I’ve been an avid reader since the day my parents introduced me to The Baby’s Bedtime Book by Kay Chorao when I was a mere toddler. But in tenth grade, I read Salinger’s Cather in the Rye and discovered the power of narrative voice. I’d never come across a story where it seemed like the narrator was speaking directly to me. And it was so conversational, informal. I was instantly hooked. I’ve taught the book as well, and teenagers just always seem to take to it–maybe it’s the adolescent angst, rolling circumlocution, lack of structure (unlike their fixed lifestyles), or perhaps it’s just one of the best stories ever written.
The following is not the most philosophical observation Holden Caulfield makes during his bittersweet odyssey, but I laugh out loud every time I read it:
Holden, after making the decision to flee Pencey Prep, makes a quick stop at his history teacher, Mr. Spencer’s, home to say goodbye:
“…For instance, one Sunday when some other guys and I were over there for hot chocolate, he showed us this old beat-up Navajo blanket that he and Mrs. Spencer’d bought off some Indian in Yellowstone Park. You could tell old Spencer’d got a big bang out of buying it. That’s what I mean. You take somebody old as hell, like old Spencer, and they can get a big bang out of buying a blanket” (Salinger, 7).
It really isn’t earth-shattering wisdom, or sky-reaching insight; yet, I’m going to go ahead and say “I feel” what’s Holden’s talking about. Holden is likely remarking on the mundane lives of his older counterparts, i.e. their lives are so dull that a new blanket is the coolest thing ever. I think, however, on a deeper level, Holden wishes a blanket was all he needed to maintain satisfaction.
There’s a moral in there if you think about it 🙂