Sunday, March 17, 2013

Catcher In The Rye: A Pun, Yeah?

So yesterday I read Catcher In the Rye for the first time in like, I don't know, ever, since I was 22 at least, and WTF.

How did I miss that Holden Caulfield is is gay?

Boy's so far in the closet and so terrified every page shivers with it.

The scene where he's up there on the hill watching the other boys play football and he's lost his sword.

The scene where he goes into the bathroom to watch Stradlater shave -- and comments extensively on his body -- sitting watching him, turning on and off a faucet while he does so, wrestles with him, gets upset about Stradlater having sex with a girl Holden has not himself been able to have sex with, and can't even (at this point) speak to.

The meeting with Carl Luce, his old (and older) friend who is obviously gay, and mentor (mentor into gay sex, obviously, since that's what their old conversations have all been about). Luce is dating/having sex with (he claims) a much older, very rich woman, very like another gay character we are about to meet --

Which is -- Holden's teacher, whom he goes to see, and spend the night with, Mr. Antolini.  Mr. Antolini is Holden's favorite teacher from a former school, who is now married to a much older, and much richer, women.  Mr. Antolini is the only one to care for a student who committed suicide after (apparently) being raped by some other boys at the school.  Mr. Antolini advised Holden it is better to live humbly (as he's doing) than to take a bold stand. Mr. Antolini makes a pass at Holden while he's sleeping.  Holden flees.

Holden constantly comments on the flits, fags, queers, and perverts he sees around him -- he's obsessed with it.  He also constantly comments on men's bodies.  (Also occasionally on women's bodies, so.)

He also comments, just after Antolini moves on him, that this "stuff," has been happening to him since he was a little kid.  Given Holden's propensity to exaggeration, it's hard to know how to read that. Is it a signal that he was molested as a kid?  Or does he just mean that over the past few years (since he went to boarding school, maybe?) his other gay schoolmates have been reading him as gay and reaching out to him, and he's been rejecting them, as he rejected Carl Luce?  (He calls Carl Luce of his own free will, sets up a late night tryst with him, and then sends him very mixed signals during their, um, date. When Carl understandably cuts the meeting short and leaves, Holden drinks himself into a stupor and very nearly drowns himself in Central Park lake.  Then he sits on a bench until ice freezes in his hair.  I mean, whoa.)

And? Here's the kicker.  What's he planning to do at the end of the book? Hitch-hike out west and become a cowboy.  I mean seriously.  How butch do we have to get?

And the title.

I'm just saying.

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