“It is impossible that a town will not play a part in your life, it does not even make much difference whether you have more good or bad things to say of it, it draws your mind to it, by a mental law of gravitation.” -Karen Blixen, Out of Africa
Catcher in the RyeEdit
"I thought it was going to stink, but it didn't. It was a very good book." -Holden Caulfield, The Catcher in the Rye, page 18
Caulfield explains, with some irony, that he is "quite illiterate" (Salinger 18), yet seems to have read many books. He divulges to the reader that he appreciates classic literature, but those novels are not his favorites. What he really likes, are books that leave an impression. He discloses that "what really knocks [him] out is a book that, when you're all done reading it, you wish the author...was a terrific friend" (Salinger 18). The personal connection enthralls him. The desire to "call" the author and discuss the text is what makes a good book. Dinesen fulfills this. Caulfield really likes to talk about books. This is made evident by the constant reference to books that he has read or likes. He is an extremely thoughtful character, more than the others at Pencey. He actually thinks about what he has read and what it means to him. Caulfield has an internal mindset. He does not carry on many meaningful conversations, and those that he does are either him talking a lot, or him listening for most of it. When Mr. Antolini talks to Caulfield about his life, Antolini speaks a lot, but Caulfield only responds with monosyllables or brief responses. However, he thinks about what Antolini says. He may not vocalize his thoughts, but he internalizes it. Caulfield's love of reading, especially of books like Out of Africa, and the way he thinks reveals something more about his personality. Holden Caulfield, while he may fail in school, is very intelligent on the inside, and keeps his intellect there, for him to ponder himself.
One of the reasons Blixen's memoir is so well known is its description of life in colonial Africa. It accomplishes this by paying keen attention to the people she encountered. Just as Blixen did, Caulfield takes notice of the people in his surroundings. When he was at the train station, he made a comment about the nuns, and when he was at the park Caulfield made notice of the children. He keeps running commentary of the people in his life, just as Blixen did with the people in her year in Africa. Similarly, Blixen takes on an independent and thoughtful stance when viewing people, just as Caulfield does. She makes sure to view African customs with an open mind, free of Western bias or racism, and differentiates between different tribes. Holden Caulfield typically assumes an impersonal and unbiased view when discussing other people. When he talks about James Castle, a former fellow student, he does not include an bias or emotions, but just states the facts as they are, in addition to what his position on those facts are. Blixen also frequently looks upon others with admiration. This is analogous to Caulfield's admiration of innocence. He does not blatantly mention it, but he takes note of what makes up one's innocence, such as kids skating in a park. Just as Blixen took note of her surroundings and the people she interacted with in Out of Africa, Caulfield describes and thinks about the people in his life in The Catcher in the Rye.
Dinesen, Isak. Out of Africa. London: G. P. Putnam's Sons, 1937. Print.
"Karen Blixen." Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., 3 Jan. 2015. Web. 6 Jan. 2015.
"Out of Africa." Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., 30 Oct. 2014. Web. 6 Jan. 2015.
Salinger, Jerome D. The Catcher in the Rye. New York: Little, Brown and Company, 1951. Print.