsandinsensitivityof thepostpubes-centworld and to thefragileinnocenceof children.AcentralrhythmofthenarrativehasHoldencon-frontingadultcallousnessandretreatingreflexivelyintothoughtsand fantasiesaboutchildren,child-likeJaneGallaghers,andespeciallyhisten-year-oldsister,Phoebe.Thesejuxtapositionsrenderbothworlds moreintenselyandatthesametimequalifyHolden'sjudgments byshowingthattheyareemotionally-or,as we shallsee,neurotically-induced.Whileafair number ofcriticshave referredto
Holden's"neurosis,"nonehasacceptedSalinger's
invitation-profferedin theform of severalkeyreferencestopsychoanalysis-to participatein afull-fledged psychoanalyticalreading.Thenarra-tive,afterall,waswritten ina mentalhospitalwithHoldenunder the care of a"psychoanalystguy."Oneproblemis that Holden tells usverylittleabout"whatmy lousychildhoodwaslike"ortheeventthatmayhavebroughtonthe trauma behindall of hisproblems:the deathof ayoungerbrotherwhenHoldenwas thirteen.We know little morethan that thefamilyhasbeengenerallydisrupted
1065
 
ThePsychologicalStructureof The Catcher in theRye
sinceandthatHoldenhasnot come togripswithlifeasheshould have.Allie'sdeathtakesplaceoutsidetheprovinceof thenarrative,but avalu-ablepsychologicalstudy mightstillbemadeoftheprogressionofHolden's breakdown-howhepro-vokesfightsinwhichhewillbe beaten,makessexualadvanceshecannotcarry through,andun-consciouslyalienates himselffrommanyofthepeopleheencounters.Asasteptowardpsycho-logicalunderstanding,Ishall considercertainmanifestationsofHolden's disturbances.Anex-aminationof thestructure,sceneconstruction,andsuggestiveimageryrevealsapatternofaggressionandregression,largelysexual,whichissuggestedin thePenceyPrepsection,actedoutinthecentralpartof thenovel,andbroughttoacuriousclimaxinthe Phoebechapters.IOneimplicationof the novel's mainmotif,thatwhichpolarizeschildlike and adultresponses,con-cernsthedilemmaofimpossiblealternatives.HerecharacterssuggesthumanconditionsthatHoldeneither cannotormustnotmake hisown.In the novel'sfirst paragraph Holdentells usthathis brotherD.B. has"prostituted"hiswritingtalentsby goingtoHollywood-afailureim-plicitlycontrasted throughoutwith thepurityofAllie, the brotherwho died beforethetemptationsof adulthood.Holden'sfirst encounteriswithSpencer,theold teacherwho fillshis mindwiththoughtsof age and death,while his lastiswithPhoebe,his emblem of unattainablechildhoodbeauty.Stradlaterand Ackleyareantitheticallyplacedto representwhatHoldenfearshe maybe-comeif he is either sexuallyappropriativeorre-pressed.Becausethe novel is built aroundtheseimpossiblealternatives,becauseHolden'sworldprovidesno onehe can truly emulate,themanycriticswho read Catcheras a sweepingindictmentof societyhave virtually drownedout thosewhoattack Holden'simmaturity.Onefeels thejusticeof this,yet the novel'sresolution,like allofSal-inger's mature fiction,transcends sociologicalin-dictmentin affirmingindividualresponsibility.WhenHoldenanswersfor hisown lifeas hevergestowardsomerather dreadfulappropriationofhisown,he begins to cometo terms at oncewithhim-selfand society.At the outsetoftraditionalquest narratives,thehero oftenreceivessage advicefroma wiseoldmanorcrone. Thebest oldSpencercandoistowishHolden adepressing "goodluck,"justasanotheragentofeducation,awoman"aroundahundredyearsold,"will do in thepenultimatechapter.Spencer'splaintive"I'mtryingtohelpyou,if Ican"andthe oldwoman'sirrelevantchatter near the endbracketthebulk ofthe nar-rative in whichHolden seeksanswers fromwith-out. And inboth scenesthehuman resourcesthatdosee himthrougharedramatized inhiscom-passionfor the two oldpeople.ThoughtheSpencer chapterserves noticethatHolden has flunked theadministrativerequire-ments ofeducation,welearnimmediatelythathedrawssustenancefromart. Hereturnsto hisroom to reread inIsak Dinesen's OutofAfricathatchronicle ofsensitivitysurroundedbyprimitiveidforces. At thispointheisinterruptedbyeighteen-year-oldRobertAckley,agrotesquepossibilityof whatHoldenmaybecome if hismanhood issimilarlythwarted.Unleavenedsensi-tivitywillnot beenoughas we seeHolden vacil-latingthroughfivechaptersbetweenAckleyandWardStradlater,theequallyunacceptablemodelofmaleaggressiveness.Stradlater'svitalityisdramatizedin his"YearBook"handsomeness,"damngoodbuild,"andsuperiorstrength,whileAckley'simpotenceis reflectedinacned,unsightlylooks,generalenervation,andrepulsivehabits.Stradlaterisslovenlytoo-Holdencallshima"secretslob"-butheelicits someadmirationwhereAckleyisonlypathetic.Stradlater'sdate fortheeveningis JaneGal-lagher,agirlwithwhomHolden hashad asummer romance.Thatrelationshipwascharac-terizedbyJane'shabitofkeepingherkingsin theback rowwhentheyplayedcheckers-lateron,Holdensaysspecificallythattheirlovemakingneverwentbeyondthehandholdingstage.InHolden'srequestthat Stradlaterask Janeifshestillkeepsherkingsin thebackrow,onecriticsees Holdensignalingwarningsabouther"sexy"date.2Holdentells usin anotherchapterthat Janewasthe kindofgirlyouneverwanted to"kid toomuch." "I thinkIreallylikeitbest,"hegoesontosay,whenyou cankidthepantsoffagirlwhen theoppor-tunityarises,but it's afunnything.ThegirlsI likebestarethe onesInever eelmuch ikekidding.Some-timesI thinkthey'dike tifyoukiddedhem-infact,Iknowheywould-butit's hardtogetstarted,once
1066

You're Reading a Free Preview

Download
scribd
/*********** DO NOT ALTER ANYTHING BELOW THIS LINE ! ************/ var s_code=s.t();if(s_code)document.write(s_code)//-->