Mini-Socratic Seminar QUESTION 1 Psychoanalyze Holden. What is at the root of his problems? What incidents or thoughts Holden has expressed so far show this? QUESTION 2 The book was written more than a half a century ago. Yet, many feel that it reflects contemporary adolescents’ feelings and experiences. What is timeless and universal about the novel? What can you specifically relate to in the book? Not relate to at all?
Chapters 20-23: Thoughts • Alienation • By this point, Holden’s free fall is well underway. • After his disastrous date with Sally, he calls her in a drunken stupor; wanders down to the lagoon in the freezing cold; and skips his dwindling coins across the water.
Chapters 20-23: Thoughts • Loneliness • Memories of Allie continue to haunt Holden. • He doesn’t think it would be so bad if Allie wasn’t in that crazy cemetery surrounded by tombstones and dead people. It makes him confront his own mortality. • Phoebe’s significance is huge: Holden confides in her, shares his dreams, and even argues with her. She is his most trusted connection. • Phoebe is bright, articulate, and imaginative. Although she is six years younger, she seems to have it together much more than Holden.
Chapters 20-23: Thoughts • Holden watching Phoebe sleep and Holden reading her notebooks represent the few moments where he can escape the brutality of the outside world. • Her elephant pajamas, her excitement over the lead role in the play, and her compassion all symbolize how Holden values the innocence and authenticity of childhood. • The broken record pieces: emblematic of Holden’s own shattered psyche. • When Phoebe generously offers Holden her Christmas money, he breaks into tears.
Chapters 20-23: Thoughts • Emotional instability • Chapter 22 is crucial: Holden tells Phoebe he would like to be the catcher in the rye. Let’s take a look at the poem. • The rye field is a symbol of childhood: the rye is so high that the children cannot see over it. • The cliff is the precipice of adulthood: Holden wants to protect childhood innocence from the fall into disillusionment that comes with adulthood. • Holden wants to save children from going over that cliff; he wants to save the innocence missing in the world around him – a world that has let him fall over the cliff into adulthood alone.
Chapters 20-23: Thoughts • Symbols • There is an interesting theory as to the state of the pond in the park, which is partly frozen and partly not. • It is in a transitional state, just like Holden himself. • Holden is neither child nor adult but somewhere in between.