Reading Response by Patricia Erisson Johnson
Discuss symbols of disappearance and erasure in the novel.
Holden has several feelings and reactions to "disappearing acts" and "erasure" in his life. This theme probably began to take on especial significance when his brother Allie died. He had been feeling pretty safe and content until his younger brother whom he saw as an innocent, was taken from the family by leukemia. It had nothing to do with his being bad or good, Holden realizes, he was just taken. His way of dealing with this immense loss is to lsssh out at those who attempt to cage him, dictate to him, and talk down to him. Part of the reason he jumps from school to school is because [sic] of a classic fear of getting too close or attached too someone, only to have them taken away–fear of abandonment. He recognizes the randomness of death (as in the boy who jumps out of a dorm window rather than take back an insult) and cannot get that randomness to jibe, yet, with his "childhood" view of the world.
Holden also–at least part of him–wishes to erase all that is ugly and cruel–for example, when he sees the "FUCK YOU" graffiti at the children’s school, his one angry thought is that a young kid would come across it, in themiddle of the day–a "FUCK YOU" certainly not meant for that child on the playground! En all of his observations and ruminations–even those wondering where the ducks go in the winter, Holden must ultimately explore the fearful ideas of how to keep the people whom he loves (and might lose) in his heart and thoughts–his journey involves learning, ultimately the permanent nature of love.