Source – postflaviana.org
– J D Salinger’s Catcher in the Rye is a work with many mysteries attached to it: perhaps the least of which is that, though it is both incoherent and morally destructive, it has been forced-fed by America’s public school system to America’s adolescents for sixty years. A mystery more often cited by the public press, however, has been the book’s association with assassinations.
In fact, among the assassins purportedly in possession of Catcher in the Rye were three of the most famous in history. Mark David Chapman, after he had shot and killed John Lennon, calmly opened his copy of Catcher in the Rye and proceeded to read it before being apprehended. John Hinckley was also carrying the book while attempting to kill Ronald Reagan. It is alleged that Lee Harvey Oswald had a copy in his apartment and that it was one of his favorite books, though this is disputed.
The strange cluster of individuals in possession of the book at the time they assassinated a famous person have led some to speculate that the book is somehow a trigger for ‘mind controlled’ subjects, as was the case for the assassin who was depicted in the book and film ‘The Manchurian Candidate’.
In this work I will decode the symbolic framework of the Catcher in the Rye and this will explain why the assassins were alleged to have possessed it. The book was not necessarily a trigger for the murders, but it was certainly a warning to those who understood its real meaning. The warning was to maintain silence about what Salinger described as a “secret fraternity”.
Studying ‘the Egyptians’ for 28 days
The Catcher in the Rye describes many ‘secrets’. For example, the book begins with the central character, Holden Caulfield, noting “my parents would have about two hemorrhages apiece if I told anything pretty personal about them. They’re quite touchy about anything like that, especially my father.”
The central secret of The Catcher in the Rye is the identity of the “secret fraternity“ that Holden Caulfield was a member of:
“And they had this goddam secret fraternity that I was too yellow not to join.”
To learn the identity of the “secret fraternity”, a reader must recognize that Salinger is using the cryptic style of typology used to create the Gospels and the Shakespearian literature. Catcher in the Rye is especially difficult to decode because the framework much of it is based upon – the initiation rites of the Freemasons -are often secret and may not be uniform from one lodge to another.
However, many descriptions of the rites have been published, and it is obvious when comparing the ‘type scenes’ in Catcher to these descriptions that Salinger is using a framework connected to them.
The first typological clue Salinger provides to the identity of the ‘secret society’ is given in a scene at the beginning of the book where Caulfield is discussing his grade with his history teacher, Mr. Spencer, who states that Caulfield “studied the Egyptians” for twenty-eight days and then failed a test about the subject.
“We studied the Egyptians from November 4th to December 2nd,” he said. “You chose to write about them for the optional essay question. Would you care to hear what you had to say?”
“No, sir, not very much,” I said.
While the symbolism is oblique, once a reader adopts the correct interpretive framework, the meaning is transparent. The “secret fraternity” is the Freemasons, and the twenty-eight days spent studying the Egyptians refers to the period of studying a candidate must spend between the time of his initiation as an “Entered Apprentice”, to the time he takes the exam to become a second degree Mason.
Salinger is using the concept of the ‘Egyptians’ to represent the Freemasons because the group claims lineage from the ancient Egyptians and uses their symbols in its rites. In other words, as with the Gospels and the works of Shakespeare, underneath the book’s surface narration there lies a symbolic path to a completely different storyline.
Thus, on its surface, Catcher in the Rye appears to center on the internal life of Holden Caulfield, a neurotic seventeen year old who is expelled from his prep school. However, its symbolic meaning reveals a process whereby Caulfield, having failed to progress through Freemasonry’s ‘levels’ in his first attempt, nevertheless obtains the knowledge needed to join the “secret fraternity” and learn its deepest secret.
The kind of Freemasonry Salinger described was not the beneficial stereotype that does charitable works, but rather an organization with a sinister agenda. At the book’s conclusion, Holden Caulfield has become a ‘Master Mason’ and is permitted to enter the ‘Holy of Holies’ to learn the ultimate secret of the Freemasons – which, apparently, is that the “Sons of Light” as Robert Burns describes Freemasonry, has sworn to implement an ‘Apocalyspe’ on all non-Masons and to kill everyone who exposes the organization’s plans.
Anyone who reads this analysis and finds it credible has a responsibility to determine exactly who the ‘Sons of Light’ Burns describes are and to learn the nature of the oaths they swear at their highest levels.
Learning the rules
In the book a series of individuals give Caulfield advice. While the advice is cryptic, it is the information that a Freemason needs to rise through the organization’s levels to its secret knowledge,
In his session with Spencer, Caulfield recalls the advice he received from his headmaster, Dr. Thurmer, who pointed out that life is a game with ‘rules’. Holden states that it is a game with rules if you are on the correct side, the side with the ‘hot shots’. If you don’t belong to the correct side then there is no ‘game’ at all. Central to understanding the book is learning the identity of the ‘hot-shots’ and the nature of their ‘rules’.
On its surface, the passage describes Spencer’s disappointment with Holden’s inability to understand the truth about the ‘Egyptians’. What is symbolically depicted is that Holden failed his second-degree initiation exam for entry into the Freemasons.
However, in the meeting with Spencer, Holden begins to learn the truth, and hints that he may be moving on to the next level:
“Do you feel absolutely no concern for your future, boy?”
“Oh, I feel some concern for my future, all right. Sure. Sure, I do.” I thought about it for a minute. “But not too much, I guess. Not too much, I guess.”
“You will,” old Spencer said. “You will, boy. You will when it’s too late.”
I didn’t like hearing him say that. It made me sound dead or something. It was very depressing. “I guess I will,” I said.”
The fact that his teacher makes Holden feel dead at this point indicates that Holden has moved on to the third degree of freemason initiation, in which the candidate is made to imitate the death of Hiram Abiff during his initiation.
Bulls, Ducks and Fishes
Holden finishes his meeting with Spencer by “shooting the bull.” Within the cryptic writing style of the Gospels that Salinger is adopting, the repetition of a concept is a key to alert the reader that a deeper level lies beneath. What Holden is really learning here is that a bull must be shot, as happens at the end of the story.
Well, you could see he really felt pretty lousy about flunking me. So I shot the bull for a while. I told him I was a real moron, and all that stuff. I told him how I would’ve done exactly the same thing if I’d been in his place, and how most people didn’t appreciate how tough it is being a teacher. That kind of stuff. The old bull.
While ‘shooting the bull’, Holden opens a motif that continues throughout the book concerning “ducks and fishes”, by stating that he is confused about the nature of ducks. An obvious allegorical interpretation is that the ducks represent the outsiders, or the ones who have strayed from the path; while the fishes represent the chosen ones who abide in the truth of Freemasonry, which in the opinion of the secret fraternity is permanent. The passage prefigures the book’s conclusion, where the truth about the ducks is understood, and a ‘bull’ is shot.
Notice below how often the phrase ‘shoot the bull’ is used below, though it is seldom used in the rest of the book:
The funny thing is, though, I was sort of thinking of something else while I shot the bull. I live in New York, and I was thinking about the lagoon in Central Park, down near Central Park South. I was wondering if it would be frozen over when I got home, and if it was, where did the ducks go. I was wondering where the ducks went when the lagoon got all icy and frozen over. I wondered if some guy came in a truck and took them away to a zoo or something. Or if they just flew away.
I’m lucky, though. I mean I could shoot the old bull to old Spencer and think about those ducks at the same time. It’s funny. You don’t have to think too hard when you talk to a teacher. All of a sudden, though, he interrupted me while I was shooting the bull. He was always interrupting you.”
Later in the story Caulfield will learn about the ‘ducks’ and the ‘fish’ by asking a cab driver named Horwitz, the name of a famous rabbinical family. While Caulfield says that the ducks are not permanent, Horwitz believes that ‘Mother Nature’ takes care of the fish, so they are permanent. Since the ducks occur in the same context as the “bull” or Taurus, it follows that they represent Flavian Christianity.
He turned all the way around again, and said, “The fish don’t go no place. They stay right where they are, the fish. Right in the goddam lake.”
“The fish–that’s different. The fish is different. I’m talking about the ducks,” I said.
“What’s different about it? Nothin’s different about it,” Horwitz said. Everything he said, he sounded sore about something. “It’s tougher for the fish, the winter and all, than it is for the ducks, for Chrissake. Use your head, for Chrissake.”
I didn’t say anything for about a minute. Then I said, “All right. What do they do, the fish and all, when that whole little lake’s a solid block of ice, people skating on it and all?”
Old Horwitz turned around again. “What the hellaya mean what do they do?” he yelled at me. “They stay right where they are, for Chrissake.”
“They can’t just ignore the ice. They can’t just ignore it.”
“Who’s ignoring it? Nobody’s ignoring it!” Horwitz said. He got so damn excited and all, I was afraid he was going to drive the cab right into a lamppost or something. “They live right in the goddam ice. It’s their nature, for Chrissake. They get frozen right in one position for the whole winter.”
“Yeah? What do they eat, then? I mean if they’re frozen solid, they can’t swim around looking for food and all.”
“Their bodies, for Chrissake–what’sa matter with ya? Their bodies take in nutrition and all, right through the goddam seaweed and crap that’s in the ice. They got their pores open the whole time. That’s their nature, for Chrissake. See what I mean?” He turned way the hell around again to look at me.
When I got out in front of Ernie’s and paid the fare, old Horwitz brought up the fish again. He certainly had it on his mind. “Listen,” he said. “If you was a fish, Mother Nature’d take care of you, wouldn’t she? Right? You don’t think them fish just die when it gets to be winter, do ya?”
“You’re goddam right they don’t,” Horwitz said, and drove off like a bat out of hell. He was about the touchiest guy I ever met. Everything you said made him sore.
Sleeping in Eli’s Bed
The next example of how Salinger weaves aspects of Freemason Initiation into Catcher in the Rye is his story depicting ‘Ely’s bed’ — a concept he repeats three times.
That got him excited. “He did? No kidding? He did?”
I told him I was only kidding, and then I went over and laid down on Ely’s bed. Boy, did I feel rotten. I felt so damn lonesome.
“This room stinks,” I said. “I can smell your socks from way over here. Don’tcha ever send them to the laundry?”
“If you don’t like it, you know what you can do,” Ackley said. What a witty guy.
“How ’bout turning off the goddam light?”
I didn’t turn it off right away, though. I just kept laying there on Ely’s bed, thinking about Jane and all. It just drove me stark staring mad when I thought about her and Stradlater parked somewhere in that fat-assed Ed Banky’s car. Every time I thought about it, I felt like jumping out the window. The thing is, you didn’t know Stradlater. I knew him. Most guys at Pencey just talked about having sexual intercourse with girls all the time–like Ackley, for instance–but old Stradlater really did it. I was personally acquainted with at least two girls he gave the time to. That’s the truth.
“Tell me the story of your fascinating life, Ackley kid,” I said.
“How ’bout turning off the goddam light? I gotta get up for Mass in the morning.” I got up and turned it off, if it made him happy. Then I laid down on Ely’s bed again.
“What’re ya gonna do–sleep in Ely’s bed?” Ackley said. He was the perfect host, boy.
Salinger is describing the ‘Introduction to the Prophetical Office’, a rite of Freemasonry in which someone is described lying down in Eli’s bed and the light being turned off. This is part of the ritual of the “Supreme Order of the Holy Royal Arch”. (The scriptural quote is 1 Samuel 3.)
In the introduction to the Prophetical Office the following passage is read: “And the child Samuel administered to the Lord before Eli. And it came to pass at that time when Eli was laid down in his place and his eyes began to wax dim that he could not see because the lamp of God went out in the temple of the Lord. And Samuel was laid down to sleep and the Lord called Samuel and he answered “Here I am for thou called me” And He said “Lie down again for I called not.” (Freemason Manual, Jeremiah How, Ch. 16, p. 180.)
The ‘people-shooting hat’
Salinger then brings up the most important image in the book, his ‘people-shooting hat’. As is often the case in cryptic writing, the literal but unexpected meaning is the correct one. In other words, Holden will wear the hat while he is (figuratively) shooting people at the book’s conclusion.
He took another look at my hat while he was cleaning them. “Up home we wear a hat like that to shoot deer in, for Chrissake,” he said. “That’s a deer shooting hat.”
“Like hell it is.” I took it off and looked at it. I sort of closed one eye, like I was taking aim at it. “This is a people shooting hat,” I said. “I shoot people in this hat.”
Notice that Salinger invokes the concept “one eye” in the passage. This reminds us of the ‘one eye’ of Providence, or the ancient Egyptian Eye of Horus; or, if you prefer, the all-seeing ‘eye of God’ floating at the peak of the unfinished pyramid on the US dollar bill. It is, of course, a renowned symbol of Freemasonry. For Salinger, it is an eyeball taking aim down the barrel of a rifle, an evil eye, a harbinger of death and genocide.
Re-enacting the death of Hiram Abiff
Salinger then goes on to describe a ‘blind person who seeks the hand of a sighted one.” This is another representation of the Freemason third degree initiation ritual wherein the initiate is blindfolded, holds the hand of his mentors, and then is knocked to the ground in imitation of the death of Hiram Abiff.
I slid way the hell down in my chair and watched old Ackley making himself at home. I was feeling sort of tired from the trip to New York and all, and I started yawning. Then I started horsing around a little bit. Sometimes I horse around quite a lot, just to keep from getting bored. What I did was, I pulled the old peak of my hunting hat around to the front, then pulled it way down over my eyes. That way, I couldn’t see a goddam thing. “I think I’m going blind,” I said in this very hoarse voice. “Mother darling, everything’s getting so dark in here.”
“You’re nuts. I swear to God,” Ackley said.
“Mother darling, give me your hand, Why won’t you give me your hand?”
“For Chrissake, grow up.”
I started groping around in front of me, like a blind guy, but without getting up or anything. I kept saying, “Mother darling, why won’t you give me your hand?” I was only horsing around, naturally. That stuff gives me a bang sometimes. Besides, I know it annoyed hell out of old Ackley. He always brought out the old sadist in me. I was pretty sadistic with him quite often. Finally, I quit, though. I pulled the peak around to the back again, and relaxed.”
Then he really let one go at me, and the next thing I knew I was on the goddam floor again. I don’t remember if he knocked me out or not, but I don’t think so. It’s pretty hard to knock a guy out, except in the goddam movies. But my nose was bleeding all over the place. When I looked up old Stradlater was standing practically right on top of me. He had his goddam toilet kit under his arm. “Why the hell don’tcha shut up when I tellya to?”
Bernice doesn’t like that type language
In another fascinating passage, Salinger describes the language style of the Oligarchs – typology, or as he playfully terms it “type language”. Caulfield dances with ‘three witches’ in the ‘Lavender Room’. ‘Royal Purple’ is a popular variety of lavender, so this tells us that the three witches represent royalty. Caulfield describes “Bernice” as a “real queen”, indicating that she is a ‘type’ of Bernice the granddaughter of Herod the Great who helped create the ‘type language’ in the Gospels. The other two ‘witches’ are pagan goddesses: dancing with Marty is said to be like “dragging the Statue of Liberty around the floor”. That is, the famous gigantic idol of the Goddess known as Libertas (and also known as Aphrodite, Ishtar, Astarte, Isis or Venus), designed by the masonic sculptor Frederic Bartoldi. Marty’s sister Laverne seems to be another obscure Latin goddess, Lavarna, the patron saint of thieves and the underworld.
The scene may indicate that understanding the typology in the Gospels is a ‘level’ of Freemasonry. Bernice’s connection to Christianity will play a central role in the book’s conclusion.
Bernice complains that Caulfield is using ‘type language’ after Caulfield paints himself as a ‘type’ of Jesus, by claiming that he is twelve years old and is big for his age. This is based upon Jesus’ experience in the Temple as a child, where he revealed his messianic wisdom to the priests. Caulfield’s name is part of this theme, as a child born inside of an intact amniotic sac is said to be born ‘en caul‘, which is a very rare indication of a special individual. Caulfield also has white hair and a great height showing that he has advanced beyond his age.
I began giving the three witches at the next table the eye again. That is, the blonde one. The other two were strictly from hunger…
“Hey–how old are you, anyhow?”
That annoyed me, for some reason. “Oh, Christ. Don’t spoil it,” I said. “I’m twelve, for Chrissake. I’m big for my age.”
“Listen. I toleja about that. I don’t like that type language,” she said. “If you’re gonna use that type language, I can go sit down with my girl friends, you know.”
The lunatic that cut himself with stones
Later that night, as he is trying to go to sleep, Caulfield also shows his awareness of the typology in the Gospels with his reference to the story of the Demon of Gadara, from Mark 5:1-20 (also found in Luke 8:26-39). He understands that the ‘lunatic’ who “cut himself with stones” in the Gospels was a ‘stone-cutter’ or ‘Tekton’, the Greek word for a stonemason, architect or Freemason.
I’m sort of an atheist. I like Jesus and all, but I don’t care too much for most of the other stuff in the Bible. Take the Disciples, for instance. They annoy the hell out of me, if you want to know the truth. They were all right after Jesus was dead and all, but while He was alive, they were about as much use to Him as a hole in the head. All they did was keep letting Him down. I like almost anybody in the Bible better than the Disciples. If you want to know the truth, the guy I like best in the Bible, next to Jesus, was that lunatic and all, that lived in the tombs and kept cutting himself with stones. I like him ten times as much as the Disciples, that poor bastard.
In Caesar’s Messiah the typology concerning the “lunatic” who cut himself with stones is explained as follows:
I noticed that at the conclusion of the siege of Jerusalem in Wars of the Jews, Simon and John both take refuge in subterranean caverns beneath Jerusalem. Eventually they are forced by starvation to come out of these “tombs” and surrender to the Romans. This event struck me as a parallel to the description of the demon-possessed men “coming out of the tombs” in the New Testament.
The passage in Wars of the Jews that describes these caverns confirms that they are indeed “tombs.”
. . . the Romans slew some of them, some they carried captives, and others they made a search for underground, and when they found where they were, they broke up the ground and slew all they met with.
There were also found slain there above two thousand persons, partly by their own hands, and partly by one another, but chiefly destroyed by the famine;
but then the ill savor of the dead bodies was most offensive to those that lighted upon them, insomuch that some were obliged to get away immediately . . .
As I have mentioned, the demon-possessed man at Gadara is described as “cutting himself with stones.” Cutting oneself with “stones” is, of course, unusual—a stone is not a tool someone would normally use to cut with. What is the author of this passage actually referring to? I realized that if the demoniacs of Gadara are intended to satirize the rebel leaders, then there was a satiric answer to this question.
The phrase in the New Testament where the demoniac is “in the tombs . . . cutting himself with stones” shares a darkly humorous relationship with the passage in Wars of the Jews that describes the “tombs” that John and Simon take refuge in. The scornful joke comes from the unanswered question in Mark 5:5 – this question being, what does one call someone who cuts himself with stones? In a passage in Wars of the Jews relating to the rebel leader’s hiding in the “tombs,” one can see an ironic answer. Someone who cuts himself with stones is “stone-cut,” and can therefore mockingly be called a “stone-cutter.”
This Simon, during the siege of Jerusalem, was in the upper city; but when the Roman army was gotten within the walls, and were laying the city waste, he then took the most faithful of his friends with him, and among them some that were stonecutters, with those iron tools which belonged to their occupation.
If, indeed, Salinger was aware of this entire typological scenario, then Caulfield was expressing that he felt the most sympathy and identification with Simon and John, the actual heroes of the Jewish rebel movement. On the other hand, Caulfield may have simply been expressing an ironic respect for the Biblical underdog.
The next day, while speaking with two nuns he meets on the train, Caulfield also shows awareness of the Shakespearian literature in that he picks out Mercutio, the most blameless character in the play, as his favorite. Mercutio’s death, however, provoked an intensification of the discord between the two Gentile families, the Montagues and Capulets.
“Well, I’m not too crazy about Romeo and Juliet,” I said. “I mean I like them, but–I don’t know. They get pretty annoying sometimes. I mean I felt much sorrier when old Mercutio got killed than when Romeo and Juliet did. The think is, I never liked Romeo too much after Mercutio gets stabbed by that other man–Juliet’s cousin–what’s his name?”
“That’s right. Tybalt,” I said–I always forget that guy’s name. “It was Romeo’s fault. I mean I liked him the best in the play, old Mercutio. I don’t know. All those Montagues and Capulets, they’re all right–especially Juliet–but Mercutio, he was–it’s hard to explain. He was very smart and entertaining and all. The thing is, it drives me crazy if somebody gets killed– especially somebody very smart and entertaining and all– and it’s somebody else’s fault. Romeo and Juliet, at least it was their own fault.”
The Freemason in the Rye
The most important puzzle to solve to understand the real meaning of Catcher in the Rye is Caulfield’s ‘misunderstanding’ of the freemason Robert Burns’ poem: ‘Coming through the Rye’. Caulfield overhears a child singing the song.
Here is one version of Burns poem:
“Coming thro’ the Rye” (1796)
Coming thro’ the rye, poor body,
Coming thro’ the rye,
She draiglet a’ her petticoatie
Coming thro’ the rye.
O, Jenny’s a’ wat, poor body;
Jenny’s seldom dry;
She draiglet a’ her petticoatie
Coming thro’ the rye.
Gin a body meet a body
Coming thro’ the rye,
Gin a body kiss a body—
Need a body cry?
Gin a body meet a body
Coming thro’ the glen,
Gin a body kiss a body—
Need the warld ken?
Even in the above G-rated version, the poem is clearly discussing a sexual encounter out in the tall grass. Another, less well-known version spells it out, in case anyone misses the point.
Here is the ‘whorehouse’ version of the song.
O gin a body meet a body,
Comin’ throu the rye:
Gin a body fuck a body,
Need a body cry.
Comin’ thro’ the rye, my jo,
An’ coming’ thro’ the rye;
She fand a staun o’ staunin’ graith,
Comin’ thro’ the rye.
Gin a body meet a body,
Comin’ thro’ the glen;
Gin a body fuck a body,
Need the warld ken.
Gin a body meet a body,
Comin’ thro the grain;
Gin a body fuck a body,
Cunt’s a body’s ain.
Gin a body meet a body,
By a body’s sel,
What na body fucks a body,
Wad a body tell.
Mony a body meets a body,
They dare na weel avow;
Mony a body fucks a body,
Ye wadna think its true.
In order to understand which version the child was singing requires recognizing the image given in the passage directly preceding the one in which the child is singing Burn’s song.
There was this record I wanted to get for Phoebe, called “Little Shirley Beans.” It was a very hard record to get. It was about a little kid that wouldn’t go out of the house because two of her front teeth were out and she was ashamed to. I heard it at Pencey. A boy that lived on the next floor had it, and I tried to buy it off him because I knew it would knock old Phoebe out, but he wouldn’t sell it. It was a very old, terrific record that this colored girl singer, Estelle Fletcher, made about twenty years ago. She sings it very Dixieland and whorehouse, and it doesn’t sound at all mushy.
Notice that the song ‘Little Shirley Beans’ is for children, but that the singer gives a “whorehouse” version of the song. This is the framework the author wishes a reader to use in the next paragraph; where we encounter the description of the mysterious ‘catcher’ in the rye. Holden believes he overhears a child singing, “If a body catch a body coming through the rye.” This lyric does not occur in either version of the Burns song; the phrase is either “when a body meet a body” or “when a body fuck a body”. Holden understands the words of the song in a way they were never written. The alert reader will recognize that the child is singing – as in the paragraph above – the “whorehouse” version of the song, which Caulfield will understand at the book’s end.
Where Caulfield heard ‘catch’, the child must have been singing ‘fuck’. Salinger’s ‘real’ title is therefore ‘Fucker in the Rye’ and this describes Caulfield’s ‘revelation’ in the Freemason’s holy of holies given below. In other words, that the deepest secret of Freemasonry is “fuck you”, which appears to be Apocalypse to non-Freemasons and death to members that are traitors to the organization.
Walking the straight line
Notice that the child who is singing the song is walking is straight line. This is something that children seldom do, but is a requirement within Freemason lodges; which reveals the identity of the ‘church’ the family has just left.
It wasn’t as cold as it was the day before, but the sun still wasn’t out, and it wasn’t too nice for walking. But there was one nice thing. This family that you could tell just came out of some church were walking right in front of me–a father, a mother, and a little kid about six years old. They looked sort of poor. The father had on one of those pearl-gray hats that poor guys wear a lot when they want to look sharp. He and his wife were just walking along, talking, not paying any attention to their kid. The kid was swell. He was walking in the street, instead of on the sidewalk, but right next to the curb. He was making out like he was walking a very straight line, the way kids do, and the whole time he kept singing and humming. I got up closer so I could hear what he was singing. He was singing that song, “If a body catch a body coming through the rye.” He had a pretty little voice, too. He was just singing for the hell of it, you could tell. The cars zoomed by, brakes screeched all over the place, his parents paid no attention to him, and he kept on walking next to the curb and singing “If a body catch a body coming through the rye.” It made me feel better. It made me feel not so depressed any more.
Following his encounter with the singing child, Caulfield comes to a museum which he cannot enter. This is because the museum represents a Freemason temple with its holy of holies. Caulfield cannot go in because he does not yet have the correct information that he would need to possess the ‘level’ that permits a Freemason to learn its deepest secret. This information will come after his encounter with Antolini.
Then a funny thing happened. When I got to the museum, all of a sudden I wouldn’t have gone inside for a million bucks. It just didn’t appeal to me–and here I’d walked through the whole goddam park and looked forward to it and all. If Phoebe’d been there, I probably would have, but she wasn’t. So all I did, in front of the museum, was get a cab and go down to the Biltmore.
Albert Pike thinks he’s hot stuff
Salinger makes a digression to create a cryptic homage to Albert Pike, the most infamous American freemason, who he describes as someone who was “conceited”. This is probably depicting Pike’s delineation between the vast intellect of insider Freemasons and those who not enter the inner circle. I suspect that this cryptic story about ‘Al Pike’ indicates a level of Freemasonry in which its history and the intellectual status of those permitted to rise to its higher levels is revealed.
It should be noted, that the great majority of Masons are far from being “initiated” and “are grovelling in Egyptian darkness” (Chr., 1878, II, 28). “The Masonry of the higher degrees,” says Pike , I, 311), “teaches the great truths of intellectual science; but as to these, even as to the rudiments and first principles, Blue Masonry is absolutely dumb. Its dramas seem intended to teach the resurrection of the body.” “The pretended possession of mysterious secrets has enabled Blue Masonry to number its initiates by tens of thousands. Never were any pretenses to the possession of mysterious knowledge so baseless and so absurd as those of the Blue and Royal Arch Chapter Degrees” (ibid., IV, 388 sq.).
Salinger’s satirical depiction of Pike rings true:
She was dating this terrible guy, Al Pike, that went to Choate. I didn’t know him too well, but he was always hanging around the swimming pool. He wore those white Lastex kind of swimming trunks, and he was always going off the high dive. He did the same lousy old half gainer all day long. It was the only dive he could do, but he thought he was very hot stuff. All muscles and no brains. Anyway, that’s who Jane dated that night. I couldn’t understand it. I swear I couldn’t. After we started going around together, I asked her how come she could date a showoff bastard like Al Pike. Jane said he wasn’t a show-off. She said he had an inferiority complex. She acted like she felt sorry for him or something, and she wasn’t just putting it on. She meant it. It’s a funny thing about girls. Every time you mention some guy that’s strictly a bastard–very mean, or very conceited and all–and when you mention it to the girl, she’ll tell you he has an inferiority complex. Maybe he has, but that still doesn’t keep him from being a bastard, in my opinion.
Seeking the light from Old Luce
Caulfield meets with a Carl Luce or ‘light’. ‘Light’ informs him that there are “patterns” to one mind that need to be understood to mature.
So what I did finally, I gave old Carl Luce a buzz. He graduated from the Whooton School after I left. He was about three years older than I was, and I didn’t like him too much, but he was one of these very intellectual guys– he had the highest I.Q. of any boy at Whooton–and I thought he might want to have dinner with me somewhere and have a slightly intellectual conversation. He was very enlightening sometimes. So I gave him a buzz. He went to Columbia now, but he lived on 65th Street and all, and I knew he’d be home. When I got him on the phone, he said he couldn’t make it for dinner but that he’d meet me for a drink at ten o’clock at the Wicker Bar, on 54th. I think he was pretty surprised to hear from me. I once called him a fat-assed phony.
Finally old Luce showed up.
Old Luce. What a guy. He was supposed to be my Student Adviser when I was at Whooton. The only thing he ever did, though, was give these sex talks and all, late at night when there was a bunch of guys in his room. He knew quite a bit about sex, especially perverts and all.
“Maybe I’ll go to China. My sex life is lousy,” I said.
“Naturally. Your mind is immature.”
“It is. It really is. I know it,” I said. “You know what the trouble with me is? I can never get really sexy–I mean really sexy–with a girl I don’t like a lot. I mean I have to like her a lot. If I don’t, I sort of lose my goddam desire for her and all. Boy, it really screws up my sex life something awful. My sex life stinks.”
“Naturally it does, for God’s sake. I told you the last time I saw you what you need.”
“You mean to go to a psychoanalyst and all?” I said. That’s what he’d told me I ought to do. His father was a psychoanalyst and all.
“It’s up to you, for God’s sake. It’s none of my goddam business what you do with your life.”
I didn’t say anything for a while. I was thinking.
“Supposing I went to your father and had him psychoanalyze me and all,” I said. “What would he do to me? I mean what would he do to me?”
“He wouldn’t do a goddam thing to you. He’d simply talk to you, and you’d talk to him, for God’s sake. For one thing, he’d help you to recognize the patterns of your mind.”
“The patterns of your mind. Your mind runs in– Listen. I’m not giving an elementary course in psychoanalysis. If you’re interested, call him up and make an appointment. If you’re not, don’t. I couldn’t care less, frankly.”
I put my hand on his shoulder. Boy, he amused me. “You’re a real friendly bastard,” I told him. “You know that?”
He was looking at his wrist watch. “I have to tear,” he said, and stood up. “Nice seeing you.” He got the bartender and told him to bring him his check.
“Hey,” I said, just before he beat it. “Did your father ever psychoanalyze you?” “Me? Why do you ask?”
“No reason. Did he, though? Has he?”
“Not exactly. He’s helped me to adjust myself to a certain extent, but an extensive analysis hasn’t been necessary. Why do you ask?”
“No reason. I was just wondering.”
Caulfield again revels a messianic aspect to his identity by showing a woman his grey hair and telling her he was 42 a number divided by seven.
I showed her my goddam gray hair and told her I was forty-two–I was only horsing around, naturally.
Caulfield sees that there are no ‘ducks’ left in Central Park. This foresees the story’s ending when he shoots all the ‘ducks’.
I didn’t see any ducks around. I walked all around the whole damn lake–I damn near fell in once, in fact- -but I didn’t see a single duck. I thought maybe if there were any around, they might be asleep or something near the edge of the water, near the grass and all. That’s how I nearly fell in. But I couldn’t find any.
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