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BS: Meaning of 'Catcher in the Rye'?

MGM·Lion 20 Aug 12 - 03:50 AM
Long Firm Freddie 20 Aug 12 - 05:14 AM
MGM·Lion 20 Aug 12 - 05:27 AM
Long Firm Freddie 20 Aug 12 - 06:16 AM
Silas 20 Aug 12 - 07:22 AM
GUEST,Lighter 20 Aug 12 - 07:54 AM
MGM·Lion 20 Aug 12 - 09:04 AM
GUEST,999 20 Aug 12 - 11:41 AM
GUEST,DDT 20 Aug 12 - 12:24 PM
meself 20 Aug 12 - 01:24 PM
GUEST,Gern 20 Aug 12 - 09:54 PM
Big Al Whittle 20 Aug 12 - 10:01 PM
Charmion 21 Aug 12 - 05:15 AM
MGM·Lion 21 Aug 12 - 05:34 AM
Silas 21 Aug 12 - 06:39 AM
MGM·Lion 21 Aug 12 - 06:45 AM
Silas 21 Aug 12 - 07:02 AM
MGM·Lion 21 Aug 12 - 07:13 AM
bobad 21 Aug 12 - 07:53 AM
MGM·Lion 21 Aug 12 - 07:59 AM
Big Al Whittle 21 Aug 12 - 08:17 AM
Allan Conn 21 Aug 12 - 10:17 AM
Allan Conn 21 Aug 12 - 10:19 AM
GUEST,Chongo Chimp 22 Aug 12 - 12:31 AM
Jim McLean 22 Aug 12 - 05:11 AM
GUEST,Stim 23 Aug 12 - 12:01 AM
GUEST,Lighter 23 Aug 12 - 09:59 AM
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Subject: BS: Meaning of 'Catcher in the Rye'?
From: MGM·Lion
Date: 20 Aug 12 - 03:50 AM

Can anyone explain the odd title of Salinger's famous novel of 1951? Did Salinger invent the phrase, in reference to a particular passage or incident in the book ~ in which case, where?; or does it have a wider meaning in US idiom? An American friend once told me that it meant a baseball fielder on the outskirts of the field, in the 'rye', or long grass: equivalent to what in cricket would be called a 'deep fielder': in which case it could well refer to Holden's position as, in the main, an observer on the fringes of society, though occasionally more personally involved. But I have not found this meaning confirmed on google or elsewhere: though a 'baseball mitt', iirc, plays quite a big symbolic role in the book.

Any help in understanding the phrase, and its relevance to the novel, would be much appreciated by

~Michael~


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Subject: RE: BS: Meaning of 'Catcher in the Rye'?
From: Long Firm Freddie
Date: 20 Aug 12 - 05:14 AM

I remember from reading the novel many, many years ago that it has something to do with the Robert Burns poem Comin' Through the Rye, and the wiki entry for the song says this:

"The title of the book The Catcher in the Rye comes from the poem's name. Holden Caulfield, the protagonist, imagines children playing in a field of rye near the edge of a cliff, and catching them when they start to fall off."

And there's this from Sparknotes:

4.        . . . I'm standing on the edge of some crazy cliff. What I have to do, I have to catch everybody if they start to go over the cliff—I mean if they're running and they don't look where they're going I have to come out from somewhere and catch them. That's all I'd do all day. I'd just be the catcher in the rye and all.
Explanation for Quotation 4 >>
This, the passage in which Holden reveals the source of the book's title, is perhaps the most famous in the book. It occurs in Chapter 22, after Holden has slipped quietly back into his apartment and is speaking with Phoebe. They talk, argue, and then reconcile, and Phoebe asks Holden what he wants to do with his life. Holden responds with this image, which reveals his fantasy of idealistic childhood and of his role as the protector of innocence. His response makes sense, given what we already know about Holden: he prefers to retreat into his own imaginary view of the world rather than deal with the complexities of the world around him. He has a cynical, oversimplified view of other people, and a large part of his fantasy world is based on the idea that children are simple and innocent while adults are superficial and hypocritical. The fact that he is having this conversation with Phoebe, a child who is anything but simple and innocent, reveals the oversimplification of his worldview. Holden himself realizes this to a degree when he acknowledges that his idea is "crazy," yet he cannot come up with anything more pragmatic; he has trouble seeing the world in any other way. His catcher in the rye fantasy reflects his innocence, his belief in pure, uncorrupted youth, and his desire to protect that spirit; on the other hand, it represents his extreme disconnection from reality and his naïve view of the world.

Cheers

LFF


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Subject: RE: BS: Meaning of 'Catcher in the Rye'?
From: MGM·Lion
Date: 20 Aug 12 - 05:27 AM

Many thanks, LFF, for prompt and so-satisfactory answer. Is there possibly also some baseball connection to the phrase, an echo of which Salinger might have expected to be recognised; or was my friend who made the suggestion being fanciful?

~M~


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Subject: RE: BS: Meaning of 'Catcher in the Rye'?
From: Long Firm Freddie
Date: 20 Aug 12 - 06:16 AM

You're welcome, Michael.

I really don't know about the baseball connection, though I as far as I know the term catcher in baseball refers only to the well-padded guy who's positioned directly behind the batter and so would never be in the long grass. That would be an outfielder, I guess (there's a baseball glossary on Wikipedia which I found quite helpful!)

Cheers

LFF


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Subject: RE: BS: Meaning of 'Catcher in the Rye'?
From: Silas
Date: 20 Aug 12 - 07:22 AM

Salinger himself explains the title - its from the scottish song.


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Subject: RE: BS: Meaning of 'Catcher in the Rye'?
From: GUEST,Lighter
Date: 20 Aug 12 - 07:54 AM

The Wiki explanation is correct. The dream-incident is in the book.

The phrase has absolutely no connection with baseball.

Ballfields are not and never were customarily bordered by rye fields (Duh!). And if they were, it would be an "outfielder in the rye," not a catcher.

And on top of that, he wouldn't be "in the rye." He'd be on the playing field!


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Subject: RE: BS: Meaning of 'Catcher in the Rye'?
From: MGM·Lion
Date: 20 Aug 12 - 09:04 AM

Yay ~~ I suspected as much. Guy who told it to us was one who used to make up derivations &c & then believe them ~ you know the sort. Nice fellow, tho. A Texan, I recall.

Thanks all for responses & info.

~M~


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Subject: RE: BS: Meaning of 'Catcher in the Rye'?
From: GUEST,999
Date: 20 Aug 12 - 11:41 AM

The Canadian writer, WP Kinsella, used baseball as a thing in some of his writing. Shoeless Joe was one such novel. Hollywood then did some good children's movies: Angels in the Outfield; The Sandlot.

Sorry for the drift.


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Subject: RE: BS: Meaning of 'Catcher in the Rye'?
From: GUEST,DDT
Date: 20 Aug 12 - 12:24 PM

There is a baseball connection in the story because Holden writes Stradlater's report for him and uses his dead younger brother's baseball glove as the subject of the paper. So Holden's fantasy of being the catcher in the rye is intimately tied to his dead brother.


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Subject: RE: BS: Meaning of 'Catcher in the Rye'?
From: meself
Date: 20 Aug 12 - 01:24 PM

Bit of a stretch, I'd say.

_______________________________

Kinsella wrote the original 'Field of Dreams' story, I believe. Don't know if it had that title.


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Subject: RE: BS: Meaning of 'Catcher in the Rye'?
From: GUEST,Gern
Date: 20 Aug 12 - 09:54 PM

I would imagine many a catcher, pitcher and fielder has gotten into the rye from time to time. Unbearable sobriety once drove me to try it myself.


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Subject: RE: BS: Meaning of 'Catcher in the Rye'?
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 20 Aug 12 - 10:01 PM

Its a sort of code word meaning kill!


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Subject: RE: BS: Meaning of 'Catcher in the Rye'?
From: Charmion
Date: 21 Aug 12 - 05:15 AM

Geez, people; will ye just read the flippin' book?


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Subject: RE: BS: Meaning of 'Catcher in the Rye'?
From: MGM·Lion
Date: 21 Aug 12 - 05:34 AM

Ignoring poor Charmion's pathetic intervention (s/he makes self sound incapable of really 'reading' any book!), perhaps I should restate the reason for the question that forms this thread.

I can see for myself that Holden says that he will stand in the grass at the bottom of a cliff and catch the falling children, so that he will thus be "the catcher in the rye". But surely this has no meaning or referent unless there is an already established phrase, "a catcher in the rye", to which this assertion relates, which the tone of Holden's use of the phrase shows that the author would expect his readers to know, and to relate to Holden's attitudes and situation. Otherwise the assertion seems meaningless in context. But it appears from responses that there is no such referential phrase, within baseball-jargon or elsewhere; which leaves me wondering what Salinger was trying to communicate with such an outré and apparently meaningless title to his œuvre.

That's all ~M~


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Subject: RE: BS: Meaning of 'Catcher in the Rye'?
From: Silas
Date: 21 Aug 12 - 06:39 AM

Actually, Charmion is quite right, read the bloody book - he tells you where the title came from.


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Subject: RE: BS: Meaning of 'Catcher in the Rye'?
From: MGM·Lion
Date: 21 Aug 12 - 06:45 AM

It doesn't, Silas. It invents a phrase which has no intrinsic meaning and makes it sound portentous - which is not the same thing at all.

But I'm clearly not communicating, so let it pass, let it pass...

Cheers

~M~


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Subject: RE: BS: Meaning of 'Catcher in the Rye'?
From: Silas
Date: 21 Aug 12 - 07:02 AM

Gin a body meet a body
Coming thro' the rye,
Gin a body kiss a body -
Need a body cry?


Rabbi Burns.


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Subject: RE: BS: Meaning of 'Catcher in the Rye'?
From: MGM·Lion
Date: 21 Aug 12 - 07:13 AM

Yes yes yes! But there is no "catcher" in the Burns poem, is there? The fact that the poem leads Holden to a train of thought thru mishearing or misapprehension, and thence to a fantasy of catching falling children at the bottom of a cliff, doesn't seem to me to proved rationale for entitling a novel with a non-phrase based on this irrational train of thought. The use of the word "The" at the beginning of the title suggests a specific, external to the work, saying or concept, to give that title any symbolic or referential significance; but nobody seems to have found one.

~M~


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Subject: RE: BS: Meaning of 'Catcher in the Rye'?
From: bobad
Date: 21 Aug 12 - 07:53 AM

From Wikipedia:

"Holden shares a fantasy he has been thinking about (based on a mishearing of Robert Burns' Comin' Through the Rye): he pictures himself as the sole guardian of numerous children running and playing in a huge rye field on the edge of a cliff. His job is to catch the children if, in their abandon, they come close to falling off the brink, to be a "catcher in the rye." Because of this misinterpretation, Holden believes that to be a "catcher in the rye" means to save children from losing their innocence."


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Subject: RE: BS: Meaning of 'Catcher in the Rye'?
From: MGM·Lion
Date: 21 Aug 12 - 07:59 AM

Thanks, bobad. I did of course, check the wiki interpretation before posting this thread, but it struck me as something of a post-hoc rationalisation for an otherwise incomprehensible title. But maybe that is all there is to it at that; so I am happy just to leave it there. Thanks for all suggestions and replies.


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Subject: RE: BS: Meaning of 'Catcher in the Rye'?
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 21 Aug 12 - 08:17 AM

+If you read it backwards it says, 'Paul is Dead'.


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Subject: RE: BS: Meaning of 'Catcher in the Rye'?
From: Allan Conn
Date: 21 Aug 12 - 10:17 AM

"but it struck me as something of a post-hoc rationalisation" I'd kind of agreee with that. It is a hell of a misreading of a song even for a mixed up character in a novel to make. The song is about wanting some sex with someone you meet in a field of rye (isn't it?) whereas the character imagines he's saving kids as they are in danger of falling over a cliff from a field of rye. The only thing that seems to connect them is the use of the word rye!


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Subject: RE: BS: Meaning of 'Catcher in the Rye'?
From: Allan Conn
Date: 21 Aug 12 - 10:19 AM

Or at least the song seems to be about getting some sex if no-one finds out about it!


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Subject: RE: BS: Meaning of 'Catcher in the Rye'?
From: GUEST,Chongo Chimp
Date: 22 Aug 12 - 12:31 AM

I ain't read this book yet. Is it any good? What I mean...is it half as good as Raymond Chandler, fer instance? If so, I might give it a look.

- Chongo


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Subject: RE: BS: Meaning of 'Catcher in the Rye'?
From: Jim McLean
Date: 22 Aug 12 - 05:11 AM

I agree with Allan Conn ... Burns was a success in every field he went into.


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Subject: RE: BS: Meaning of 'Catcher in the Rye'?
From: GUEST,Stim
Date: 23 Aug 12 - 12:01 AM

Salinger had said that he saw "Holden Caulfield" on a movie marquee for the film "Dear Ruth", which starred William Holden and Joan Caulfield, and used it for his character's name. His character, Phoebe, is startlingly like "Mona Freeman", the young girl in that movie.

Salinger liked to create interest by juxtaposing unconnected words and images the way a child might, "Uncle Wiggly in Connecticut" and "A Perfect Day form Bananafish" being other examples. It often seemed to me that he borrowed scenes and story details from films and radio and "repurposed" them, in that same way. You know that of course.


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Subject: RE: BS: Meaning of 'Catcher in the Rye'?
From: GUEST,Lighter
Date: 23 Aug 12 - 09:59 AM

I liked his story "For Esme', with Love and Squalor," even better than "Catcher." In the '70s, while Salinger was a complete recluse, communicatng with no one, an "Esquire" editor wrote a sequel to "For Esme'" under Salinger's name.

I believe Salinger issued a denunciatory denial that he wrote it. But it was a damned good Salinger story nonetheless.


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