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The parents and grandparents of these students are chronologically younger than we would expect. Obviously for some coming of age came early. I want my students to realize that they are not alone in their growing pains. In fact the benefit and experience of the older generation is a tremendous resource. A key issue is trust. By studying these novels young adults may realize the communication gap between generations is not so great.
Adolescence proves for many youngsters to be a stressful period in life as they attempt to forge an adult identity and relationships with others. Adolescent sexuality tends to be heavily censured by parents at this stage of life, because of the physiological capacity for reproduction. This is especially true of the girls. Standard injunctions that all sex is evil or that all adolescents are sexually irresponsible fail to contribute toward a healthy and responsible sexuality. On the contrary, they are much more likely to contribute feelings of guilt that may remain with the individual for the remainder of her life, Teenagers need to be exposed to both fiction and non-fiction on this universal theme of coming of age.
When I think of adolescence these words come to mind; driver’s license, bar-mitzvah, initiation drinking, puberty, shaving, voice changes, menstruation, and acne. Sometimes it means deciding what you are going to be for the rest of your life. When your parents and teachers no longer structure your time, what do you do? If you are not ready to fill your thoughts with the future how are you going to handle right now? For some it may be a dress rehearsal, a try out before the show hits the road. “When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but then I became a man, I put away childish things. (1 Corinthians 12-14 Bible p. 179)
Adolescence is a difficult time for the individual. We tend to think of young teenagers as being overly self-conscious, self-critical, and anxious about how others view them. This tends to support Erikson’s view that adolescence may be a time of major changes in the individual’s sense of self. Among the most widely accepted ideas in the behavioral sciences is the theory that adolescence is a period of disturbance for the child’s self-image. Hall (1904) originally characterized the age as one of “storm and stress.” Erikson (1959) views it as a time of identity-crisis, in which the child struggles for a stable sense of self. Psychoanalytic theory postulates that the sexual desires of puberty spark a rising again of oedipal conflicts for the boy and pre-oedipal pressures for the girl. (Blos 1962, Freud, 1958). To establish mature sexual relationships in adulthood, the child must resolve these conflicts during adolescence. In the interim, the physiological changes of puberty and the increase in sexual desire challenge the child’s view of himself in fundamental ways. Both his body and self image radically change.
Sociologists (Davis 1944) traditionally characterize adolescence as a period of physical maturity and social immaturity. Because of the complexity of the present social system, the child reaches physical adulthood before he is capable of functioning well in adult social roles. Adolescence becomes extremely difficult because the new physical capabilities and new social pressures to become independent coincide with many impediments to actual independence, power, and sexual freedom.
The unclear social definitions and expectations cause ambiguities. The need to make major decisions about future adult roles, on the basis of what he is like at present further heightens the adolescent’s self-awareness and self-uncertainty. (Erikson 1959)1 Holden Caulfield, the protagonist of The Catcher in the Rye has experienced such disturbances.
The book is about adolescent crisis. A boy runs away from his expensive school because he is an academic failure and finds intolerable the company of so many phoneys. He passes a lost weekend in New York city mostly in phoney hotels, night clubs and theaters.
He avoids going to bed with a prostitute and is beaten up by her pimp, meets some phoney friends, talks to taxi-drivers, wonders where the ducks from Central Park Lake go in winter, secretly visits his kid sister, indulges in constant fantasies and finally falls ill of exhaustion. He tells his story in a naive dialect. The boy, ungifted and isolated as he thinks himself to be is getting his last pre-adult look at the adult world, our world into which he is being irresistibly projected. He cannot stand the adolescent world either; clean, good children turn into pimply shavers with dirty minds. For sex is what alters the goodness of children. Of the girls he knows, one is nice and lovable for her he admits no sexual feelings, though her date with a crumby seducer helps to work him up to this crisis; one is a prostitute operating in a hotel which is a sign of the perverted adult world; and one is an art phoney. Growing up is moving out of crumby phoneyness into perverted phoneyness.
Holden is a rangy sixteen year old who is prematurely gray and has grown too fast. Girls are on his mind. Whenever girls do something pretty, even if they’re ugly or stupid, you fall half in love with them. “Sex is something I really don’t understand too hot. You never know where the hell you are. I keep making up these sex rules for myself, and then I break them right away. Last year I made up a rule that I was going to quit horsing around with girls that, deep down, gave me a pain in the ass. I broke it, though, the same week I made it . . . Sex is something I just don’t understand.”2
Salinger sees that all the contradictions, agonies, and exaltations of adolescence stem from the central fact: “that the adolescent has newly gained the physical potentialities for sexual experience but has not learnt to integrate them either within himself or in any consistent relation to the demands of society.”3 From this flows everything—the confused idealism of his attitude to Jane Gallagher; the naively unscrupulous calculatingness of his adventures; the wish for experiment and the corresponding fear and revulsion; a general fascination and disgust with the physical—Ackley’s pimples, Stradlater’s toenails; a new horrified awareness of the physical process.
Holden’s anguished confusion about sex gives us the measure of both the depth and complexity of his conflict. Sexual awareness is conspicuously absent from the innocent and sincerely responsive world of children which Holden values. Sex belongs to the adult world which he deeply distrusts. Yet, Holden’s own sex drive is very much alive; it is part of the irresistible thrust toward adulthood. He does not want to deny it; in this respect he wants to be grown up.
The action of the novel is centered around the athlete Stradlater, who is a “very sexy bastard,” and who has borrowed Holden’s jacket and girl. When he returns from the date Holden provokes him into a fight. “Get your dirty stinking moron knees off my chest,” says Caulfield to Stradlater. “You’re a stupid dirty sonuvabitch of a moron.” After the fight he goes next door to Ackley’s room for companionship. That guy had everything wrong with him; sinus trouble, pimples, lousy teeth, halitosis, crumby fingernails. “You had to feel a little sorry for the crazy sonuvabitch.” But he can find no comfort or solace in the room which stinks of dirty socks. “I felt so lonesome, all of a sudden, I almost wished I was dead.”4
It is, however, the imminently dangerous quality of sex that is frightening. When Holden asks his roommate if he had sex, “That’s a professional secret, buddy.” When Holden recalls for this “sexy bastard” how he had met Jane and goes on to say that he used to play checkers with her. Stradlater’s contemptuous comment is “Checkers, for Chrissake!” This girl, who had had a “lousy childhood” with a booze hound for a stepfather running “around the goddamn house naked, always kept her kings in the back row.”5 The symbolism of this imagery, portraying defense of sexual attack, the central motif of the episode. From the start Holden is convinced he is a coward, afraid of sex, afraid of dying.
Holden is driving himself crazy when he remembers back to the time when Jane began to cry. One of her tears, a big one, plopped right on the checkerboard. Suddenly Holden finds himself comforting her, kissing her all over, except on the lips: “She sort of wouldn’t let me get to her mouth.”6 He is still in the dark about what happened between Jane and her step father. So the incestuous matter with Jane is left about as ambiguous as the homosexual matter with a former teacher, Mr. Antolini; but both contribute to the education of young Caulfield. It is an education which by now includes the matters of the transvestite and the water-squirting perverts at the Edmont Hotel, and the matter of Sunny and her finger-flicking friend, Maurice, as well as the matter of a single word, fuck, scrawled everywhere, reducing human relationships to the ridiculous. It is an education, moreover, that makes Holden more determined than ever to be a protector of innocence.
In fact Holden wants to he a catcher in the rye. “Thousands of little kids, and nobody’s around—nobody big, I mean except me. And I’m standing on the edge of some crazy cliff. What I have to do, I have to catch everybody if they start to go over the cliff—I mean if they’re running and don’t look where they’re going I have to come out from somewhere and catch them. That’s all I’d do all day. I’d just be a catcher in the rye and all. I know, it’s crazy, but that’s the only thing I’d really like to be. I know it’s crazy.”7
But then again everything else seems crazy too. Love fails him; he is beaten, snubbed, ignored, and insulted, and there comes a point when the reader begins to add it together. The story is suddenly no longer the series of amusing incidents happening to an incisive misfit-it becomes the tragedy of the fall off the cliff into adulthood.
Most significantly, for an adolescent undergoing the torturing growing pains of sex, he sympathizes with the girl’s situation with the ugly daughter of Pencey’s headmaster, with both the ugly girl and the beautiful girl in the nightclub undergoing male treatment from their escorts, with the prostitute Sunny, with the girl whom Luce has enjoyed and now discredits, and especially with Jane Gallagher, the girl whose fear Holden appreciates and whose virtue he fears Stradlater has taken.
The refusal to accept the status quo in the universe marks only adolescents. The young have the clarity and newness of vision, the relentless but two dimensional logic, and the almost unbearable sensitivity that often characterize the saintly and the insane. “A saint as well as a mad man may be an adolescent who has refused to grow up, unable to cover his soul with the calluses necessary for the ordinary life; the crucial difference being that the saint finds a protective armor in religion while the madman’s only protection is flight. The wage wars with the way things are and are martyrs to the commonplace.”8
Like Huckleberry Finn, with whom Holden Caulfield is constantly compared, the hero of The Catcher in the Rye is usually described as a rebel, either against the materialism and ugliness of our society or against the realities of the adult world. But he does not make a satisfactory rebel because he is not for anything. Some critics have considered Holden cynical, defiant, and blind. The lies, the phoniness, and the hypocrisy Holden turns from are the compromises which innocence is forced by the world to make. He has been called a sad little screwed up neurotic by Geismer, Aldridge considers him a beatnik Peter Pan, not only as a boy who refuses to grow up but a moral idiot. Holden is the classic portrait of the crazy, mixed-up kid, but with this significant difference; there is about him a solid substratum of goodness, genuineness and sensitivity.
Adolescence could be compared to Dicken’s famous quote: “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of light, it was the season of darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way—in short, the period was so far like the present, period. that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.”9
Holden like Huck tells his own story and it is in the language of the telling in both books that a great deal of the humor lies. In the nineteenth century; Huck began, “You don’t know about me without you have read a book by the name of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer but that ain’t no matter.” The twentieth century counterpart, Holden, “If you really want to hear about it, the first thing you’ll probably want to know is where I was born, and what my lousy childhood was like, and how my parents were occupied and all before they had me, and all that David Copperfield kind of crap, but I don’t feel like going into it, if you want to know the truth.”10
The quality which makes Huck and Holden brothers is a common hatred of hypocrisy and a search for integrity. Perhaps the central theme of these novels of adolescence is the individual’s search for genuine values. “In the confused rye fields of life the worldly characters seek to catch people, and in revulsion Holden imagines catching all innocent children to protect them from destruction. I know it’s crazy admits Holden who suffers a nervous breakdown at the end.” And similarly Huck ended by exclaiming: “I can’t stand it. I been there before.” In their confusion, these heroes desperately seek truth.11
But the ambivalence of adolescence, which runs after experience yet fears it and admires the mixed up end splendid world while still idealizing innocence, merely reflects the similar ambivalence of American society. Holden confronts the larger problems of sex. At the end of the story he must see a psychiatrist and face those problems of growing up which our maturing society must also face.
The Peter Pan Syndrome has become a best seller in this country. There is a recurring theme in history of the boy who does not want to grow up. It has its beginning when the Scottish author J.M. Barrie who claimed that his immortal character Peter Pan sprang from the antics and personalities of the five young sons of his friends Sylvia and Arthur Davies. In the dedication to Peter Pan, he wrote: “I made Peter Pan by rubbing the five of you violently together, as savages with two sticks to produce a flame.”12 The theme of the boy who would not grow up had its origin in a tragedy in Scotland that occurred when James Barrie was only six years old. Barrie was one of eight children. The second oldest boy, David, was the mother’s favorite. When he died in an ice skating accident in 1867, on the day before his fourteenth birthday, his mother became quite ill. Little James, age six, told jokes, convinced that laughter was a sure cure. The mother lived twenty nine years after David’s death. In the mother’s thoughts David remained her boy forever. When James became a man, David was still the boy of thirteen. While Barrie remained devoted to his mother until the day she died, he was never able to take the place of his brother. Despite enormous success as a writer, Barrie could not compete with David, the boy who would never grow up, the son who would forever remain perfect.
In one of the opening scenes of Peter Pan, Wendy asks Peter his age. He replies, “I don’t know, but I am quite young. Wendy, I ran away the day I was born. It was because I heard father and mother talking about what I was to be when I became a man. I don’t want ever to be a man. I want always to be a little boy and to have fun.”13
Holden and Huck too ran away. After Holden was kicked out of his third prep school he visited a former teacher whose advice was this: “Among other things, you’ll find that you’re not the first person who was ever confused and frightened and sickened by human behavior. Many men have been just as troubled morally and spiritually as you are right now. Happily, some of them kept records of their troubles. You’ll learn something from them—if you want to. It’s History. It’s Poetry.”14 “It may be the kind where at the age of thirty, you sit in some bar hating everybody who comes in looking as if he might have played football in college. Then again, you may pick up just enough education to hate people who say, ‘It’s a secret between he and I.’ Or you may end up in some business office, throwing paper clips at the nearest stenographer. I just don’t know.”15
Holden is more nearly a modern Huck Finn. Both Huck and Holden are in the same lineage of what critic Leslie Fiedler calls the Good Bad Boys of American Literature. Like Huck, Holden longs to be out of civilization and back in innocent nature. Like Huck, speaking superbly authentic dialect of his age and his place, Holden is a runaway from respectability, the possessor of a fierce sense of justice, the arbiter of his own morality. If one fact more than any other links Catcher in the Rye to its generation, it is that for Holden—as presumably for his creator—the ultimate condemnation is summed up in the word phony.
Holden has a problem with communication: as a teenager, he simply cannot get through to the adult world which surrounds him; as a sensitive teenager, he cannot even get through to others his own age. The main reason for Holden’s communication difficulty lies in his absolute hatred of the phoniness. And he finds that phoniness, that hypocrisy, not only in the world of his personal contacts but in the world of art as well. He detests phony books, phony music, phony movies and plays. So repulsed is he by the phoniness around him that he despairs of communicating with anybody, he contemplates a retreat within himself. Holden used the word phony forty four times to cover up all manifestations of idioms, hypocrisy, and reasoning that made him want to “puke”.
Holden’s informal, schoolboy vernacular is particularly typical in its vulgarity and obscenity. The word fuck appears four times in the novel. Holden’s swearing is so habitual, so unintentional, so ritualistic that it takes on a quality of innocence. Holden is characterized as a desperate bravado; he is constantly seeking to appear older than he really is. Despite that trait, however, Holden’s profanity does not stem from the same motivation that prompts other adolescents to swear the urge to seem one of the boys. His profanity is so much ingrained by habit into the fabric of his speech that he is wholly unaware of how rough his language is.
“If you had a million years to do it in, you couldn’t rub out even half the ‘Fuck You’ signs in the world. It’s impossible.” That’s the whole trouble. You can’t even find a place that’s nice and peaceful, because there isn’t any. You may think there is, but once you get there, when you’re not looking, somebody ’ll sneak up and write ‘fuck you’ right under your nose. Try it sometime. I think, even, if I ever die, and they stick me in a cemetery, and I have a tombstone and all, it’ll say ‘Holder Caulfield’ on it and then what year I was born and what year I died, and then right under that it’ll say ‘Fuck You.’ I’m positive, in fact.”16
Summer of 42
In the summer of 1942 they raided the Coast Guard Station four times. They saw five movies and had nine days of rain. Benjie broke his watch, Osey gave up the harmonica, and in a very special way, Hermie was lost forever.
This American novel is about three unforgettable boys and their last moments of innocence one summer. Beyond their scope World War II was raging 1939-1945. Hermie, the protagonist aged fifteen was desperately in love with a beautiful married lady. And nothing, from the first moment Hermie saw her, and no one had happened to him since, had ever been as frightening and as confusing or could have done more to make him feel more sure, more insecure, more important and less significant. It is in the genre of Huck Finn and The Catcher in the Rye.
Hermie was torn that summer between being a boy and a mature young adult. On the one hand he was chastised from time to time for slurping, and his sister remarked twice that he had the manners of a filthy slob, but as long as he kept eating, he had his mother as an ally, and his sister finally left the table, enraged that, for a brother, God had given her Peter Pig.(note the recurring Peter Pan syndrome) On the other hand Oscy tells Hermie, “It’s very mature to feel girls, my brother does it all the time.”17 It is called foreplay! Everybody takes off their clothes, and they play foreplay! Before you know it they’re fucking. Oscy was really excited, Benjie was frightened. Hermie was surprised. They found a medical book with actual photographs. “And goddammit, we’re going to get it. The tears rose in Benji’s eyes, something else rose in Hermie’s jeans. Oscy, their leader, would not fail them. Today foreplay, tomorrow the world.”18
It was like a third eye in his forehead that saw only sex and, as such, gave him no rest. He lay down with it at night, and he woke up with it in the morning. He left the house with it and was walking down the beach with it. It was taking over his life because it wouldn’t go away.
In the following scene Oscy and Hermie have dates in the movies dutch treat. Oscy is with the sensuous Miriam, and Hermie with the shy Aggie. Benjie went home in tears as did the third girlfriend who was very over weight. Later Hermie—“I held her breast, fantastic, for eleven full minutes. Oscy—Didn’t it feel like an arm? no, it felt like a boob why the hell should it feel like an arm? Because it was an arm, you were squeezing an arm for eleven minutes, you schmuck. You just wanted to ruin my memory of it, you son of a bitch bastard “FUCK YOU!” What do I care if you spend your whole stupid life squeezing arms! just thought you oughta face reality! Especially if you are going to put a clock on it and goin’ for records!”18 They laughed because Hermie knew he could forget Aggie just like that. And if in future years, he ever did remember her or recall her to mind, it would be as a deaf-muted, crooked-toothed, acne-skinned, nippleless girl.
Oscy tries to teach Hermie the facts of life but he is a little slow to catch on. After Hermie falls in love with the beautiful married lady, Dorothy, Oscy offers advice. “You kiss that lady a couple of times, excuse yourself politely, and then return with the contents of this package wrapped around your pecker and you’re home. Oscy was shocked that Hermie wanted to buy it from him. “It’s from my brother! It’s a fuckin’ family heirloom! You have to get your own, you stupid shit!”19 As it turned out Hermie never did have to borrow or use his new rubbers. His initiation into sex came quite by surprise.
Hermie had just finished making love to a war widow who had helplessly allowed it to happen because she was in no emotional condition to stop it. No matter how he juggled the situation around in his mind, no matter how he twisted it or interpreted it or lied about it, he knew that in the long run, he was going to be worse off—than she. She’d make it in life because she’d one day realize what and how it happened. He’d be in trouble because it was his first time, which meant he’d remember it forever because that’s the way the legend goes. Plus he’d always remember that in a situation of crisis, his true character had come to the fore, revealing him to be more interested in sex than in compassion. He knew that for all time20 he would be indelibly stamped as a shit, and a fuck, and a prick. But he also knew it was the summer he lost Hermie forever.
(Please refer to the lesson plans at the end for the analysis for teaching)
“Now I am thirteen, but when I was a chile, it was hard to be a chile because my block is a tough block and my school is a tough school. I’m not trying to cop out on what I do or don’t do cause man is man and chile is chile, but I ain’t a chile no more. Don’t nobody want to be no chile cause, for some reason, it just hold you back in a lotta ways; unless you be a rich chile like in some movie picture or like on T.V.—where everybody is livin it up and their room is perfect-lookin and their swimmin pool and their block and their house and they also ridin round in one rollin Cads with a tape-deck playin cool music and with air condition goin.”21
The block where Benjie lives is no peaceful place. People are getting mugged and robbed regularly. After age three when the relatives hold your hand you are on your own in the poorly lighted hallways of the tenement. “Walkin through dark, stinky hallways can be hard on anybody, man or chile, but a chile can get snatch in the dark and get his behind parts messed up by some weirdo I’m talkie bout them sexuals. Soon’s you get up to leven, twelve and so—they might cool it cause they scared you know where to land a good up punch, dig? I say alla this cause it’s a fact. I don’t like for folks cryin and bein sorry over me, cause I’m a man and if I can’t take it, well, later!”22 “Fuck the Society!” Lass thing the society can do is come along and boo-hoo with that sorry for you talk.
Benjie’s friend tries to give him advice, but Benjie resents him thinking he’s got it made and Benjie’s a loser. “It bugged me hard when Jimmy-Lee start layin them jive-ass-heart raps on me. Talkin like he already a social worker.” “Man, he says, straighten up cause you gonna kill yourself. There ain’t no way to be equal and reach somebody. He don’t reach me at all.”23
I hate school. I know what my picture is, even feel bad walkin to school, forcin my feet to move where they don’t wanta go. Schoolteachers can be some hard-eyed people, with talkie eyes; they mouth sayin one thing and them eyes be screamin another. Teach will say, “Be seated and open your book to page one nineteen and be prepared to read as I call your name. But them eyes be stonyin down on you, speakin the message: Shits, sit your ass down, open the book, and make a fool outta your dumb self when I start callin on the ones who the poorest readers.”24
“Bein a chile is bein a slave, and that’s why I’m glad I ain’t a chile no more. I’m damn sick and tireda everythin. It phony everywhere!” Just like Holden Benjie feels an alienation from society and a dislike of the phoniness.
For the parents and grandparents of these teenagers they may think back to when their dreams began. Through nostalgia they can stroll down memory lane. Once upon a time there was a land of laughing children and confident grownups called America the Beautiful. In rosy retrospect in that simpler country the Hollywood of the stars and the golden voice of radio, innocent comic books, funny papers and the big bands all blared out a message of cockeyed optimism. It was the time of Mickey Mouse watches and Lionel trains, of Howdy Doody and Buffalo Bob Smith, of Fibber McGee and Molly, and of the reassuring “Saturday Evening Post” every Thursday. We must look for it now only on late-nite television for it is no more than a dream remembered, an America gone with the wind . . . 25
Webster has defined nostalgia as a “wistful or excessively sentimental, sometimes abnormal yearning for a return to or of some past period or irrecoverable condition.”(p. 1003)
Nostalgia is a psychological time machine that transplants adults to the good old days of another era. Once there, they will find that it is a state of mind, oblivious to actual or imagined barriers. For some it is a pleasant stroll through yesterday, a simple, less turbulent past.
The fact is that all times are tough for the people who must live through them, and glow golden only for those who survive them, or simply imagine them. Perhaps nostalgia is offering only a temporary relief from the discomforts of the real world, but it is also offering many Americans and adolescents a glimpse of the nation’s past.
Did the good old days really exist? Why don’t you talk to your folks about it?
I intend to use this unit during one term, approximately ten weeks. The Catcher in the Rye could be covered in one month provided your students do independent readings and research. Otherwise you will need more time as the book covers a great deal and should not be skimmed over lightly. In lieu of my usual reading, writing, vocabulary, spelling, and English grammar activities I plan to use this unit. Three specific areas will be covered; phoniness, sexuality, and the vernacular. As an incentive this will be their requirement book for one month’s Book Report. Since they have to read a book a month anyway. I hope they will select from this list, as the year progresses.
Step 1-Have your students read this novel first. Give them a few guidelines to keep in mind as they read. This book is high interest and low vocabulary so the reading comprehension should not be a problem or the fact that the book is boring. I would have your students start reading the first few pages out loud in class. When you see they are on the edge of their seats then assign it as homework. Give them one week to read the book without any other assignments.
Step 2-The following week discuss initial reactions to the book. What was it like to be in Caulfield’s shoes? What important decisions did he make? What were the girls like? What are the similarities or differences between Holden and you?
REMEMBER one of your goals is to motivate students to read more. Ease into the analysis of this book gradually. Students with limited attention spans will need positive reinforcement. If you can hook some of your lower achievers on the idea that this is a good book then they will be more likely to attempt the Bibliography included.
Step 3-If your class has difficulty working independently try this suggestion which was brought up in this seminar. Divide students into three groups. Let them select their own names; The Knight Riders, Michael Jackson fans, the A-team, and so on. Each sub group will be assigned a book; The Catcher in the Rye, Summer of 42, or A Hero Ain’t Nothin But a Sandwich. At the end of an assigned time slot each group will report. This also encourages group cooperation and the ability to work toward a goal together. After they have shared their learnings the books will be traded.
Holden used the word phony at least 44 times. Some of the pages where phony is listed are: 6, 14, 19, 23, 34, 65, 70, 72, 77, 113, 138, 152, 164, 166, 170, 181, 184, 217, 218, 219, 224, and 226.
Early in the novel, Holden finds the headmaster, Mr. Thurmer, a phony slob. (p.7) He is critical of old Spencer for describing Holden’s parents with a phony word grand; he finds Mr. Haas, the headmaster at Elkton, the phoniest bastard; he finds philanthropist Ossenburger a big phony bastard. Does Holden use the word phony so loosely that it lacks meaning? Or do these different characters have in common some specific quality or combination of qualities which Holden evidently thinks of as phony?
Have your students select one page and describe in paragraph form their interpretation of Holden’s use of the word phony in that context. Then have students list what they consider phony in their world. Be prepared for some truths.
Answer the following questions in essay form. Use your notes and books to support answers.
Although Holden evidently has Jane Gallagher on his mind throughout the novel, he never makes any sustained effort to see or telephone her. Whenever he might attempt to reach her, he claims that he is not in the mood. How do you explain this contradiction?
Holden meets and talks with several women in the story; Mrs. Spencer, the wife of the Pencey history teacher (p.9); Mrs. Morrow, the mother of the mean Pencey student (p.51), Miss Cavendish, whose phone number a Princeton man had given Holden (p.60); the three Seattle devotees of movie stars (p.65); Lillian Simmons, whom D. B. used to go around with (p.80); Sunny, the call girl (p.86); the two nuns (p.98), Sally Hayes, (p.113) and finally Phoebe (pp. 146, 185).
What do women who appeal to Holden have in common?
What do those who do not appeal to him have in common?
What is his attitude toward his own sexual activity? and that of others?
Students often have a unique vocabulary. Review some of their favorite expressions first and then compare some of Holden’s speech with their own. Are the 1940’s and the 1980’s really that different?
How do you reconcile Holden’s love of literature and reading in general with his statement that he has a “lousy” vocabulary and with his use of the vernacular? (p.20)
Step 5—Define each of these words and use them in a sentence.
In this book the dialect is all Black English. Have some of your students compare examples of their creative writing with that of Benjie.
The descriptive dialogue in this novel leads the reader to visualize people and places as Benjie must view them. Have your students try writing descriptive sentences about easy items first: school, food, sports’ activities, clothes, current heroes: that is Michael Jackson, the Menudos, Mr. T, and the Incredible Hulk. To do this it helps to brain storm first where the students throw around ideas. Start with the five senses to have them practice listing orally smells, tastes, feelings, sounds, sights. For example the clouds look soft, puffy, white, like cotton balls, like shaving cream, comfortable.
Vocabulary drill-difference in dialects, for example, a hero is often called a submarine, a grinder, or a wedge.
Summer of 42
Rent the video cassette and show the movie in class first—it will take two class periods. Then, have your students read the novel. Initially students can describe their best friends and ways they have spent their summers. Discuss the influence peer pressure has on an individual as noted in the case of Oscy and Hermie. What happened to Benjie when he did not tow the line?
Take a field trip to the New Haven Public Library to look at past magazines especially Time and Life. They are bound in volumes. Just as I was amazed I think your students will find the comparison of the 40’s in particular with the 80’s interesting. Specifically they could compare commercials of today with the ads of then, or the ads of today’s Time and Life with then. The things that are popular today; Hermann boots, punk rock boots, spikes, leather bomber jackets, Dynasty, E.T. The Fonz and so on, how would they compare with past fads and heros? Elvis? Frank Sinatra? The Big Band Era? leather jackets, the 50’s happy days’ look, crew cut, vitalis, poodle skirts, loafers, and so on. Are there any fashions from the past that have been repeated in 1984? mini shirts? textured nylons? clogs?
History is said to be cyclical. It would be interesting for students to see in terms of things that interest them that that statement is true.
What I have attempted to do is to put together a lengthy annotated bibliography for teenage girls. The books cover all the aspects of adolescence effecting them. The authors are listed as follows: Joyce Mitchell Free to Choose is for boys worth reading , and Other Choices For Becoming A Woman for girls
Christine Arnothy I am Fifteen—and I Don’t Want to Die
Anne Frank The Diary of a Young Girl
Judy Blume Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret
Judy Blume Deenie
Beverly Cleary Fifteen
Beverly Cleary The Luckiest Girl
Paula Danziger Can You Sue Your Parents for Malpractice? GIRL’S
Paula Danziger The Pistachip Prescription
Jeannette Eyerly A Girl Like Me
M.E. Kerr Dinky Hocker Shoots Smack
E.L. Konigsburg From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil Frankweiler
Scott O’Dell Kathleen, Please Come Home
Robin Wagner Sarah T. Portrait of a Teenage Alcoholic
Paul Zindel My Darling, My Hamburger
(See the bibliography for more details)
Have students, girls especially, select a book for a report. Have them review the book captions ahead of time to see what subject matter appeals to them.
Teachers will find Patricia Spacks especially helpful. She writes about women in literature. One book worth reading is her Contemporary Women Novelists (see bibliography).
For some of the more ambitious readers have them compare one of the girls books with one of the boys. The authors are listed as follows:
Robert Lipsyte The Contender
Anne Snyder My Name is Davy I’m an Alcoholic
Susie Hinton That was Then, This is Now
Robert Cormier The Chocolate War BOY’S
Alice Back The Meat in the Sandwich
Judy Blume Then Again, Maybe I Won’t
Frank Bonham The Nitty Gritty
William Golding Lord of the Flies
Susie Hinton The Outsiders
Joyce Mitchell Free to Choose
(see the bibliography for more details)
- 1. Laurence Steinberg The Life Cycle “Readings in Human Development” (New York: Columbia University Press, 1981), pp. 200-201.
- 2. Malcolm Marsden If You Really Want to Know: A Catcher Casebook (Chicago: Scott, Foresman & Co , 1963) p.76
- 3. Norman Fruman and Marvin Laser Studies in J D. Salinger (New York: The Odyssey Press, 1963) p. 196.
- 4. Laser, Opcit., p.74.
- 5. Ibid., p.153.
- 6. Ibid., p.121.
- 7. J D Salinger The Catcher in the Rye (Boston: Little Brown, & Co. 1945) pp. 224-225.
- 8. Henry Grunwald ed. Salinger (New York: Harper & Row 1962) p. 15.
- 9. Charles Dickens The Tale of Two Cities (New York: New Amsterdam Library, 1960) p.1.
- 10. Grunwald, Opcit., p. 202.
- 11. Laser, Opcit., p. 71.
- 12. Ann Elwood and Carol Madigan Brainstorms & Thunderbolts (New York: Macmillan Co. 1983) p. 101.
- 13. Ibid., p.101.
- 14. Laser, Opcit. , p. 77.
- 15. Salinger, Opcit., p. 242.
- 16. Ibid., p. 264.
- 17. Herman Raucher Summer of 42 (New York: G.P. Putnams & Sons, 1971) p.71.
- 18. Ibid., p. 108.
- 19. Raucher, Opcit., p.150.
- 20. Ibid., pp.233-234.
- 21. Alice Childress A Hero Ain’t Nothin’ But a Sandwich (New York: Coward, McCann & Co.Inc. 1973)p.9.
- 22. Ibid., p.10.
- 23. Ibid., p.11.
- 24. Ibid., p.76.
- 25. “Nostalgia” Newsweek, 28 December 1970, p.34.
This is a prize winning true story of teenage heartbreak and heroism during WWII. Huddled in the cold, dark cellar of their bombed out apartment building, Christine and her family listen in fear as the battle rages over their heads. They must get out of the city, but where, and how?
Childress, Alice A Hero Ain’t Nothin’ but a Sandwich New York: Coward, McCann & Geoghegan Inc. 1973.
This book is one of three major novels used in this curriculum unit.
Frank, Anne The Diary of a Young Girl New York: Pocket Books 1952.
This book was set against the grim background of the Jewish program, the commonplaces of a teenage girl are much more than usually touching. Anne’s romance with Peter Van Daan is the very type and model of early love but with the possibility of death standing beyond the door. This book has been translated into nineteen languages.
Go Ask Alice New York: Avon Books 1967.
Based on the actual diary of a fifteen year old drug user, it is not a definitive statement on the middle-class, teenage world. It is, however, a highly personal and specific chronicle. As such, we hope it will provide insights into the increasingly complicated world in which we live.
Golding, William Lord of the Flies New York: Coward, McCann Inc. 1962.
This is an attempt to trace the defects of society back to the defects of human nature. Golding went directly against the 50’s, a time when cultural heroes were flawless adolescents pitted against a corrupt adult world.
Hinton, S.E. The Outsiders New York: Dell Pub. Co. 1967.
A rough and swinging gang of teenagers from the wrong side of the tracks, have little hope for the material pleasures of American life. Their mode of expression is violence-directed toward the group of privileged kids who are at once objects of their envy and their hatred. Written by a most perceptive teenager, it attempts to communicate to adults their doubts, their dreams, and their needs.
Human Sexuality 83/84 Guilford, Ct: Dushkin Pub. Group, Inc. 1983.
This is an annual non-fiction collection of articles.
Life July 6, 1942
Time July 6, 1942.
These magazines show the current events of the day although both had a high concentration on the war effort. Holden is not like the adolescents in the magazines—the smiling, crew cut, loafer-shod teenagers wrapped in the cocoon of suburban togetherness. He makes the adults of his generation uncomfortable because he exposes so much of what is cheap and gawdy, in our way of life.
Mitchell, Joyce Free to Choose New York: Dell Pub. Co. 1983.
This is a non-fiction guidebook to decision making for young men. Distinguished contributors encourage men to break away from cultural expectations and stereotyped views of manhood in friendship, love and marriage, religion, sports, the arts, leisure, and careers, by helping them to understand and explore the many life choices open to them.
Mitchell, Joyce Other Choices For Becoming a Woman New York: Dell Books 1983.
This is a non fiction handbook to help young women make decisions. Discover the wide range of career and life styles that women can choose from. This book guides young adults toward the right choices in education, religion, sex, friendship, sports, careers, arts, and leisure.
Raucher, Herman Summer of 42 New York: G.P. Putnams Sons 1971.
This was one of the three major novels used in this curriculum unit.
Salinger, J.D. The Catcher in the Rye Boston: Little, Brown, & Co. 1945.
This is by far my favorite book of the list and the major concentration of this paper.
Twain, Mark The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn New York: Harper & Row 1896.
This fictional work is used only as it compares to The Catcher in the Rye.
Mike is sure there are only winners and losers in life until he becomes one of the latter. Mike Lefcourst dreams of being a star athlete, but when hockey season ends, Mike learns that victory and defeat become hopelessly mixed up. For a few weeks Mike is a winner not the kid in the middle but the all-important meat in the sandwich! The book handles some important issues (sex roles, sibling relationships, value systems) quite deftly.
Blume, Judy Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret New York: Dell Pub. Co. 1970.
After moving from the city to a new home in the suburbs, eleven year old Margaret faces the challenges of making new friends, getting along with boys, growing up physically, and choosing a religion. With sensitivity and humor, Judy Blume has captured the joys, fears and uncertainty that surround a young girl approaching adolescence.
Blume, Judy Deenie New York: Dell Publ. Co. 1973.
Deenie’s conformity with adolescent real life interests will no doubt endear her to junior high girls. Deenie liked being pretty—ugly things like hunchbacks and bad cases of eczema repelled her—and she liked being attractive to boys especially Buddy Brader. Then her posture problem began. She had adolescent idiopathic scoliosis and she would have to wear a brace from her neck down to her hips for four years—or longer. The story told from Deenie’s point of view expresses poignantly her hopes, her worries.
Blume, Judy Then Again, Maybe I Won’t New York: Dell Pub. Co. 1971.
The treatment of the boy’s big and little problems is refreshingly light and undemanding, and the fact that they are not magically resolved adds to their likelihood and recognition. Ever since his father got rich from his invention and the family moved from New Jersey to a posh community, thirteen year old Tony had nothing but problems. On top of all that, there were growing up problems that all boys must face.
Bonham, Frank The Nitty Gritty New York: Dell Publ. Co. 1968.
This story is real and tough, a gripping and amusing story with much warmth and nerve. If you live in a poor black slum, you’ve got to hustle to get out. Charlie Matthews wants to get out of Dogtown but the question is, How? The English teacher says stay in school. His father says shine shoes. When scheming Uncle Baron comes to town with get-rich-quick ideas, Charlie sees a light. He starts raising money to get in on the big deal and becomes a little wiser in the process.
Cleary, Beverly Fifteen New York: Dell Pub. Co. 1956.
Having a boyfriend isn’t the answer. Fifteen year old Jane Purdy dreams of having a boyfriend but doesn’t think it will ever really happen. Stan is everything she wants in a boyfriend, and more. But every time she decides to break up, the phone rings. It’s Stan . . . The worries, the joys, the anguish are portrayed with warmth, humor, and perceptiveness.
Cleary, Beverly The Luckiest Girl New York: Dell Pub. Co. 1958.
A year away from home—it could only be terrific! Shelley is sure about one thing: the upcoming year is going to be different. For starters, she’s finally going to break up with Jack. The second thing is to do something about her mother. She buys Shelley these ridiculous clothes that are too girlish and generally treats her as if she were six instead of sixteen. Lately they argue all the time . . . Shelley finds a way out of her problems. She can spend her junior year with family friends in California.
Cormier, Robert The Chocolate War New York: Dell Pub. Co. 1974.
This is a compelling story that combines Lord of the Flies and A Separate Peace. Jerry Renault, a New England high school student is stunned by his mother’s recent death and appalled by the way his father sleepwalks through life. At school, he resists the leader of a secret society by refusing to sell candies for the chocolate sale, wondering: Do I dare disturb the universe?
Danziger, Paula Can You Sue Your Parents For Malpractice? New York: Delacorte Press. 1979.
Who said growing up was fair? Or Easy? Certainly not Lauren. At age fourteen, her life is the pits. Bobby’s jilted her. Her ninth grade teachers are demerit crazy and she has to share her room with a messy younger sister who wants to be a stand-up comic, while her older sister seems to get everything she wants. Lauren feels she’s got no rights at all. But then Lauren takes a course in “Law for Children and Young People,” and realizes there are solutions to her problems.
Dansiger, Paula The Pistachio Prescription New York: Dell Pub. Co. 1978.
Red pistachio nuts cure any problem. When I’m upset or nervous or have a cold or something, I always eat them. Cassie is thirteen, a mousy-brown, in a family of blonds and redheads. On top of that, she has asthma. World War III is waged daily in her home, beginning at the breakfast table and ending with slammed doors at night. Operation Overthrow is under way at school, with Cassie running for fresh person class president . . . This book is funny, well-characterized and loaded with popular appeal for the junior high age.
Eyerly, Jeannette A Girl Like Me New York: Berkley Publishing Co. 1966.
All the vague whispers about girls in trouble become shockingly real to Robin when a friend is involved. Cass was a very attractive and friendly girl, who went with a fast crowd in high school—A few months later, a stunned Robin discovered Cass was faced with an illegitimate pregnancy. The consequences and their effect on the once cheerful Cass, coupled with her own efforts to help, brought Robin pain, but also deeper and wiser knowledge of the realities of life. This book is honest, understanding, and in good taste.
Mark and Bryon were like brothers, and both became involved in their slum neighborhood’s gang warfare. But when they were sixteen, Bryon discovered things about Mark that forced him to confront a present so different from his past. A mature; disciplined novel, which excites a response in the reader and is hard to forget.
Kerr, M.E. Dinky Hocker Shoots Smack New York: Dell Pub. Co. 1972.
Dinky isn’t addicted to heroin, but she does have a big problem. Then there are boys and parents to complicate her life. The most difficult problems are Dinky’s—whose addiction to food makes her life a nightmare until the night of her shocking explosion, when at last some people understand you don’t have to be a public loser to have private troubles. The characterization, the relationships (particularly between parents and children) and the writing style are excellent.
Knowles, John A Separate Peace New York: MacMillan Pub. Co. 1959.
In 1943, America’s first war year, most boys of sixteen had only a little time for the kind of life they had always known. For the boys at Devon prep school the atmosphere of war was lurking. Two boys, Gene and Phineas became friends. Gene, the story teller, is academically brilliant. Finny’s great gifts as an athlete are matched by his great gifts as a person: he is without fear in a world and a boy’s school which are full of it. Their friendship, as unsentimental as it is real, is flawed by defects in Gene’s character which leads to a mad, impulsive act of aggression against his friend.
Konigsburg, E.L. From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil Frankweiler New York: Atheneum 1967.
When Claudia decided to run away, she planned very carefully. She would be gone just long enough to teach her parents a lesson in Claudia appreciation. And she would go in comfort—she would live at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. She saved her money, and she invited her brother Jamie to go, mostly because he was a miser and would have money. From there their adventures begin. This was the winner of the 1968 Newberry Award.
Lipsyte, Robert The Contender New York: Harper & Row Pub. 1967.
This is a gut-wrenching story of life in the Black ghetto. Alfred Brooks was part of the murky dropout world of junkies and petty thieves. He lived in Harlem, where staying away from Whitey was the first rule of any street gang. Any member who broke this code could expect the worst the gang could give. Alfred Brooks wanted to make it straight—but he had a conflict. He wanted to stay alive as well . . .
O’Dell, Scott Kathleen, Please Come Home New York: Dell Pub. Co. 1978.
A runaway tries to escape from a tangle of drugs and death. Kathleen meets Sybil, and her dull life changes. She is into drugs trying whatever Sybil has to offer. When Kathleen’s mother reports her to the authorities she runs away to Mexico with Sybil. It turns out to be a journey through hell... a journey from which Kathleen may never find her way home.
Snyder, Anne, My Name is Davy I’m an Alcholic New York: The New American Library 1977.
Davy didn’t have a friend in the world—until he discovered booze and Maxi. The first drink was the hardest, burned going down. When Davy drank, he was on top of the world. Liquor even helped him meet his girlfriend Maxi. But together they started to get sick making their life a nightmare. They were in trouble they couldn’t handle.
Wagner, Robin Sarah T Portrait of a Teen-Age Alcoholic New York: Ballantine Books, 1975.
Teenage problem drinkers are not just young adults of legal age. Many are alcoholics at twelve and thirteen. They’re raiding their parents’ liquor cabinets . . . bribing older friends to buy it for them. Young girls are trading sex for it. This book takes a shocking and compassionate look at the growing problem of adolescent liquor abuse... and the desperate need for rehabilitation.
Zindel, Paul My Darling, My Hamburger New York: Bantam Books, 1969.
Sean and Liz and Dennis and Maggie! Senior year isn’t the end of high school—it’s the beginning of life! “The self-consciously shy hero and heroine. Maggie and Dennis, are on their first date: How skinny, a face like an undernourished zucchini . . . and always wearing the same baggy sweater says Maggie. Dennis says, Her ears were strangely small . . . her eyes weren’t bad. Maybe they were even a little pretty, but . . . the cockeyed way she’d plucked her eye-brows!”
Dickens, Charles The Tale of Two Cities New York: New Amsterdam Library 1960.
Elwood, Ann and Carol Madigan Brainstorms & Thunderbolts “How Creative Genius Works” New York: MacMillan Co. 1983.
This non-fiction book is for anyone who has ever felt a creative urge and wanted to spur it on. It’s an unprecedented, behind-the-scenes look at creative genius at work in more than a 100 stories of History’s most inventive thinkers how they were inspired and how their ideas took shape. These remarkable and often funny tales make one thing clear: inspiration can come at any time and in any form. For instance, we see how inventive men and women of history primed their muses to move them. Mark Twain smoked a box of cigars. It’s the ideal springboard for anyone who ever wanted to trigger his own creativity and for anyone who has ever asked, “How did that ever happen?”
Erikson, Erik Identity “Youth and Crisis” New York: W.W. Norton & Co. 1968.
Erikson, Erik Identity and the Life Cycle New York: W.W. Norton & Co. 1980.
Fruman, Norman and Marvin Laser Studies in J.D. Salinger “Reviews, Essays and Critiques” New York: The Odyssey Press 1963.
Salinger, Henry Grumwald ed. New York: Harper & Row, 1962.
Henry Grumwald introduces the reader to Mr. Salinger in an account of his work, indicating the development of his extraordinary style and mood, as well as his creation of characters so precisely and hauntingly fashioned. This portrait is the work of many. As a whole it presents this controversial writer in the round.
Marsden, Malcolm If You Really Want to Know: A Catcher Casebook Chicago: Scott, Foresman, & Co. 1963.
Rikhoff, Jean Rites of Passage New York: The Viking Press 1966.
The title implies a comment on modern American life. Today no stylized rites in the manner of the older civilizations, no formal tests of stamina and self-reliance mark a child’s passage into maturity. Modern initiations into adulthood are unannounced trials in an uncharted passage, often with no perceptible goal ahead. The major characters of this book are third generation Timbles who even in their middle years in the 60’s have not yet severed the strangulating ties of family dependency. They are unable to evaluate themselves or their future.
This is about the twentieth century Glass family who settled in New York.
Spacks, Patricia Contemporary Women Novelists New Jersey: Prentice Hall Inc. 1977.
This is a collection of critical essays. Is the woman novelist a different breed? Does her sex determine the content of her work? Her technique? Or her values? Answering these questions and others, this book offers a variety of perspectives on the place today’s women novelists occupy in the literary tradition. In eleven essays writers and critics including Norman Mailer, probe stylistic and sexual nuances in the work of such outstanding contemporary novelists as Eudora Welty, Mary McCarthy. The book suggests that so-called ladies subject matter is a thing of the past. Authentic description of the female experience in fiction and its serious critical appraisal are only recent developments offering an illuminating exploration of this previously uncharted area of literature.
Steinberg, Laurence The Life Cycle New York: Columbia Press 1981. pp.167-223 Adolescence.
Contents of 1984 Volume V | Directory of Volumes | Index | Yale-New Haven Teachers Institute