The “Catcher Cult”, or the Ambiguity of a Familiar Quote

Children Playing Ball (Enfants jouant à la balle)

“Anyway, I keep picturing all these little kids playing some game in this big field of rye and all. 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 they don’t look where they’re going I have to come out from somewhere and catch them. That’s all I do all day. I’d just be the catcher in the rye and all. I know it’s crazy, but that’s the only thing I’d really like to be.”
― J.D. Salinger, The Catcher in the Rye

These great lines pull you in, and you cannot help thinking: Holden really knows something, maybe even the meaning of it all, and yes, wouldn’t it be nice to be like him, to be the catcher in the rye?

Perhaps, we already are like Holden, even if we don’t fully realize it.

“Brad Gooch, the author of Flannery: A Life of Flannery O’Connor, argues that O’Connor’s issue with Holden Caulfield is “the naiveté of his savior complex.” … Holden is at the center of his own world, and everything revolves around him. … Under the edgy surface of his coolness, Holden is a selfish boy who can’t see himself as he really is.”

So, what is the iconic quote from “The Catcher” about?

  • A selfless desire to serve others?
  • Man’s selfish refusal to acknowledge his own brokenness?
  • The dangers of human beings positioning themselves as saviors?

All of the above?

What does Salinger say to you?

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Image: Pierre-Auguste Renoir. Children Playing Ball (Enfants jouant à la balle), c. 1900. Lithograph in color on laid paper, Overall: 28 7/8 x 24 in. (73.3 x 60.9 cm)Image: 23 5/8 x 20 1/16 in. (60 x 51 cm). BF493. Public Domain.

 

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