PJAS 10-4

Stefan L. Brandt
“One of Those Guys in the Movies”: Juvenile Rebellion and Carnal Subjectivity in J. D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye
Polish Journal for American Studies, vol. 10 (2016), pp. 49-64


J. D. Salinger’s classical initiation novel The Catcher in the Rye starts out with a scene of blatant rejection of traditional Hollywood movies. “If there’s one thing I hate,” the first-person narrator Holden Caulfield tells us in the book’s opening passage, “it’s the movies.” Despite – or maybe because of – this harsh initial claim, the novel continues to nourish the impression that the narrative voice is, in fact, enthralled by the world of cinema. In my
essay, I will argue that the love-hate-relationship between the protagonist and the cinema is vital to an understanding of the literary aesthetics of The Catcher in the Rye. Furthermore, I want to show to what extent the paradoxical notion of resistance to / love of movie images is connected to the concept of juvenile rebellion cultivated throughout the novel. Interestingly enough, Catcher not only mimics its protagonist’s tentative acceptance of a “movie-made” environment. It also, quite literally, absorbs and reconstructs the aesthetic patterns attributed to cinema via its vivid re-enactment of the character’s personality. Cinematic texts, film scholar Vivian Sobchack holds, are capable of producing sensations in the audience that go far beyond the level of visualization. In The Catcher in the Rye, I argue, a “cinematic” process of involvement of the recipient is set in motion. The act of reading here becomes an act of passionate interaction with the novel which unleashes not only the figurative potential of the text but also the creative abilities of our own imagination. While perusing the novel, we are led to believe that we are actually there when Holden undertakes his odyssey through the city. By deploying sophisticated strategies of spontaneous activation and visceral involvement – techniques also used in film to achieve an effect of reality – the novel thus literally operates as a film.

Keywords: The Catcher in the Rye, carnal subjectivity, cinematic texts, rebellion, J. D. Salinger.

DOI: 10.7311/PJAS.10/2016.04

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