Building Mood Swings


         As soon as the concept of making an architectural structure to represent an aspect of the book The Catcher in the Rye I immediately knew how it should be designed. Reading through the book I realized that Holden was an unusual character and I would definitely base my structure off of the characterization the author had created. While reading the novel there were three main points that stuck out about Holden; his different emotions, his mental instability, and his need in running away from everything. These three key points were the inspiration that led me to design this structure.

         At the very beginning it was clear that Holden was two faced. He would often push others away and at other times he would long for company. For this reason there are two separate building connected together. One side of the building is dark and jagged. This dark side represents his dark self. He constantly talks of being depressed and sick. In the book the word “depress” is used fifty times to describe Holden. One case is “I was too depressed to care whether I had a good view or not.” (Salinger). This dark side of the building is larger because this is the majority of Holden’s personality. Holden’s need to push everyone away is further emphasized by the jagged sides of the dark section. A striking example of he pushes people away is how extremely judgmental he is of everything and everybody. He criticizes the people who are boring, insecure, and “phony.”  In the text Holden describes other as phony a total of 33 times! An example is when Lillian came over and said “"How marvelous to see you!" Holden immediately though “Strictly a phony. You could tell the waiter didn't like her much, you could tell even the Navy guy didn't like her much, even though he was dating her. And I didn't like her much. Nobody did ‘I was just leaving,’ I told her” (Salinger). Holden is so obsessed with characterizing people he starts to hate them and just push them away as he did with Lillian.

         The other side is a white standard rectangular looking building which represents his alter ego. As this looks like a standard building it represents how Holden at the end finally decides to grow up like all the other kids. Salinger concludes his story by Holden saying he is supposed to go to a new school in the fall and thinks that he will apply himself there. In the last page of the novel it says, “this one psychoanalyst guy they have here, keeps asking me if I'm going apply myself when I go back to school next September.” and Holden responds by saying, “ I think I am” As this part of the structure is a standard rectangular building it shows Holden finally growing up just like all the other students.

            Perhaps the most important characteristic is that the dark side has no base. This isn’t balanced as it represents Holden’s lack of motivation. Holden cannot fully continue anything and he keeps running away from his problem. He never balances himself and stays in one place. The text is full of examples showing Holden’s true personality. Spencer, Holden’s professor had flunked Holden and called Holden to talk to him. Early on in the book while Spencer and Holden were having a conversation. Spencer said, “I doubt very much if you opened to your textbook even once during the whole term. Did you?” and Holden responded with “I glanced through it” I didn’t want to hurt his feelings. (Salinger 10-11). It showed that Holden never tried at all and was lazy. He flunked out of school because he put in no effort therefore he almost pushed the school away. He only managed to pass one class which was English because he enjoyed that class. His lack of interest and motivations shows why there is no base in the structure.

         The dark side is formed through connections of multiple smaller pieces. These glued pieces represent how Holden’s emotions are scrambled but all held together to form his ultimate self. Holden is an extremist, he feels depressed, sometimes nervous, and sometimes furious. All of these extreme emotions fit together to form himself. For example in the novel, Mr. Antollini was Holden’s favorite teacher, and he invited Holden to come to his house. When Holden went to sleep and woke up alarmed to find Mr. Antolinni’s hand patting his head he immediately freaked out. “boy, was I nervous! I started putting on my damn pants in the dark. I could hardly get them on I was so damn nervous.” (Salinger). Another example of Holden’s extreme personality is when he became furious at Stradlater, Holden’s clean handsome roommate. Holden had asked Stradlater if he had sex with his crush, Jane. When Stradlater didn’t respond Holden says, “This next part I don't remember so hot. All I know is I got up from the bed, like I was going down to the can or something, and then I tried to sock him, with all my might, right smack in the toothbrush, so it would split his goddamn throat open.” Clearly Holden has extreme personalities which are why the dark side is formed with random abstract smaller pieces.

         Additionally, in this structure in the people’s perspective there are no clear openings showing how difficult it is for people to let him open up to them. However at a bird’s eye view there are openings at the top which shows that if you see all sides to Holden you will be able to fully understand him like Holden’s little sister. 

         Entering in this simple structure it will be very light in one side of the structure. This is because there is no roof and all light can enter through and illuminate the building. This side will be pleasant and spacious, resembling Holden at his mature state at the very end of the book. The other side of the building will be completely dark, no transparency, and not spacious at all. It will be filled with pins and sharp objects. Overall it will not be a pleasant building just like meeting Holden at his dark state. As mentioned previously at his dark state Holden tends to be judgmental and criticize others. The spatial relationships between the two sides will be completely different.

         Overall the process was very direct. No changes were ever involved in the process. My partner and I had a very clear understanding on how we wanted our project to be. Once the study model was built the final project would be an exact replica except for the material used. The only change we had made was that in the beginning we wanted a pathway leading toward a light outside of the structure. However due to time constraints we eliminated the idea of this.

         At the start of this project I hated the idea of building an architectural model to represent an aspect of The Catcher n the Rye. I’ve always been literal, closed minded, and the opposite of creative. I was simply hoping to write an essay just to get the assignment done. However, when we started sketching and building, I felt as if my mind completely opened up. I thought of many different ideas and was able to successfully build a structure. This process was so much fun and it lets readers think about the novel in a whole new way. I went from thinking Holden was just a mentally unstable person to fully understanding the connections and his true personality. This project was a fantastic journey and I recommend trying it to everyone!

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