I can never tell if it’s tension or boredom.
The reading we did today in Catcher is very intense, but in a quiet sort of way. Today’s reading reveals for the first time how obsessive Holden really is. He says he gets so worried about things that he needs to go to the bathroom, but he’s too worried to go. That’s clinical. And he spends all of today’s reading being nervous about what his roommate Stradlater (“a sexy bastard”) is going to do with Jane Ghallagher in that “damn Ed Banky’s car.”
Were students nervous for Holden, or bored? I’ll tell you, this whole part makes me nervous. Not only were guys back then all too willing to ignore any protests a girl put up (like that’s changed…), Holden reveals just enough of what he knows about Jane’s past to make us think that she might be particularly vulnerable to the overpowering advances of a jerk like Stradlater. And it would do her some real emotional damage, too.
And I also happen to know, since I’ve read the book 6 times, that Holden’s fear of what might have happened to Jane that night is a big part of what keeps him from ever getting in touch with her through all his adventures after he leaves school. In some ways, she seems like the only person that could really help him (at least, he might think so), but in his mind she could only help him if she’s still the Jane who keeps all her kings in the back row–not the Jane who is forced into some kind of degraded maturity by a jerk in the back seat of a car.
This is pretty important stuff that happens today, under the surface. Were students feeling the tension, or was it boredom that weighed their heads down? Comments, you guys?
Today we took a quiz on the parts of speech. If you missed class today and are reading this, come see me during project period and you can take the quiz.
After that, we reviewed yesterday’s discussion about voice, and talked about how we might apply some of those terms to writing.
I suggested that one way to start talking about voice would be to make a list of “Holdenisms” while we read. These would be words, phrases, mannerisms, etc., that Holden uses again and again in his narration of the events in Catcher. So while I read (to page 46), students used a two-sided ledger sheet to write down phrases from the book on one side, with their comments about Holden’s attitude or emotional state as revealed by his language on the other side. This is one way to start getting at “voice” in the written word.
Tomorrow, we’ll swap Holdenisms, and then the class will get to try their hand at writing a little story from their own lives in the style of Holden. We’ll have a whole “goshdarn” class of little Holdens. Hold onto your hats and glasses.