The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger is a story about growing up. It explores the obstacles we all face during our transition from child to adulthood. The tragedies and triumphs, the breakthroughs and setbacks, the happiness and heartache. As you follow the book’s protagonist, Holden, through his journey into adulthood, you learn about his life, but more importantly, you learn about your own. You grow to sympathize with the young rebel, and you begin to see traces of yourself in him.
This book appeals to the child in all of us because we can all remember a time we’d like to go back to; a time when making our beds was our greatest responsibility and life was something we took for granted. Unfortunately, growing up means letting go, and leaving the past behind. It means not only do things change, but the way you look at them changes. No matter how badly you wish you could stop it, time advances and the world continues to turn.
This is no exception for Holden. Thinking back on childhood memories of class trips to the museum he remarks, “The best thing, though, in that museum was that everything always stayed right where it was. Nobody’d move. You could go there a hundred thousand times….Nobody’d be different. The only thing that would be different would be you” (121). There have been times in each of our lives that we have wished we had a small cupboard of memories, all kept in little jars labeled with a time, a person, or a place we hope never to forget. Sometimes, one of the happiest and yet saddest parts of life is looking back on the part we have already lived, no matter how great or small. This is something Holden learns about life and about himself as he spends…
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…erican teenager. He tests his boundaries and learns what he’s comfortable with and what he’s not. He forms a lot of opinions about the world. He quickly learns that life is no fairy tale full of gum drops and candy canes. The real world is a harsh place to live, and growing up in it isn’t always easy.
The book ends abruptly, leaving Holden’s future up in the air. We can only imagine what’s in store for him and where his travels will take him. More importantly, though, we have come to understand and sympathize with Holden’s struggles, and we are sad to hear we have reached the point at which our paths part. Upon leaving, we can only hope that he is headed down the right road, and that destiny will run its course. But in reality, isn’t that all that we can hope for ourselves?
Salinger, J.D. The Catcher in the Rye. New York: Bantam Books, 1951.
Essay on Freedom and Satan in John Milton’s Paradise Lost
Freedom and Satan in Paradise Lost
Satan’s primary operational problem in Paradise Lost is his lack of obedience. The fundamental misunderstanding which leads to Satan’s disobedience is his separation of free will from God’s hierarchical power. In the angel Raphael’s account, Satan tells his dominions, “Orders and Degrees/Jarr not with liberty” (5.792-93). Tempting as this differentiation seems, Satan is mistaken. Free will and hierarchical power are not mutually exclusive, as Satan suggests, but overlapping concepts. Even though Satan has been created with sufficient freedom to choose to disobey, he tacitly acknowledges God’s sovereignty when he exercises his choice. Satan is constrained existentially, from the outset, by having a specific choice to make about whether or not to obey God.
Satan, just as all angels, demons, and humans, may exercise his freedom as assent or dissent, for God had created him “Sufficient to have stood, though free to fall./Such I [God] created all th’ ethereal powers/And spirits . . . /Freely they stood who stood, and fell who fell” (3.99-102; cf. 5.549). If Satan would choose neither to assent nor to dissent, thereby refusing to exercise his free will, he would be discarding his free will. But this is impossible, as the demons determine in counsel in Book II; so long as he exists, Satan must make choices with respect to his possible obedience to God.
If Satan’s first mistake was to completely divorce his free will from God’s power in giving him that freedom, his second mistake occurs in his conception of what it means to exercise that freedom. God says that “Not free, what proof could they [Satan et al.] have given sincere/Of true allegiance”? (3.103-04). But Satan has exactly the…
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…lthough one can choose, as Satan does, to dissent and disobey, such purportedly self-creative acts are in fact merely an acknowledgment of God’s hierarchical power. When pride and ambition to be like God prevent humans from hearing the “umpire Conscience” God has placed within us (3.195; Satan likewise has been given conscience enough to remember the call to obedience, 4.23), we become like Satan, for the same reasons constrained to listen only to the Satanic voice dissenting in our ears.
Scott Elledge, ed., Paradise Lost, second edn. (NY: Norton, 1993).
Millicent Bell, “The Fallacy of the Fall in Paradise Lost,” PMLA 68 (1953), 863-83; here p. 878.
Northrop Frye, The Return of Eden (Buffalo: Univ. of Toronto, 1965), 39-40, 43
Barbara Lewalski, Paradise Lost and the Rhetoric of Literary Forms (Princeton: Princeton U. , 1985), 174.