Friday, May 9, 2008

Theory Questions: "Slight Rebellion Off Madison"

Although we didn't read JD Salinger's "Slight Rebellion Off Madison" in class, and no one did an introduction to it on the blog, I feel as though Cultural Poetics fits it so perfectly that it's worth writing questions for anyway. "Slight Rebellion Off Madison" is one of the two short stories JD Salinger published in the New Yorker magazine that he would later expand on with The Catcher in the Rye. Here is a link to the short story if you're interested in reading it: link. If you read The Catcher in the Rye you'll be familiar with what happens in the story. Pretty much the story details Holden Caulfield going home to New York during his Christmas vacation from Pencey Prep. First he goes to the theater with his girlfriend (kind of girl friend anyway) Sally Hayes, and then later he goes ice skating with Sally. At the rink he asks her to runaway to the country with him, he gets mad when she turns down his offer, and finally after they part, he gets really drunk and calls Sally in the middle of the night to tell her that he would like to come over her house and help her trim her Christmas tree. This story is particularly appropriate to be analyzed by Cultural Poetics, because it's basically all about Holden trying to deal with all of the various constraints society puts on someone. He tries his best to resist, but he just ends up getting treated like a fool by those like Sally who are perfectly happy to embrace the restraints her culture has set for her. Maybe the lesson of the story is that resisting a society's constraints is somewhat futile, and anyone who attempts to do so will end up drunk on the floor of a men's restroom with a soaked, dripping wet head in the middle of winter.

1. What are some examples of how Holden initially attempts to follow his culture's constraints?

2. What is the significance of the conversation Holden has with Sally at the ice rink? How does she respond and how can this be related to the concept of Cultural Poetics?

3. What does alcohol and Holden's getting drunk have to do with Cultural Poetics and the ideas of constraint and mobility?

"Slight Rebellion Off Madison." New Yorker, 22 (December 1946), pp.76-79, or 82-86

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