- Holden seems "on the edge" mentally and emotionally. What's made him this way?
- He is like a ticking bomb. How does he deal with his extreme thoughts and feelings? His MO is extreme action so what does he do next?
- And will he continue to remind me, in part, of Josh?
At the very beginning of the book, we learn that Holden is looking back in time, recalling and recounting events as best he can. He is currently in a "crumby place" and plans to tell us, the reader, about all the "madman stuff that happened to me around last Christmas just before I got pretty run down (nervous breakdown?) and had to come out here (mental hospital?) and take it easy." My questions in italics.
So his story begins while at Pencey, waiting to leave for Christmas break. He already knows he will not be coming back due to his failing academic record. One night he is roped into writing a descriptive essay for his jock roommate, Stradlater. It is supposed to be about a room or a house but Holden decides to write about his brother's baseball mitt, one of his prized possessions. It is unique because his brother "had poems written all over the fingers and the pocket and everywhere. In green ink. He wrote them on it so that he'd have something to read when he was in the field and nobody was up to bat." And it is prized because of three awful words: "He's dead now."
Holden was thirteen years old when his brother Allie, died of leukemia and is now telling the story as a seventeen year old. His description (exaggerated) of Allie:
He was two years younger than I was, but he was about fifty times as intelligent. He was terrifically intelligent...He was also the nicest, in a lot of ways.What did Holden do when this happened?
I slept in the garage the night he died, and I broke all the goddam windows with my fist, just for the hell of it.What does he think about that now?
It was a very stupid thing to do, I'll admit, but I hardly didn't even know I was doing it, and you didn't know Allie.Meaning - when he thinks of it now, yes, it was stupid. But it felt right at the time. He wasn't thinking, just reacting. And we would also do something stupid or crazy if we knew Allie the way he did.
What was the consequence?
Psychoanalysis and "my hand still hurts me once in a while, when it rains and all, and I can't make a real fist any more - not a tight one, I mean - but outside of that I don't care much. I mean I'm not going to be a goddam surgeon or violinist or anything anyway.The same night that he wrote the essay, Holden ends up in a verbal altercation with Stradlater which gets physical. The same pattern is initiated: Extreme thoughts lead to extreme feelings lead to extreme actions. After the fight, he feels "so lonesome, all of a sudden, I almost wished I was dead." So what does he do next?
But all of a sudden, I changed my mind. All of a sudden, I decided what I'd really do, I'd get the hell out of Pencey, right that same night....I'd take a room in a hotel - and just take it easy till Wednesday. Then, on Wednesday, I'd go home all rested and feeling swell.....besides, I sort of needed a little vacation. My nerves were shot. They really were.And this is what he does. Packs up and takes a train to New York City.
How did he get from waiting to go home for Christmas, to ending up in a hotel room in New York City?? Is this where he thought he'd be that morning? No! Even an hour before? No! As he says, all of a sudden, an idea come into his head that seemed and felt right. So he acted. But in hindsight, he calls it "madman stuff".
I feel this is Josh. Did he know Tuesday morning that he would be dead within 24 hours? I have to think not. He spent time with his girlfriend studying for a test that he was supposed to take the next day. He even did his laundry which only happened when he was in desperate need of clean clothes. These two actions signal he was preparing for the future.
So in the dark hours of the night, I surmise that his mind was filled with extreme thoughts which led to extreme feelings. And out of this came an idea and a way to be done with all the burdens and pressures, a way to avoid another humiliating School Board hearing and a way to escape from starting all over at another school. Perhaps this idea came out of the blue or maybe it that had surfaced previously and was tucked away. But that night, unbeknownst to all who loved him, the idea of death must have seemed so right, so good, so perfect.....that he acted.
Josh - is this what happened to you?