Tuesday, June 23, 2009

The Burning Carousel and the Carnivalesque: Subversion and Transcendence at the Close of ‘The Catcher in the Rye’

Editor's Note: In this treatise of significant value, Yasuhiro Takeuchi examines the merits of "The Catcher in the Rye" beyond contemporary assessments of the novel's political/cultural relevance. and as a literary document that epitomises a bold revolt against all fixed values. Takeuchi explores the carnivalesque aspect of the novel, which is fundamental to its import and value. Carnivalesque is a term coined by the Russian critic Mikhail Bakhtin, which refers to a literary mode that subverts and liberates the assumptions of the dominant style or atmosphere through humor and chaos.

Beyond the controversy that has surrounded The Catcher in the Rye since it first appeared, and beyond contemporary assessments of the novel's political/cultural relevance, J. D. Salinger's Catcher merits ongoing consideration because of the subversion it conducts, a revolt against all fixed values. Ironically, the comment of one editor who rejected Catcher for publication is suggestive of the nature of this revolt: "Is Holden Caulfield supposed to be crazy?" (Hamilton 114). It is the sense of madness, often expressed in the novel through Holden's characteristic humor, that-as Mikhail Bakhtin observes in regard to carnival-"makes men look at the world with different eyes, not dimmed by `normal,' that is by commonplace ideas and judgments" (Rabelais 39). This carnivalesque aspect of Catcher has yet to be explored fully, but it is fundamental to the novel's import and value.

In addition to madness and laughter, Bakhtin identifies other principles of the carnivalesque that offer liberation from conventional values, principles that illuminate the essential concerns of Catcher. These include a "peculiar festive character without any piousness, [and] complete liberation from seriousness" (Rabelais 254); "free and familiar contact among people"; "behavior, gesture, and discourse . . . freed from the authority of all hierarchical positions (social estate, rank, age, property)" (Dostoevsky's Poetics 123); and "disguise-that is, carnivalistic shifts of clothing and of positions and destinies in life" (125). In the spirit of the carnivalesque, Holden's story is set in the festive Christmas season, yet it is far from pious. Holden himself delights in and encourages the "liberation" of a classmate who farts under his headmaster's watchful eye during the speech of a respected alumnus. During Holden's two day stay in New York, he enjoys "free and familiar contact" with diverse people, regardless of "social estate, rank, age, [and] property"; these people range from a nine-year-old girl (his sister Phoebe's friend) to a married society woman in her forties (his classmate's mother), and from a prostitute to a pair of nuns. Finally, "shifts of clothing" are a recurring motif for Holden and those around him, with lendings and borrowings of his hound's-tooth jacket, his turtleneck sweater, and his famous hunting hat. How these exchanges of clothing signify shifts of "positions and destinies" shall be considered at greater length below. It is worth noting first, however, that the received values that the novel aims to subvert encompass not merely prevailing social conventions but also fundamental binary oppositions, including self/other, body/mind, father/mother, heaven/hell, life/death, writer/reader, and notably, savior/saved.

This subversion of binary oppositions takes center stage at the novel's ending, the ambiguity of which has long divided Catcher's critics. During the final carousel scene, Holden has the following thought in reference to the children on the carousel: "If they fall off, they fall off, but it's bad if you say anything to them" (274). Holden's willingness to let his beloved sister fall has perplexed many readers because it seems to contradict his dream of becoming a "catcher in the rye"-one who saves children from falling (224). Some critics have failed even to appreciate the ambiguity resulting from this contradiction. Warren French, for instance, maintains that "Holden no longer sees himself as a catcher in the rye" (121) at the novel's conclusion. Sanford Pinsker argues that "one thing is clear-Holden, the narrator, no longer clings to the same desperate scenarios that defined him as a participant in his story" (96). Underpinning such views of the novel's ending is the notion that to catch and not to catch are opposing, irreconcilable actions that cannot be taken (or aspired to) simultaneously.

Other critics have regarded the final carousel scene as less clear-cut, but have viewed its ambiguity as cause for complaint. Carl Strauch calls the novel's conclusion a "blunted, ambiguous ending" (29), and Maxwell Geismar derides it as belonging to "the New Yorker school of ambiguous finality" (198). Gerald Rosen likewise concludes that "ultimately, the problems faced by Holden . . . have no 'answer' that we can hold on to" (561).

Such readings fail to appreciate that the ambiguity of the novel's ending itself provides a kind of "answer" in its blurring of the binary oppositions through which we come to understand Holden. Critics sensitive to this quality of blurring have found insight into Catcher in the perspective of Zen Buddhism, which according to Zen master Daisetz Suzuki, "takes us to an absolute realm wherein there are no antitheses of any sort" (68). In their pioneering study "Zen and Salinger," Bernice and Sanford Goldstein observe Holden's Zen-like identification with the very people he criticizes, as well as the underlying unity ("wherein there are no antitheses") reflected in the catcher Holden's being caught by both Phoebe and his deceased younger brother Allie (322). Dennis McCort extends this perspective by considering the specific influence of Suzuki on Salinger, maintaining that in the carousel scene, Holden transcends the "contradiction between permanence and change" (266). In the readings of these critics, Zen Buddhism affords substantial insight into the ambivalence of Catcher's conclusion. Yet the Zen approach to Catcher is less successful in explaining the novel's blasphemous, carnivalesque aspect. In concluding that Holden "is caught by love" (322), for instance, the Goldsteins privilege a static principle (love/hate) that, in a larger sense, Catcher overturns a typical reversal of binary oppositions upon which Bakhtin, perhaps, casts a clearer light than Zen.

However, both Eastern and Western thought inform the novel's ultimate ambiguity, and a third perspective-that of Carl Jung-offers an initial vantage from which Zen and Bakhtinian readings resolve to be complementary.4 Through Jung, a Zen-informed Bakhtinian perspectives affords a reassessment of Holden's ideal of becoming a catcher in the rye. More specifically, Jung and Bakhtin-neither of whom have figured prominently in previous studies of Salinger-afford a deepening of the Zen understanding of why Holden, in the end, accepts falling (death). Finally, these critical perspectives expose seemingly negative values, such as phoniness, as essential to the process of "catching," or salvation, leading us (as Catcher's readers) toward the goal of "all legitimate religious study," as Seymour Glass put it in Salinger's "Zooey": "unlearning the differences, the illusory differences, between boys and girls, animals and stones, day and night, heat and cold" (67).

The Identity Between the Hunter and His Prey

Salinger's catcher-related imagery is paradoxical: Holden is both savior and saved; Holden's younger siblings Phoebe and Allie, as shall be shown, represent the caught even as they act to catch Holden. The image of Jesus Christ that Jung develops in Aion embodies a similar paradox, and will prove helpful to a discussion of the identity between the savior and the saved in Catcher.
Jung considers Christ as being both fisherman and fish, remarking that "the Christian Ichthys is a fisher of men par excellence" (Aion 112). Jung observes that as "Christ wants to make Peter and Andrew `fishers of men,'" and as a "miraculous draught of fishes (Luke 5:10) is used by Christ . . . as a paradigm for Peter's missionary activity" (89), Jesus is himself a fisher of men. Yet as Jung notes, the fish has become a universal symbol of Jesus Christ because "Ichthys" or "Ichthus," an abbreviation of "Iesous CHristos THeou Uios Soter" (Greek for "Jesus Christ Son of God Savior"), means "fish" ("Fish"). Jung's conception of the "identity between the hunter and his prey" (112) thus poses a challenge to conventional notions of the hunter (savior) and the prey (saved) as existing in an overdetermined hierarchical relationship.
Salinger explores a similar conception of the hunter (savior)/prey (saved) relationship through similar imagery. In his later story, "Seymour: An Introduction," narrator Buddy Glass refers to the unity of fisherman and fish directly:

The hazards of fishing in general were themselves a favorite subject of Seymour's. Our younger brother Walt was a great bent-pin fisherman as a small boy, and for his ninth or tenth birthday he received a poem from Seymour-one of the major delights of his life, I believe-about a little rich boy who catches a lafayette in the Hudson River, experiences a fierce pain in his own lower lip on reeling him in, then dismisses the matter from his mind, only to discover when he is home and the still-alive fish has been given the run of the bathtub that he, the fish, is wearing a blue serge cap with the same school insignia over the peak as the boy's own; the boy finds his own name-tape sewn inside the tiny wet cap. (143-44)

Clearly, the fisher boy has caught himself as prey. Considering the fish as a symbol of Jesus Christ, the two identical caps in Seymour's poem not only suggest the identity of savior and saved, but also bring to mind the case of Holden Caulfield in particular, who as savior/catcher, wears a hat-the red hunting cap that he both gives to and has returned by Phoebe (exchanges to be considered in detail below).

In light of the cap in Seymour's poem, the significance of Holden's calling his cap "a people shooting hat" is clear. If the hat were "a deer shooting hat," as Holden's dormitory neighbor Ackley suggests, it would represent the conventional binary opposition of hunter and prey. However, Holden firmly states that "[t]his is a people shooting hat . . . I shoot people in this hat" (30), an assertion that resonates with the Jungian identity of hunter (savior)/prey (saved). Furthermore, although Holden's cap confers a hunter identity, Holden often imagines himself as a wounded, suffering gunshot victim (135, 195). Holden is thus at once the shooter and the shot, an ambivalent hunter akin to Jung's fisherman, Jesus.

The nature of "catching" in the novel lends nuance to its representation of "the identity between the hunter and his prey." Imagining a catcher in the rye, Holden dreams of preventing children from falling off a cliff, a notion of catching that presupposes the conventional binary opposition of life and death, in which life is preferable to death. But Holden's dream (like this conventional notion of the life/death opposition) is informed by the many acts of picking up the fallen-as opposed to catching the falling-that occur throughout the novel.

A particularly resonant instance of picking up concerns a phonograph record that Holden buys as a present for Phoebe but drops and breaks before giving to her. The fictional song on this record, "Little Shirley Beans," concerns a girl who has lost two of her front teeth. Considered in light of Catcher's Christmas setting, this song is surely patterned on the 1949 hit "All I Want For Christmas (Is My Two Front Teeth)," sung by Spike Jones and His City Slickers. This real song tells us how the little girl lost her teeth: she "slid down the banister just as fast as . . . [she] could" (Jones), and was injured. Like the fictional fallen record, the girl in the real song falls and is not caught. Given this parallel, it follows that the broken pieces of the record can be understood to represent the fallen. Significantly, Holden picks up these broken pieces and gives them to Phoebe despite their condition. Phoebe responds, "I'm saving them" (212, emphasis added); the fallen girl can be understood to merit the same treatment: to be picked up and saved.

Another fallen figure, James Castle, is also picked up after having hit the ground.' James falls to his death after an incident of bullying, and as Holden recalls, his body is picked up by Holden's former teacher Mr. Antolini:

He was the one that finally picked up that boy that jumped out the window I told you about, James Castle. Old Mr. Antolini felt his pulse and all, and then he took off his coat and put it over James Castle and carried him all the way over to the infirmary. He didn't even give a damn if his coat got all bloody. (226-27, emphasis added)

In Holden's eyes, Mr. Antolini's heroism in this scene qualifies him as "the best teacher . . . [he] ever had" (226), and even after Antolini attempts to seduce him, Holden retains his respect for his teacher because of Antolini's treatment of James: "I mean I started thinking that even if he [Antolini] was a flit he certainly'd been very nice to me. I thought . . . how he was the only guy that'd even gone near that boy James Castle I told you about when he was dead" (253). Given Holden's reaction to Antolini's advances-and his casual use of the epithet "flit"-Holden clearly ascribes conventional notions of corruption to Antolini, yet nonetheless Holden views him as a savior. Finally, it bears mentioning that another James, the oldest half-brother of Jesus Christ, was martyred (and thus saved) by being thrown down "from the pinnacle of the temple" (Eusebius 125). James Castle's suicide (221-22) thus deeply informs the development of the theme of falling in Catcher, and indeed, Holden conceives of his ideal of the catcher in the rye almost immediately after relating this episode (224-25).

Considering how falling (death, corruption, and betrayal) thus fuse into the process of salvation, it is significant that at the time of his fall, James is wearing Holden's sweater as if he were disguised, in a sense, as Holden. Because of this sweater, many readers have identified James with Holden, seeking psychological and other similarities between the two characters but the greater significance of the sweater lies in the differences between the characters' positions. That is, the fallen (James) and the catcher (Holden) are unified through the sweater, which thus represents a Bakhtinian disguise in that it transposes the characters' "positions and destinies in life." Bakhtin's view that "[b]firth is fraught with death, and death with new birth" (Dostoevsky's Poetics 125) provides further insight into the fusion of James's death and Holden's salvation: death gives rise to its opposite, life or birth, and indeed the two principles interpenetrate.
Aspects of salvation or new being can also be discerned in falls that Holden himself experiences later in the novel. During his visit to Mr. Antolini, whom Holden has presumably sought out in the hope of being caught, Antolini tells Holden that he may soon experience a fall: "This fall I think you're riding for-it's a special kind of fall, a horrible kind. The man falling isn't permitted to feel or hear himself hit bottom. He just keeps falling and falling" (243). As Holden wanders about town the following day, he feels like he is "just go[ing] down, down, down" (256). At this point, a fall is indeed something horrible for Holden, as Antolini foresaw. Soon after, however, falling takes on a positive aspect when Holden faints and falls to the floor in the museum lavatory. Although Holden narrates, "I could've killed myself when I hit the floor," he is physically restored by the fall, thinking, "I felt better after I passed out. I really did" (265).

Bakhtin offers further insight into this particular fall, insofar as Holden has diarrhea immediately before collapsing. Bakhtin regards images of feces as "presenting at the same time the death of the old and the birth of the new world" (Rabelais 149), and that "feces and urine are ambivalent. . . . [T]hey debase, destroy, regenerate, and renew simultaneously. They are blessing and humiliating at the same time" (151). From this perspective, the proximity of feces to this moment of falling allows us to view the episode as prefiguring the subversion of positions in the subsequent scene, in which a debased Holden moves from being a catcher of children (savior) to one of the fallen in need of being saved.

In this, the novel's climactic scene, Holden's savior (catcher) is herself a child-Holden's sister Phoebe-a reversal that reflects a subversion of values best appreciated in view of the scene's setting: the carousel in Central Park. This fictional carousel offered Salinger a fitting locale for consummating his exploration of the ambivalence of life and death because it is based upon a real carousel that itself fell-in a fire on November 8, 1950, eight months before Catcher's publication ("Carrousel Burns"). In a manner of speaking, the carousel experienced death, or in the novel's chronology (the novel is set in 1948 or 1949), faced imminent death. Salinger, born in 1919 and brought up in New York, surely rode on the Central Park carousel, which went into service in 1922. News of its destruction saddened many New Yorkers ("A Day of Disappointment"), no doubt including Salinger. However, by rendering the carousel within his novel as the site of the great joy that Holden finds while watching his sister (275), Salinger locates renewal and rebirth within destruction, changing the news from sad to happy.

Significantly, Salinger represents the fusion of binary opposites in this scene, as in others, through a pairing of elements of the novel with elements that have foundations in the real world. As the fallen phonograph record in the novel is paired with the fallen girl of the real song on which it is based, and as the fallen James Castle of the novel is paired with the fallen martyr of the Bible, this scene pairs Phoebe's imminent potential fall from the fictional carousel with the actual fall of the real burnt carousel. Coming at the ending of a novel in which falling figures so prominently, the happiness that befalls Holden in this scene must be seen to suggest that to fall-in general, and contrary to conventional notions-is indeed a blessing.

The Caulfield Quaternity

In accord with Bakhtin, Jung too recognizes the coincidence of such binary opposites as death and life, maintaining that "the corruption of one is the generation of the other, an indication that this death is an interim stage to be followed by a new life" (Psychology 95). Let us now consider how death and rebirth mediate between catcher and caught (and/or fallen) in the relationships of Holden and his siblings, the central characters in both Holden and the novel's figurative pantheons. By overturning the static relationship of savior and saved, these relationships reveal the birth of a new savior to be a process that subverts and transcends conventional oppositions.
The family member with the greatest need of being caught, arguably, is Allie Caulfield (because of his fatal leukemia), and Allie must be seen as the primary inspiration for Holden's dream of becoming a catcher in the rye. However, Holden takes on so many of Allies characteristics that he emerges as possessing a desire to become Allie (the fallen) which infuses and redefines his desire to be a catcher in the rye.

For instance, we learn that on the night that Allie died, Holden broke all the windows of his family's garage with his fist, permanently injuring his right hand (50). This act of grief and anger is associated with Allies left-- handedness; Holden may have ruined his chances of becoming "a goddam surgeon or a violinist" (51), but the impairment of his right hand has entitled him to Allies "left-handed fielder's mitt" (49), the baseball glove that equipped Allie as a catcher.
Baseball and other games played on fields also link Allie and Holden through Holden's red hunting hat, which Holden often wears in the style of a baseball catcher (with the peak at the back). In explaining "what kind of red hair he [Allie] had" (50), Holden invokes a childhood memory of seeing Allie sitting outside the fence surrounding a golf course on which Holden was playing. Later, when Holden elaborates to Phoebe his ideal of becoming a catcher in the rye, the catcher he describes stands watch over children playing "some game in this big field of rye" (224), much as Allie watches Holden playing golf. The catcher, moreover, is "standing on the edge of some crazy cliff' (224), an image that intensifies the sense of boundary produced by the "fence that went all around the course" (50) that separated Allie from Holden in Holden's childhood memory. In view of these connections, Holden's prized red hunting hat suggests the identity of the catcher Holden and the redhaired Allie, serving much like the fish's cap in Seymour's poem to embody the oneness of catcher and caught.

There are, furthermore, strong suggestions that Holden desires to reenact Allies fall (death) himself. As described above, Holden is identified with James Castle, the classmate who leapt from a window to his death. Holden earlier toys with the idea of jumping out of a window (136), and another suicide fantasy of Holden's resonates specifically with Allies cause of death: "Anyway, I'm sort of glad they've got the atomic bomb invented. If there's ever another war, I'm going to sit right the hell on top of it. I'll volunteer for it, I swear to God I will" (183). Leukemia, the cause of Allies death, is widely understood to be a common fatal consequence of atomic bomb fallout.

Holden eventually succeeds in joining his brother, not in death, but through the rain at the close of the novel's climactic carousel scene. As Holden watches Phoebe riding the carousel from a nearby bench, a drenching rain suddenly pours down. Everyone standing nearby dashes for shelter, but Holden stays out in the rain and gets completely soaked (275). With this sudden downpour, the carousel scene becomes paired with the scene that Holden described earlier in which he makes a visit with his family to Allies grave (201-02). As in the carousel scene, rain falls suddenly during this family visit, and in both scenes everyone flees except for one person who gets soaked: Holden in the carousel scene, and Allie in the gravesite visit. Given this parallel structure, the rain of the carousel scene can be understood as identifying Holden with his deceased brother Allie-they are both dead men in the rain.

Jonathan Baumbach characterizes the "purifying rain" of the carousel scene as "a manifestation of Allies blessed and blessing spirit" (472), a description that points to the salvation inherent in transcending binary oppositions. When Holden takes the place of the deceased Allie in the rain, he realizes his dream of becoming the catcher even as he becomes one with the fallen/caught (i.e., Allie), and this is the reason for his great joy. To put it another way, the catcher (savior) is saved (blessed) by identifying himself with the caught/fallen (saved). Death brings about birth through the rain; as Jung put it in a similar context, "the water is that which kills and vivifies" (Psychology 80).

The saved must experience a fall (death) in the process of salvation, and thus Holden in this scene bears witness to Phoebe's imminent potential fall from the carousel, even as we bear witness to the fall of the real Central Park carousel immanent in the fictional carousel upon which Phoebe rides. Phoebe, like Allie, is instrumental to these reversals of life and death (and of catcher and caught) in the carousel scene, as closer consideration of her relationship to Holden will illustrate.

First, it is suggestive that Phoebe-a child like the children in the rye field over whom Holden's catcher watches-bears the name of the Greek goddess of the hunt ("Artemis"); Holden, with his hunting hat, views himself as a hunter of people ("I shoot people in this hat"), yet it is Phoebe who catches Holden at key junctures of the novel. Exchanges of the hunter/prey roles between the two are signaled, appropriately enough, by exchanges of Holden's red hunting hat. After telling Phoebe his dream of being a catcher, Holden narrates, "I took my hunting hat out of my coat pocket and gave it to her" (233). This moment marks their exchange of roles: Holden, the catcher, becomes the caught/fallen, while Phoebe, in possession of the hat, soon comes to catch, or rather pick up, Holden. As shown earlier, Holden's fall gains momentum during his visit to Mr. Antolini in the subsequent scene, and hits bottom with his literal collapse on the lavatory floor at the museum. It is Phoebe, in the role of catcher-indeed, transformed by the hat into the former Holden-who comes to Holden's rescue: Finally, I saw her. I saw her through the glass part of the door. The reason I saw her, she had my crazy hunting hat on-you could see that hat about ten miles away.

I went out the doors and started down these stone stairs to meet her. The thing I couldn't understand, she had this big suitcase with her. She was just coming across Fifth Avenue, and she was dragging this goddam big suitcase with her. She could hardly drag it. When I got up closer, I saw it was my old suitcase, the one I used to use when I was at Whooton. I couldn't figure out what the hell she was doing with it. "Hi," she said when she got up close. She was all out of breath from that crazy suitcase. (266, emphases added)
Phoebe wears Holden's hat, drags Holden's suitcase, is out of breath as Holden often is, and during the ensuing scene refuses to return to school (269) as Holden himself has decided to refuse.

Yet their reversed relationship is again reversed when Phoebe returns the hat to Holden: "All she did was, she took off my red hunting hat-the one I gave her-and practically chucked it right in my face" (269). Salinger here again uses clothing as a formal device signaling an exchange of position: once more in possession of the hat, Holden again assumes the catcher/hunter role and pursues Phoebe as prey. However, although this time Holden tries to catch Phoebe literally, his prey eludes him.

Playing the role of prey but still acting in accord with her identity as goddess of the hunt, Phoebe teaches Holden a new technique for catching people; this paradoxical way of catching-catching by way of not catching-- is dramatized by the dynamic of their hunter/prey relationship in this scene. Holden narrates, "I sort of tried to get hold of her old hand, but she wouldn't let me" (268), and goes on to make numerous similar attempts to reconnect with her physically (268-71). However, Phoebe rebuffs Holden definitively when he becomes too forceful: "I took a hold of the belt at the back of her coat, just for the hell of it, but she wouldn't let me. She said, `Keep your hands to yourself, if you don't mind"' (271-72, emphases added). If one tries to hunt the prey by catching it, one fails in hunting. Not only do the roles of hunter and prey resolve to be interchangeable, but the very act of catching resolves to be its opposite: not catching. This ambivalent way of catching, akin to Zen archery, 9 dissolves the binary opposition of catching/not catching, and only by adopting it does Holden become a real people hunter embodying the identity between his prey and himself.

Having mastered this lesson, Holden narrates, "Then what she did-it damn near killed me-she reached in my coat pocket and took out my red hunting hat and put it on my head" (274). Beyond signifying the exchange of roles in the Holden-Phoebe relationship, the red hunting hat has been performing what Bakhtin calls "[c]rowning/decrowning . . . a dualistic ambivalent ritual, expressing the inevitability and at the same time the creative power of the shift-and-renewal" (Dostoevsky's Poetics 124). The shifts of the hunting hat signal not merely exchanges of fixed hunter/catcher-prey/ caught roles, but also rebirth through these role changes, as well as the underlying identity of the roles themselves. This "dualistic ambivalent ritual" recognizes no difference between the catcher and the caught, between catching and not catching, or even between life and death. Watching Phoebe and other children as they face an imminent fall (from a carousel informed by an immanent fall), Holden thinks, "If they fall off, they fall off" (274). It is indeed through a fall (death) that new life is born-in this case, a new catcher who embodies the oneness of Phoebe, Allie, and Holden, joined by the carousel and the rain.

Only D. B., eldest of the four Caulfield children, remains to be saved after the carousel ride and the rain. We first encounter D. B. in the novel's opening paragraph, in which Holden introduces him as having once been "a regular writer" but having since become a "prostitute" Hollywood scriptwriter, and thus fallen (4). Holden furthermore reveals that his favorite book is D. B.'s The Secret Goldfish; from the outset, his relationship with D. B. is defined as that of reader and writer.

D. B.'s salvation is set in motion at the novel's beginning when he and Holden-like Holden and Allie, and Holden and Phoebe-exchange roles. That is, although D. B. is a writer, it is Holden who tells his story to D. B., the story of The Catcher in the Rye: "I'll just tell you about this madman stuff that happened to me. . . . I mean that's all I told D. B. about, and he's my brother and all”. Holden thus assumes the role of writer and D. B. that of reader, even as Holden identifies himself as a reader of D. B.'s story.

Recalling that the story by D. B. that Holden admires is "The Secret Goldfish," it is reasonable therefore to consider how Holden, in his authorial role as narrator of Catcher, undertakes to tell his own fish story. From this perspective, the novel can be viewed simply as the story of Holden as Ichthys. However, like the ambivalent fish symbolism that Salinger employs in "Seymour: An Introduction," fish in Catcher portray a far from orthodox vision of Christian salvation, as Holden's encounter with the taxi driver Horwitz reveals.

Horwitz explains how fish survive the winter to Holden as follows:
"Their bodies, for Chrissake. . . . They got their pores open the whole time. That's their nature, for Chrissake . . . Listen," he said. "If you was a fish, Mother Nature' d take care ofyou, wouldn't she? Right? You don't think them fish just die when it gets to be winter, do ya?"
In this explanation of fish-the only one that Holden is to receive-"bodies" rather than the spirit are emphasized, as is "Mother Nature" rather than the Holy Father, and "hell" rather than heaven (Holden observes that Horwitz drives "off like a bat out of hell". These emphases undermine the primacy assigned to spirit, Father, and heaven in Christian orthodoxy, rendering equivocal their values vis-a-vis body, Mother, and hell, much as death and the caught are to fuse into birth and the catcher as the novel progresses. Thus, Ichthys in Holden's Christmas story represents not a traditional Christ but rather a Jungian version of an ambivalent Christ.

That D. B. visits Holden in the hospital suggests his desire to help-to save, in a sense-his younger brother, but in receiving Holden's Ichthys story, it is D. B. who is saved. Since it was his own fish story, "The Secret Goldfish," that conferred D. B.'s status as a "regular" writer initially, Holden's gift of a fish story may be seen as restoring that status. Once again in possession of a fish story, D. B. is no longer a "prostitute" at the novel's close. Thus D. B. experiences a rebirth like that of Mary Magdalene, the penitent prostitute who bore first witness to the resurrected Savior.
D. B.'s birthday present to Holden of a book by Ring Lardner lends further significance to the brothers' exchange of roles. As noted above, the Lardner book contains the story "There Are Smiles," which culminates with a death in the rain. The story that Holden offers to revive D. B.-the narrative of Catcher-also depicts a death (i.e., rebirth) in the rain, and thus comprises a fitting gift for D. B.'s (re)birthday at the end of the novel. By becoming both giver and receiver of stories, D. B. is restored to the status from which he fell.

Finally, by appearing in both the first and final chapters of Catcher, D. B. provides the novel with a circular structure through which its own birth (beginning) and death (end) are connected. In this regard, it seems likely that the initials D. B. are an abbreviation of Death and Birth. It is noteworthy that these initi,ls reverse the conventional order of these words; death precedes birth as falling precedes salvation. The character of D. B. may be understood to embody the flux between and ultimate oneness of these binary opposites.

Despite the contrasts between Holden and his three siblings, they have merged by the end of the novel in such perfect harmony through their exchanges (and fusions) of roles that we come to recognize the fundamental unity of this quaternity of siblings. Their identity--the identity of savior and saved, life and death, and other binary oppositions-finds clear expression in the novel's final rain, the circular movement of the carousel, and Holden's closure of his story to his brother. Furthermore, in the devices by which Salinger connects the novel to the real world-the phonograph record, James Castle, and the carousel itself21-we recognize the creative principle implicit in the underlying unity of opposites. Thus as we witness the carousel in the novel, we are conscious of its Phoenix-like rebirth from the burnt carousel that was its precursor in reality. We may also find fire, the agent of its rebirth, to be informed by the "deeply ambivalent" image of fire in carnival, the fire that-as Bakhtin remarks-"simultaneously destroys and renews the world" (Dostoevsky's Poetics 126).

The Identity Between the Novel and Its Reader

Beyond the binary oppositions considered above, Catcher explores the dynamics and underlying unity of a range of oppositions worthy of further study: mind/body, father/mother, man/woman, nun/prostitute, sun/moon, fiction/fact, and of course real/phony. On the topic of sexuality alone, for instance, the novel repeatedly undermines conventional fixed values. Although Holden seemingly accepts his society's conventional prejudices against homosexuality, the only two people that Holden respects other than family members are Antolini and Carl Luce, the novel's gay or bisexual characters. As if to reflect the blurred relationship of sexual innocence and guilt, to take another example, Holden ends his meetings with the prostitute and the nuns by giving the same amount of money, ten dollars, to each. Catcher offers fertile ground for further readings that look to such subversions of conventional oppositions.

Studies of Salinger would benefit, too, from a broadened theoretical perspective. Although Salinger has long been considered in terms of the influence of Zen Buddhism, the perspective of Western mysticism has been largely neglected, despite its relevance to Salinger's struggle against the hierarchical binary oppositions that constitute central principles of Western thought. As yet largely unconsidered vis-a-vis Salinger, Jung, in particular, promises further insight in this regard, not only into the problem of sexuality, but also the relations of heaven and hell, mind and body, and other binary oppositions beyond the scope of this essay. Finally, this essay's concern with Bakhtin represents an initial approach to the postmodern point of view on Salinger, yet this perspective, too, remains to be fully developed.

But it must be noted that, regardless of theoretical perspective, any analytic reading that focuses upon the dissolution of binary oppositions cannot evade the risk of self-betrayal. Analysis necessarily divides the analyst and the analyzed, introducing a binary opposition of the very sort it aims to interrogate. To conclude, therefore, let us apply our reading of the identity between catcher and caught to ourselves, the analysts, in our experience of reading the novel.

First, the notion of the underlying identity of binary opposites developed thus far suggests that as readers of Catcher, we cannot "catch" the novel unless we are "caught" by the novel. That is, to stand outside of the novel scrutinizing it is to miss the point; rather, the novel must be experienced, because only experience affords the possibility of self-evidential knowledge beyond analysis. In exploring such a possibility, John T. Irwin quotes Wittgenstein's remark that "[t]here are, indeed, things that cannot be put into words". Words-doubts, questions, even explanations-are predicated upon the separation of subject from experience. What is anterior to this separation literally cannot be said. It can only be shown.

A more analytical Holden might share this view, for Holden's experience at the end of Catcher is to witness the self-evident: that which lies beyond language or analysis. Thus Holden, bearing witness to Phoebe on the carousel, narrates, "I don't know why. It was just that she looked so damn nice, the way she kept going around and around, in her blue coat and all"; Holden shares with us his own deed not by explaining it, but by showing us what he witnesses even as we read (witness) the novel.

It furthermore bears mention that as a reader (of D. B.'s stories, The Great Gatsby, and other literary works), Holden himself does not analyze literary experience so much as he lives it-as a Gatsby-like, blessed dead man in the rain, for example, and as a mystical Ichthys like D. B.'s secret goldfish; Holden's reading experience is manifested thus in his own life rather than in his thoughts or beliefs. As readers of Holden's story, we, in turn, must live and experience Holden's story, for its essential fusions of binary oppositions lie in the realm, not of analysis, but rather of "what cannot be said." Holden, verging on tears, reveals this to us directly as he shares his happiness at watching his sister on the carousel: "God, I wish you could've been there". Holden simply cannot explain the truth he witnesses in words, but his longing to share it with us is its own fulfillment. Addressed directly by Holden's words, we step inside the novel to experience it by his side. With the collapse of this final boundary-the boundary between novel and reader-- the Catcher's subversion of binary oppositions is completed; the boundaries dividing Holden-Allie, savior-saved, life-death, Gatsby's fictional world-- Holden's real world (book-reader), and finally writer-reader dissolve in the rain.

This moment is one deeply informed by the sensibility of carnival, a chief value of which is the elision of the boundary between performer and spectator. As Bakhtin remarks, "Carnival is a pageant . . . without a division into performers and spectators. . . . [E]veryone is an active participant" (Dostoevsky's Poetics 122). In keeping with this sensibility, Salinger has orchestrated this conclusive moment around a structure much akin to a central feature of carnival, what Bakhtin describes as "a special structure (usually a vehicle adorned with all possible sorts of gaudy carnival trash) called `hell.' . . . [Alt the close of carnival this 'hell' . . . [is] triumphantly set on fire" (Dostoevsky's Poetics 126). Joining Holden by the carousel in the rain, we as readers share Holden's triumphal realization, witnessing it in the nimbus of fire surrounding the original carousel that links it to reality.
Salinger, J. D. The Catcher in the Rye. Boston: Little, Brown, 1951.

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