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How does the quote "What seems to us as bitter trials are often blessings in disguise"...

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danielb77 | (Level 1) Valedictorian

Posted July 16, 2013 at 1:41 AM via web

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How does the quote "What seems to us as bitter trials are often blessings in disguise" reflect the themes, characters, and conflicts in the novel the Catcher in the Rye and how does it further our understanding of the authors message.

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted July 16, 2013 at 5:20 AM (Answer #1)

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The quote reflects a sense of the positive and affirming out of that which initially appears negative and condemning.  In order to see the quote as applicable to Salinger's novel, one has to be willing to see the same sense of the positive and affirming out of that which appears to be negative and condemning.

This is no easy task with Holden.  Yet, I believe that one area in which this exists is in his hatred of phonies.  Holden hates the phoniness he perceives in the social settings around him.  For Holden, the phony nature that people appropriate helps to take away from the pursuit of truth that drives him and that he believes is the essence of being in the world.  Holden's "bitter trials" with phoniness around him is what enables him to find the truth that he years.  When he sees Phoebe on the carousel, the simplicity of the moment casts a large impact on him:  "I was damn near bawling, I felt so damn happy, if you want to know the truth." There is much in way of anger and hurt in Holden.  However, it can be argued that Holden's notion of self in which he identifies what he loves is the "blessing" that can only come about through his "bitter trials" with phoniness.

It is here in which a potential understanding of the novel can be grasped.  Through Holden, Salinger is suggesting that critical examination of the world around us and not simply accepting what is told to be "truth" can yield a more enriching state of being in the world.  The novel defines consciousness as critical examination of previously accepted truths in order to find what one believes as vital to one's identity.  Holden does this and while the ending leaves the reader in an ambiguous condition, the reader understands that Holden has found a voice that can be constructive in determining what he will determine as truth.  Holden, and through extension, us, have endured "bitter trials" where fraudulent promises and hollow attachments have hurt.  Through these "bitter trials" of rejection and hurt, we are able to find the "blessings" of what we believe as essential to our place in the world.  The themes of the novel help to convey this in both Holden's and our own examination of the world and our place in it.

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