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English teachers’ favorite books: Ms. Olson

Dana Olson

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Catcher in the Rye
By J. D. Salinger

Ms. Olson poses with a copy of Catcher in the Rye. Photo by Madison Olsen

Ms. Olson poses with a copy of Catcher in the Rye. Photo by Madison Olsen

“I feel like every time I read it I get something new out of it and I always really liked it. In high school, I read it on my own my sophomore year. I’ve had to read it for school, and I’ve read it on my own but I always enjoy it.

“I feel like as you grow as a person and different things in the novel stand out to you. What stood out to you when you read it the first time when you were 15 will be different from when you read it again at 18 or 21 because you’ve grown as a person. Every time I reread it forces me into some sort of self reflection and analyzing how I have changed since I was 15 years old. Different books have meant something to me at different parts of my life.

“Holden Caulfield, the main character, leaves his prep school and walks around New York City trying to figure it something out. He doesn’t know what he’s trying to figure out, he doesn’t know what he feels or what he’s doing, but he’s trying to figure something out.

“[With] The Catcher in the Rye you either love it or you hate it, and for some reason Holden didn’t bother me. Even I don’t relate that much to Holden as the character, because we’re two very different people, I think everyone can relate to just like not really knowing exactly who you are, who you want to be, and wanting to have an adventure without adventuring too hard.

“Everyone either loves him or hates him, there’s not really a middle ground. Holden is high school age, so some of the things that he’s feeling are very pertinent to most high school students who kind of don’t know exactly what they want to do.

“He’s really smart, but he doesn’t put in any effort in school. He’s been kicked out of multiple preparatory schools. It’s not like he’s not smart enough, because he’s clearly super smart, and he just doesn’t want to put in the work. I think also a lot of students are really smart but don’t want to put in the effort and are unmotivated, and Holden’s the exact same way.

“He’s not motivated because he doesn’t know what his end goal is, and I think a lot of high school students don’t know what their end goal is. Our society puts so much pressure on [high school kids].

“The fact is the book doesn’t have a perfect tied-with-a-bow kind of ending, but it’s also clearly not a happy ending. I’m not saying if you don’t get motivated, your life is going to suck, I’m saying that the feeling of relating to someone–[of] knowing that it’s OK that you don’t know exactly what you want–and [the knowledge that] there are other people out there who are trying to figure it out is helpful.”

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English teachers’ favorite books: Ms. Olson