LEO

Home » Posts tagged 'Teddy'

Tag Archives: Teddy

Spiritual and Intellectual Challenges

By Daniella Pozo, V Form

Spiritual and Intellectual Challenges

In “Teddy,” J.D. Salinger provides the reader with an onslaught of observations and religious teachings in order to challenge even the most highly educated. Through Nicholson’s eyes, the audience feels hostility towards Teddy stemming from deeply ingrained American close-mindedness. How the reader experiences the ensuing conversations depends on one’s ability to welcome doubt. The core story is not meant to sway one’s spiritual beliefs in any direction but rather to make one aware of how susceptible or hostile they are. Themes of American elitism and consumerism seep into Nicholson’s everyday life and nearly keep him from considering any outside perspectives. Through the character of Nicholson, Salinger challenges the reader to focus on nuance and open consideration of ideas instead of focusing on the objective correctness or conclusion to spirituality. 

Nicholson is introduced as a young man with “a kind of poise about him” and wearing a jacket “properly aged in some of the more popular postgraduate seminars at Yale, or Harvard, or Princeton” (Salinger 76). The audience identifies with Nicholson because he seems to be respectable and highly educated. Among his circle, there exist two views: those who are premature to devalue radically different ideas and those that hail those ideas as pure genius. Teddy is a novelty to the Leidekker examining group who choose to play his tape at a party, a setting that trivializes Teddy’s insights and the research process. Nicholson does not approach Teddy out of good faith or love of research but rather because he wants to disprove Teddy for his own ego. He interrupts Teddy and disrespects his beliefs by calling them “mystical” (78). His voice and demeanor falsely suggest that he is above most Americans who do not want to engage with differing ideas. When Teddy decides to teach and ask him how he knows his arm is truly an arm, Nicholson is defensive. This reaction aligns with the resistant attitude American audiences may feel towards Teddy’s personality, insights, and spiritual beliefs. Unfortunately, Nicholson can not understand the merits or downfalls of Teddy’s arguments until he can genuinely engage with them first. Salinger is demanding the audience set aside any preconceived notions so they may understand “what [their] arm really is, if [they’re] interested” (79). In order to read Nicholson’s journey and draw conclusions, readers must balance their American socialization and academic nature. 

(more…)