We started yesterday’s class with a discussion of the movie Manhattan, which we watched last week. We mainly discussed the music in yesterday’s class and how it was relevant to the theme of the movie and the main character. The music used in Manhattan was composed by George Gershwin, who wrote music that had the feel of being half jazz and half classical. It’s the same music genre that is used in many movies from the 1920’s and 1930’s, such as the films that starred Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. I have personally always liked this music, and the movies that depicted 1920’s society. This music has a slow, romantic feel to it, and in the film Manhattan, is used as a backdrop to Isaac’s idealistic nature and to the comfortable, upper middle class lifestyle he and his friends are accustomed to.
The music in Manhattan was also used in a bookend fashion. The same music and scenery shown at the start of the movie was used in the closing of the movie. The music used at the end of the movie seems to bring the movie full circle, it acts as the wrap-up to Isaac’s adventures and the lessons he learned throughout the film. The music used throughout the movie symbolized Isaac’s romantic notion of the world, his wish that the world could remain uncorrupted and that people should act fairly and justly, should aspire to be as perfect as possible. Clearly, these are not realistic thoughts and in coming to realize that, the romantic Gershwin music acts as an antithesis to Isaac’s thoughts, and a reminder of what cannot be.
The theme and ideas in Manhattan segued quite nicely into a discussion of Catcher in the Rye. In the film, Isaac is a romantic, a idealist, an optimist. Holden Caulfield in Catcher in the Rye is constantly trying to find that optimism in life, that happiness, as he mourns the loss of his childhood and his innocence. Holden is a confused teenager who is coming to the realization (like Isaac) that the world is not perfect, people are not always who they say they are, and he finds it is becoming increasingly difficult to trust people.
One of the things we discussed in relation to Catcher in the Rye is the use of words and language. Holden is a 16 year old, living in the 1940’s-1950’s. America was a different place at that time, as was the language and expression of teenagers. While we can understand the sayings and phrases Holden uses in the book, a teenager of the same age today would have very different ways of saying things. It’s interesting how while the actual words change, the meanings and significance behind the words does not change, how certain expressions and phrases remain in a teenager’s vocabulary even as time passes. For example, Holden might say, “like fun you are.” Today, we would say, “Yeah, okay” or “Sure you are,” with a sarcastic tone. The physical words changed but the effect of the saying has stayed the same.
We then discussed different archetypes in literature, a conversation I enjoyed because I like relating characters to their archetype or to characters in other books and movies, and comparing them. Holden fits the archetype of anti-hero, similar to Raskolnikov in Dostoyevsky’s Crime and Punishment. These characters are the flawed protagonists in their respective stories, they are hero, and yet they are not. They are on a journey for self-actualization, but they are met by certain obstacles that make for an unsuccessful journey. And yet, I like the archetype of the flawed hero; they aren’t characters that set impossible standards and readers can relate to their stories.
This was the first time I’ve had to read Catcher in the Rye and I really did enjoy it. I actually look forward to completing the assignment pertaining to the novel.