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2. Thank you for making my birthday so awesome.

3. In which John discusses The Catcher in the Rye. Let's keep talking about it here:

4. Talk about the new clue in the Scavenger Hunt:


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A Bunny
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Good morning Hank, it's Tuesday, August 26th and, spoiler alert, we're finally going to talk about the second half of The Catcher in the Rye.

Although, I don't know exactly what about the book could be spoiled, Hank. I mean like, SPOILER, life is hard. And sad.

*Title Sequence*

Hank, when I first decided I was going to make two videos about The Catcher in the Rye, I was thinking that the second video would be all about the tension between innocence and experience, and how that red hunting cap--which is the same color as his dead brother Allie's hair--is this kind-of security blanket for Holden that he holds onto. And I was going to talk about the ducks in the pond in Central Park, and how nothing ever changes in the Natural History Museum, which is what Holden likes about it so much, and that heart-breakingly sad moment at the end with that carousel and the hat and Phoebe and everything.

But actually, now that I've reread the book, I don't wanna talk about any of that. I wanna talk about what I think is the real purpose of symbolism and metaphor, and all the tricks that authors use to try to make you believe in stories in a deeper way.

There's this sociologist I like named Peter Berger, and he wrote in one of his books, "The difference between dogs and people is that dogs know how to be dogs." And it seems to me that one of the ways we don't come into this world knowing how to be a person is that we don't really know what to do about empathy.

Like, the weird thing about self-consciousness is that you become aware of the fact that you can never fully feel someone else's pain, and that someone else can never fully feel your pain.

I mean, the same goes for joy, but since we're talking about Holden Caulfield, we got to focus narrowly in on the pain.

Now Hank, the fact that empathy is a limited human talent is a good thing, because our brains are too small and too primitive to function if we're feeling everyone's pain and everyone's joy and everyone's excitement and everyone's loneliness and everyone's boredom ALL at the same time.

The question is: how do we get to a place where we can empathize with each other enough to take care of each other enough to get through this veil-o-tears.

And this is where the fact that there are two Holdens in this story comes into play; there's the Holden who the story is happening to, and there's the Holden that is telling us about it.

The Holden who the story is happening to is almost a total failure at getting people to listen to him. Like, basically in the second half of the book, what does he do? It's the same thing he did in the first half: he walks around, meets some people and tries to get some people to listen to him, and they refuse. And then towards the end you think that there's this adult who is actually finally going to listen to him, and then Holden wakes up and the guy is patting his head and it's totally creepy and hugely sad.

And if that's your only Holden, I have to say I don't see a lot of hope in this novel. What I see in the Holden who the book is happening to is a kid who's alone, and afraid, and scared, and who no one hears, and who no one ever bothers to listen to.

Now, you can blame this on the people that Holden reaches out to, or you can blame it on Holden himself, but the fact of the matter is it's no one's fault because it's not our fault that empathy is inherently limited.

Everyone in the book, including Holden, is self-involved, but they're self-involved because that is the nature of being a person.

So if you only think about the Holden the story is happening to, it's pretty crap depressing.

Crap is the new darn? Apparently.

It's when I think about the other Holden that I get hopeful, Hank. Because a year later he's writing a story about the person he was, and the way he writes the story makes us care. NOW we are able to listen to him, NOW we are able to empathize. That's the miracle of text I would argue, but it's also the miracle of non-literal communication. The hunting hat, the movies, the carousel, that's his way into us. That's how he gets inside of us and makes us care, makes us believe in him, makes us realize that he is a person in the same way that we are.

So ultimately Hank, that's my answer to people who say that "all that English class stuff" ruins books. All that "English stuff" is Holden's way into us, and our way out of ourselves. Hank, I'll see you soon.

Hey Willie, tell the Nerdfighters their next clue. Tell them that their next clue is taped to a sign in Daniel Biss's front yard.