Letter to Salinger

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Dear Jerome David Salinger,

Help. It rarely came while playing in the "duck" park. Often times, my mother would bring us 3 children to a local park, famous for its abundant population of these aggressive water fowl. It was not uncommon to see me, a small 5 year old, trying to catch a duck. I would silently, well, silently for a child, follow a duck and then attempt to grab it. The duck would whip its head around to look at me before it took to flight. It always startled me how ducks could fly away so quickly. I was under the impression that their wide, webbed feet kept them stuck the ground, unable to break gravity's pull.

Your novel, The Catcher in the Rye, gave me a few precious hours to think about myself as child. Holden Caulfield, an overly-critical pessimist, brings back memories of me when I was younger. Holden, before leaving Pencey Prep, manages to get into a fight with his roommate, Stradlater. In elementary school, I would take parts in fights of a different kind-a game of tag. Anytime a problem arose, we, a group of energetic boys, would challenge each other to game of tag. These games got heated up at times. Like Holden's fights, the games of tag would often be over trivial matters, such as who gets to sit on the corner of the bench during lunchtime or who would get to be the line leader and lead the class through the hallways while going to the auditorium. During Holden's fight, an indifferent Ackley listens on in silence. Our tag games often had an unlikely audience. The teachers who were preparing their lesson plans would sometimes look through the safe confines of a window. To them, we were only a group of boys with healthy knees and high blood sugar. Like Ackley, the teachers didn't realize what we were playing for. I don't blame them; simply put, our games would allow us to exert our energy. Holden's fights are often over trivial matters as well. While leaving Pencey Prep, Holden slips on peanut shells which were left by others. He is angered by the phoniness of others and yells back a closing comment, much like the loser of our tag games would. There was a particular hostility that permeated the air while the game was in progress. Holden, while narrating his experience before leaving Pencey Prep, describes a certain pervasive inhumanity towards him.

Furthermore, Holden takes great pleasure in visiting museums. He enjoys them because they remain constant in his ever-changing life. The Indians still paddling in their canoe, the Eskimo still fishing and only having a catch of two fish, and the herd of deer frozen into place all appeal to him. His solitary refuge is the exhibits in the museum. They gave him peace and comfort, an unwavering shoulder of support. My family is to me as the museum is to Holden. With their never changing moral principles, they are my security blankets. I depend on them, lean on them, and consult them for their opinions. Holden's fear of change is also shown when he persistently asks various taxicab drivers about ducks in the winter. He tries to figure out how ducks find solutions to a frozen pond. He hopes to implement their problem-solving strategies into his own life. In the Mediterranean climate of California, I do not see frozen ponds; however, the duck park's pond is sometimes covered over with tarp-labeled for cleaning. During those weeks, I rarely saw the ducks. I thought they had flown to a nicer area. I would walk around the park looking for a hidden pathway of some sort to that better park. No, I thought, that's absurd. Isn't this the best park for ducks? When I saw the ducks return after the pond cleaning, I was overjoyed. Now I could return to my original antics of chasing waterfowl through my own pond of grass. Your book motivated me to return to the duck park for another glimpse of the birds that had enthralled me as a child. I stared deeply at the pond. Labeled for cleaning. In a small puddle on the tarp, I saw myself with my big feet, reminiscing about how I have always lived in relative security in my quaint duck park town. When I expand my horizons, I will be like the ducks. I will not let my big feet hold me to the ground.
Thank you.





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