Thursday, October 1, 2009
Holden Caufield Diagnosed
Reading: Revolutionary Road by Richard Yates
Listening to: That's the problem . . .
I am continuing to run! That in itself is a victory of persistence over desire.
I finished reading Catcher in the Rye, and am so happy that I read it again. I read it mainly because it had been a long time since I last read it, back in high school, and a new book that I want to read, Lowboy by John Wray, was compared to Catcher and I wanted to be able to see why. J.D. Salinger's voice for Holden is amazing in that even though Holden speaks like a high school student, using lots of slang and what I would think were then current phrases, the language has stood the test of time, without sounding stupid. Good thing that he wrote it based in the 40s instead of the 60s.
Recently, I read The Penderwicks: A Summer Tale of Four Sisters, Two Rabbits and a Very Interesting Boy by Jane Birdsall with my daughter. The big problem in The Penderwicks was that the "very interesting boy" was about to be sent to a military academy called Pencey. I didn't get the reference at the time, but after re-reading Catcher, I love that Birdsall was sending the VIB to the school that Holden was forced to leave.
It is tempting in re-reading Catcher to try to diagnose Holden. I am telling you that my son has a friend who IS Holden Caulfield. His name is Max. Oh, the future his parents have in store! It seems fairly obvious that Holden must have had ADD or ADHD, and probably some form of oppositional defiant disorder. Anxiety must also play a role. In today's world we would slap an IEP on him, and give him some meds. Would that result in a better Holden Caulfield? When I read Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing by Judy Blume to my daughter, she asked if the little brother, Fudge, has autism. Excellent question. With his behaviors, I think he would be labeled as autistic today. I am sure that someone has already done it, but it would be interesting to study the child characters of 20th century literature and apply today's labels to their behavior. We could then re-write the story, starting with "When Holden was asked to leave Pencey, his parents immediately took him to see his psychologist, Dr. Brown. Dr. Brown recommended that they consult with his pediatrician with regard to the various ADHD medications that are available on the market today. After 3 weeks on Daytrana, Holden was able to focus on his school work and attend classes." Fortunately for us, Catcher was written before that was possible. Otherwise, no one would read it.