Please use this blog to help us remember Joshua Lee Anderson, who made the tragic and fatal decision to take his life on Wednesday, March 18, 2009. Please post any memories or thoughts you may have in the comments.

Monday, June 13, 2011

"The Catcher In the Rye" - Chapters 4-10

In the previous post, I asked the following questions:
  • 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?
Answers are given in these chapters.

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? 


Adrienne said...

Your bravery continues to amaze me. I've had a couple of panic attacks in my life (late 20's early 30's) and they come on, things spin, physiological changes occur and I thought some really wierd and awful things. Mine happened with people around...the thought of something like that taking over in the middle of the night, very frightening. Very moving how the fiction captures those impulses and makes the unbelievable even just a teeny bit more understandable. Your courage and your voice will help others ~ small comfort, I'm sure. Sending love.

blake said...

Your comments have been very helpful and sometimes very scary. You see I just started on this journey forced upon me and I know life is forever changed for me and my entire family. My oldest son, the love of my life,at age 17 took his life on April 23, 2011. It was all over a broken relationship or so it seems. Unlike my other children our younger 12 and 2. I wish I had the knowledge you did of raising your other two so successfully..Now I am scared to parent and scared to love so deeply. I too am trying to understand how someone with the looks, great friends, a star on the swim team, a job as a beach lifeguard that started in 4 days, a full scholarship just a small year a way could do this. My hear is broken, my life is shattered and from your words I can tell my journey has just begun. Blakes facebook page is BLAKE.A.Curtis maybe we can be friends, maybe your journey can help me, at this point I am not sure anything can. Rachelle
Blakes Mom forever...

Josh's Mom said...

I am so sorry for your loss - my heart breaks for you. I found Blake's FB page - what wonderful comments are posted about him! I wanted to post a comment but didn't see a way to do so.

Yes, I would love to be FB friends (Sue Anderson in Vienna, VA). If and when you are ready, we could talk on the phone as well. I was able to do this with another mom in NC who had lost her son five years earlier. I also spoke to a mom in NYC who lost her 16 year old two months before we lost Josh. Both helped.

Are you a journal writer? I found this (and writing on the blog) to be lifesavers. There was so much crazy stuff in my head, it just helped to get it out in a safe place.

My heart is with you. I hope Josh and Blake have found one another....

blake said...

I sent you a friend request. And yes I hope they have found each other as well, poor josh though, because Blake has a brother Josh who drove him crazy because he is only 12. He always said I brought his crazy self on just becaused I named him Josh. Funny you asked if I wrote alot, hummmm..I used to alot, I even wrote a book once just because. The stuff I write now is pretty raw, I can't believe the stuff my mind can come up with these days. I find so many similiarities in stuff you write. Once you were talking about how Blessed your family was and how you always said so and felt incredibily fortunate..I too have felt this way many many times, not any more, I don't think the problem of believing we were so fortunate, so blessed, will ever be an issue again.

carlalaura said...

Sue - as you can tell with all the changes going on, I'm way behind in my reading .... And posting in my blog. I must have 6-8 only partially written "place holders." anyway, I just wanted to share briefly how much Teddy loved reading Catcher in MS. He had a great English teacher who gave the kids all types of creative assignments - doing a collage, writing a screen play and drawing story boards, etc. I found them when I was packing up papers to ship to CO. I didn't have the heart to read, just to put in carton to read another time. Other story about Catcher - when I was in junior high school about a hundred years ago, someone gave me the book as a birthday present. One of my teachers took the book away from me and said I couldn't get it back til I brought in a letter with permission from my parents! Anyway .... Point is your posts resonated for me beyond your intents. You are so smart, thoughtful and such a wonderful blogger. Carla xox