Tag Archives: John Lennon’s Assassin

The Catcher in the Rye – Book’s I’ve read

The Catcher in the Rye

1951 Novel

by

J. D. Salinger

JD Salinger

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The Catcher in the Rye is J . D. Salinger’s world-famous novel of disaffected youth

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See The Death of John Lennon

See Mark Chapman

The Catcher in the Rye is a 1951 novel by J. D. Salinger.[3] A controversial novel originally published for adults, it has since become popular with adolescent readers for its themes of teenage angst and alienation.[4][5] It has been translated into almost all of the world’s major languages.[6] Around 250,000 copies are sold each year with total sales of more than 65 million books.[7] The novel’s protagonist Holden Caulfield has become an icon for teenage rebellion.[8] The novel also deals with complex issues of identity, belonging, loss, and connection.

The novel was included on Time‍ ’​s 2005 list of the 100 best English-language novels written since 1923[9] and it was named by Modern Library and its readers as one of the 100 best English-language novels of the 20th century.[10][11][12] In 2003, it was listed at #15 on the BBC‘s survey The Big Read.

Plot summary

Holden begins his story at Pencey Preparatory, an exclusive private school (fictional, though based on Salinger’s own experience at Valley Forge Military Academy) in Agerstown, Pennsylvania, on the Saturday afternoon of the traditional football game with rival school Saxon Hall. Holden ends up missing the game. As manager of the fencing team, he loses their equipment on a New York City subway train that morning, resulting in the cancellation of a match. He goes to the home of his history teacher named Mr. Spencer. Holden has been expelled and isn’t to return after Christmas break, which begins the following Wednesday. Spencer is a well-meaning but long-winded middle-aged man. To Holden’s annoyance, Spencer reads aloud Holden’s history paper, in which Holden wrote a note to Spencer so his teacher wouldn’t feel bad about failing him in the subject.

Holden returns to his dorm, which is quiet because most of the students are still at the football game. Wearing the new red hunting cap he bought in New York City, he begins re-reading a book (Out of Africa), but his reverie is temporary. First, his dorm neighbor Ackley disturbs him, although Holden is quite patient about it. Then later, he argues with his roommate Stradlater, who fails to appreciate a composition that Holden wrote for him about Holden’s late brother Allie’s baseball glove. A womanizer, Stradlater has just returned from a date with Holden’s old friend Jane Gallagher. Holden is distressed that Stradlater might have taken advantage of Jane. Stradlater doesn’t appreciate Jane in the manner in which Holden does; he even refers to Jane as “Jean.” They fight; Stradlater wins easily. Holden decides he has had enough of Pencey Prep and catches a train to New York City, where he plans to stay in a hotel until Wednesday, when his parents expect him to return home for New Years vacation.

He checks into the dilapidated Edmont Hotel. After observing the behavior of the “perverts” in the hotel room facing his, he struggles with his own sexuality. He states that although he has had opportunities to lose his virginity, the timing never felt right and he was always respectful when a girl declined. He spends an evening dancing with three tourist women in their 30s from Seattle in the hotel lounge and enjoys dancing with one, but ends up with only the check (to pay). He is disappointed that the women seem unable to carry a conversation. Following an unpromising visit to Ernie’s Nightclub in Greenwich Village, Holden agrees to have a prostitute named Sunny visit his room. His attitude toward the girl changes the minute she enters the room; she seems about the same age as he is. Holden becomes uncomfortable with the situation, and when he tells her that all he wants to do is talk, she becomes annoyed and leaves. Even though he still pays her the right amount for her time, she returns with her pimp Maurice and demands more money. Sunny takes five dollars from Holden’s wallet; Maurice punches Holden in the stomach.

After a short sleep, Holden, lonely and in need of personal connection, telephones Sally Hayes, a familiar date, and they agree to meet that afternoon to attend a play. Holden leaves the hotel, checks his luggage at Grand Central Station and has a late breakfast. He meets two nuns, one an English teacher, with whom he discusses Romeo and Juliet. Holden shops for a special record, “Little Shirley Beans,” for his 10-year-old sister Phoebe. He likes this record and knows Phoebe will enjoy it. He spots a small boy singing “If a body catch a body coming through the rye“, which makes him feel less depressed. The play he sees with Sally features Broadway stars Alfred Lunt and Lynn Fontanne. Afterward Holden and Sally go skating at Rockefeller Center. While drinking Coke, Holden impulsively invites Sally to run away with him to the wilderness. She declines, acts uninterested, and is too arrogant to try and understand Holden’s point of view. Her responses deflate Holden’s mood, prompting him to remark: “You give me a royal pain in the ass, if you want to know the truth.” He regrets it immediately, apologizing many times. Sally won’t accept his apology and doesn’t let him take her home. She states, “No boy ever said that to me in my entire life.” Sally storms off as Holden follows, pleading with her to accept his apology. When she won’t do so and gets angry, Holden finally leaves. After that, Holden sees the Christmas show at Radio City Music Hall, endures a film, and gets very drunk. Throughout the novel, Holden has been worried about the ducks in the lagoon at Central Park. He tries to find them but breaks Phoebe’s record in the process, causing him to almost cry. He feels that he may not be good enough, and the record was the only thing he thought he had to offer to his sister. Exhausted physically, mentally, and financially, Holden heads home to see Phoebe.

Holden recalls the Museum of Natural History, which he often visited as a child. He contrasts his evolving life with the statues of Eskimos in a diorama: whereas the statues have remained unchanged through the years, he and the world have not. Eventually, he sneaks into his parents’ apartment while they are out, to visit his younger sister—and close friend—Phoebe, the only person with whom he seems to be able to communicate his true feelings. Holden shares a selfless fantasy he has been thinking about (based on a mishearing of Robert BurnsComin’ Through the Rye): he pictures himself as the sole guardian of thousands of children playing an unspecified ‘game’ in a huge rye field on the edge of a cliff. His job is to catch the children if, in their abandon, they come close to falling off the brink; to be, in effect, the “catcher in the rye”. Because of this misinterpretation, Holden believes that to be the “catcher in the rye” means to save children from losing their innocence.

When his parents come home, Holden slips out and visits his former and much-admired English teacher, Mr. Antolini, who offers advice on life along with a place to sleep for the night. Mr. Antolini, quoting psychologist Wilhelm Stekel, advises Holden that wishing to die for a noble cause is the mark of the immature man, while it is the mark of the mature man to aspire to live humbly for one. This is at odds with Holden’s ideas of becoming a “catcher in the rye”, symbolically saving children from the evils of adulthood. During the speech on life, Mr. Antolini has a number of cocktails served in highball glasses. Holden is upset when he wakes up in the night to find Mr. Antolini patting his head in a way that he regards as “flitty” (homosexual). It makes Holden feel very uncomfortable and embarrassed. Confused and uncertain, he leaves as dawn is breaking and spends most of Monday morning wandering the city. He questions whether his interpretation of Mr. Antolini’s actions was actually correct, and seems to wonder how much it matters anyway.

Holden makes the decision that he will head out west and live as a deaf-mute. When he explains this plan to Phoebe Monday at lunchtime, she wants to go with him. Holden declines her offer, which upsets Phoebe, so Holden decides not to leave after all. Phoebe was looking forward to acting in a play that Friday. Despite outward frustration, it is clear Holden wants Phoebe to be happy and safe, and he didn’t think she would be if she left with him. “I think I hated her most because she wouldn’t be in that play any more if she went away with me.” He tries to cheer her up by taking her to the Central Park Zoo, and as he watches her ride the zoo’s carousel, he is filled with happiness and joy at the sight of Phoebe riding in the rain.

At the conclusion of the novel, Holden decides not to mention much about later events up to the present day, finding them inconsequential. He alludes to “getting sick” and living in some sort of institution, and mentions he will be attending another school in September; he relates that he has been asked whether he will apply himself properly to his studies this time around and wonders whether such a question has any meaning before the fact. Holden says that he doesn’t want to tell anything more because surprisingly he has found himself missing two of his former classmates, Stradlater and Ackley, and even Maurice, the pimp who punched him. He warns the reader that telling others about their own experiences will lead them to miss the people who shared them.

History

Various older stories by Salinger contain characters similar to those in The Catcher in the Rye. While at Columbia University, J.D. Salinger wrote a short story called “The Young Folks” in Whit Burnett‘s class; one character from this story has been described as a “thinly penciled prototype of Sally Hayes”. In November 1941, Salinger sold the story “Slight Rebellion off Madison,” which featured Holden Caulfield, to The New Yorker, but it wasn’t published until December 21, 1946 due to World War II. The story “I’m Crazy,” which was published in the December 22, 1945, issue of Collier’s, contained material that was later used in The Catcher in the Rye. A ninety-page manuscript about Holden Caulfield was accepted by The New Yorker for publication in 1946, but it was later withdrawn by Salinger.[14]

Writing style

The Catcher in the Rye is narrated in a subjective style from the point of view of Holden Caulfield, following his exact thought processes. There is flow in the seemingly disjointed ideas and episodes; for example, as Holden sits in a chair in his dorm, minor events, such as picking up a book or looking at a table, unfold into discussions about experiences.

Critical reviews agree that the novel accurately reflected the teenage colloquial speech of the time.[15] Words and phrases that appear frequently include:

  • “Phony” – superficial and pretentious
  • “That killed me” – I found that hilarious or astonishing
  • “Flit” – homosexual
  • “Crumbum” – inadequate, insufficient, and/or disappointing
  • “Snowing” – sweet-talking
  • “I got a bang out of that” – I found it hilarious or exciting
  • “Shoot the bull” – have a conversation containing false elements
  • “Give her the time” – sexual intercourse
  • “Chew the fat” – small-talk

Spoken pauses, such as “and all”, “I really did” pepper the narration as well as Holden’s dialogue.

Interpretations

Bruce Brooks held that Holden’s attitude remains unchanged at story’s end, implying no maturation, thus differentiating the novel from young adult fiction.[16] In contrast, Louis Menand thought that teachers assign the novel because of the optimistic ending, to teach adolescent readers that “alienation is just a phase.”[17] While Brooks maintained that Holden acts his age, Menand claimed that Holden thinks as an adult, given his ability to accurately perceive people and their motives. Others highlight the dilemma of Holden’s state, in between adolescence and adulthood.[18][19] Holden is quick to become emotional. “I felt sorry as hell for…” is a phrase he often uses.[18]

Peter Beidler, in his A Reader’s Companion to J. D. Salinger’s “The Catcher in the Rye”, identifies the movie that the prostitute “Sunny” refers to. In chapter 13 she says that in the movie a boy falls off a boat. The movie is Captains Courageous, starring Spencer Tracy. Sunny says that Holden looks like the boy who fell off the boat. Beidler shows (page 28) a still of the boy, played by child-actor Freddie Bartholomew.

Each Caulfield child has literary talent: D. B. writes screenplays in Hollywood; Holden also reveres D. B. for his writing skill (Holden’s own best subject), but he also despises Hollywood industry-based movies, considering them the ultimate in “phony” as the writer has no space for his own imagination, and describes D. B.’s move to Hollywood to write for films as “prostituting himself”; Allie wrote poetry on his baseball glove; and Phoebe is a diarist.[20][not in citation given] This “catcher in the rye” is an analogy for Holden, who admires in kids attributes that he struggles to find in adults, like innocence, kindness, spontaneity, and generosity. Falling off the cliff could be a progression into the adult world that surrounds him and that he strongly criticizes. Later, Phoebe and Holden exchange roles as the “catcher” and the “fallen”; he gives her his hunting hat, the catcher’s symbol, and becomes the fallen as Phoebe becomes the catcher.[21]

In their biography of Salinger, David Shields and Shane Salerno argue that “The Catcher in the Rye can best be understood as a disguised war novel.” Salinger witnessed the horrors of World War II, but rather than writing a combat novel, Salinger, according to Shields and Salerno, “took the trauma of war and embedded it within what looked to the naked eye like a coming-of-age novel.”[22]

Reception

The Catcher in the Rye has been listed as one of the best novels of the twentieth century. Shortly after its publication, writing for The New York Times, Nash K. Burger called it “an unusually brilliant novel,”[23] while James Stern wrote an admiring review of the book in a voice imitating Holden’s.[24] George H. W. Bush called it a “marvelous book,” listing it among the books that have inspired him.[25] In June 2009, the BBC‘s Finlo Rohrer wrote that, 58 years since publication, the book is still regarded “as the defining work on what it is like to be a teenager. Holden is at various times disaffected, disgruntled, alienated, isolated, directionless, and sarcastic.”[26] Adam Gopnik considers it one of the “three perfect books” in American literature, along with Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and The Great Gatsby, and believes that “no book has ever captured a city better than Catcher in the Rye captured New York in the fifties.”[27] Jeff Pruchnic wrote an appraisal of The Catcher in the Rye after the death of J.D. Salinger. In this article, Pruchnic focuses on how the novel continues to be received incredibly well, even after it has aged many generations. Pruchnic describes Holden as a “teenage protagonist frozen midcentury but destined to be discovered by those of a similar age in every generation to come”. [28]

However, not all reception has been positive; the book has had its share of critics. Rohrer writes, “Many of these readers are disappointed that the novel fails to meet the expectations generated by the mystique it is shrouded in. J. D. Salinger has done his part to enhance this mystique. That is to say, he has done nothing.”[26] Rohrer assessed the reasons behind both the popularity and criticism of the book, saying that it “captures existential teenage angst” and has a “complex central character” and “accessible conversational style”; while at the same time some readers may dislike the “use of 1940s New York vernacular” and other things.

Censorship and use in schools

In 1960, a teacher in Tulsa, Oklahoma was fired for assigning the novel in class; however, he was later reinstated.[29] Between 1961 and 1982, The Catcher in the Rye was the most censored book in high schools and libraries in the United States.[30] The book was banned in the Issaquah, Washington, high schools in 1978 as being part of an “overall communist plot”.[31] In 1981, it was both the most censored book and the second most taught book in public schools in the United States.[32] According to the American Library Association, The Catcher in the Rye was the 10th most frequently challenged book from 1990 to 1999.[10] It was one of the ten most challenged books of 2005,[33] and although it had been off the list for three years, it reappeared in the list of most challenged books of 2009.[34]

The challenges generally begin with Holden’s frequent use of vulgar language,[35][36] with other reasons including sexual references,[37] blasphemy, undermining of family values[36] and moral codes,[38] encouragement of rebellion,[39] and promotion of drinking, smoking, lying, and promiscuity.[38] Often the challengers have been unfamiliar with the plot itself.[30] Shelley Keller-Gage, a high school teacher who faced objections after assigning the novel in her class, noted that “the challengers are being just like Holden… They are trying to be catchers in the rye”.[36] A reverse effect has been that this incident caused people to put themselves on the waiting list to borrow the novel, when there were none before.[40]

Shooters citing the book as an influence

Several shootings have been associated with Salinger’s novel, including Robert John Bardo‘s shooting of Rebecca Schaeffer and John Hinckley, Jr.‘s assassination attempt on Ronald Reagan. After the killing of John Lennon, Mark David Chapman was arrested with a copy of the book that he had purchased that same day, inside of which he had written: “To Holden Caulfield, From Holden Caulfield, This is my statement”.[41][42]

Attempted adaptations

In film

Early in his career, Salinger expressed a willingness to have his work adapted for the screen.[43] In 1949, a critically panned film version of his short story “Uncle Wiggily in Connecticut” was released; renamed My Foolish Heart and taking great liberties with Salinger’s plot, the film is widely considered to be among the reasons that Salinger refused to allow any subsequent film adaptations of his work.[18][44] The enduring popularity of The Catcher in the Rye, however, has resulted in repeated attempts to secure the novel’s screen rights.[45]

When The Catcher in the Rye was first released, many offers were made to adapt it for the screen, including one from Samuel Goldwyn, producer of My Foolish Heart.[44] In a letter written in the early fifties, J. D. Salinger spoke of mounting a play in which he would play the role of Holden Caulfield opposite Margaret O’Brien, and, if he couldn’t play the part himself, to “forget about it.” Almost fifty years later, the writer Joyce Maynard definitively concluded, “The only person who might ever have played Holden Caulfield would have been J. D. Salinger.”[46]

Salinger told Maynard in the seventies that Jerry Lewis “tried for years to get his hands on the part of Holden,”[46] despite Lewis not having read the novel until he was in his thirties.[40] Celebrities ranging from Marlon Brando and Jack Nicholson to Tobey Maguire and Leonardo DiCaprio have since tried to make a film adaptation.[47] In an interview with Premiere magazine, John Cusack commented that his one regret about turning twenty-one was that he had become too old to play Holden Caulfield. Writer-director Billy Wilder recounted his abortive attempts to snare the novel’s rights:

Of course I read The Catcher in the Rye….Wonderful book. I loved it. I pursued it. I wanted to make a picture out of it. And then one day a young man came to the office of Leland Hayward, my agent, in New York, and said, ‘Please tell Mr. Leland Hayward to lay off. He’s very, very insensitive.’ And he walked out. That was the entire speech. I never saw him. That was J. D. Salinger and that was Catcher in the Rye.[48]

In 1961, Salinger denied Elia Kazan permission to direct a stage adaptation of Catcher for Broadway.[49] More recently, Salinger’s agents received bids for the Catcher movie rights from Harvey Weinstein and Steven Spielberg,[50] neither of which was even passed on to J. D. Salinger for consideration.

In 2003, the BBC television program The Big Read featured The Catcher in the Rye, interspersing discussions of the novel with “a series of short films that featured an actor playing J. D. Salinger’s adolescent antihero, Holden Caulfield.”[49] The show defended its unlicensed adaptation of the novel by claiming to be a “literary review”, and no major charges were filed.

After Salinger’s death in 2010, Phyllis Westberg, who was Salinger’s agent at Harold Ober Associates, stated that nothing has changed in terms of licensing film, television, or stage rights of his works.[51] A letter written by Salinger in 1957 revealed that he was open to an adaptation of The Catcher in the Rye released after his death. He wrote: “Firstly, it is possible that one day the rights will be sold. Since there’s an ever-looming possibility that I won’t die rich, I toy very seriously with the idea of leaving the unsold rights to my wife and daughter as a kind of insurance policy. It pleasures me no end, though, I might quickly add, to know that I won’t have to see the results of the transaction.” Salinger also wrote that he believed his novel was not suitable for film treatment, and that translating Holden Caulfield’s first-person narrative into voice-over and dialogue would be contrived.[52]

Banned fan fiction

In 2009, a year before his death, Salinger successfully sued to stop the U.S. publication of a novel that presents Holden Caulfield as an old man.[26][53] The novel’s author, Fredrik Colting, commented, “call me an ignorant Swede, but the last thing I thought possible in the U.S. was that you banned books”.[54] The issue is complicated by the nature of Colting’s book, 60 Years Later: Coming Through the Rye, which has been compared to fan fiction.[55] Although commonly not authorized by writers, no legal action is usually taken[56] against fan fiction since it is rarely published commercially and thus involves no profit. Colting, however, has published his book commercially. Unauthorized fan fiction on The Catcher in the Rye existed on the Internet for years without any legal action taken by Salinger before his death.[55]

Cultural influence

The Catcher in the Rye has had significant cultural influence, and works inspired by the novel have been said to form their own genre. The Nepali short film Milarepa in Prison borrows some ideas from The Catcher in the Rye as its main protagonist character has been influenced by the character of Holden Caulifield. [17] Dr. Sarah Graham assessed works influenced by The Catcher in the Rye to include the novels Less Than Zero by Bret Easton Ellis, The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky, A Complicated Kindness by Miriam Toews, The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath, Ordinary People by Judith Guest, and the film Igby Goes Down by Burr Steers.

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The Catcher in the Rye is J . D. Salinger’s world-famous novel of disaffected youth

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Mark David Chapman – John Lennon’s Killer

Mark David Chapman

See The Catcher in the Rye

See John Lennon’s Murder

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Let Me Take You Down

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 Inside The Mind Of Mark David Chapman, The Man Who Shot John Lennon:

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Mark David Chapman (born May 10, 1955) is an American prison inmate who murdered John Lennon on December 8, 1980. Chapman shot Lennon outside The Dakota apartment building in New York City. Chapman fired at Lennon five times, hitting him four times in the back. Chapman later remained at the crime scene reading J. D. Salinger‘s novel The Catcher in the Rye until the police arrived and arrested him. Chapman repeatedly said that the novel was his statement.

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Interview With Mark David Chapman John Lennon’s Assassin

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Chapman’s legal team put forward an insanity defense based on expert testimony that he was in a delusional and possibly psychotic state at the time, but nearing the trial, Chapman instructed his lawyer that he wanted to plead guilty, based on what he had decided was the will of God. The judge allowed the plea change without further psychiatric assessment after Chapman denied hearing voices, and sentenced him to a prison term of twenty years to life with a stipulation that mental health treatment be provided. Chapman was imprisoned in 1981 and has been denied parole eight times amidst campaigns against his release

Personal background

Chapman was born in Fort Worth, Texas in 1955.[1] His father, David Curtis Chapman, was a staff sergeant in the U.S. Air Force, and his mother, Diane Elizabeth (née Pease), was a nurse. His younger sister, Susan, was born seven years later. Chapman stated that as a boy, he lived in fear of his father, who he said was physically abusive towards his mother and unloving towards him. Chapman began to fantasize about having king-like power over a group of imaginary “little people” who lived in the walls of his bedroom. Chapman attended Columbia High School in Decatur, Georgia. By the time he was fourteen, Chapman was using drugs, skipping classes, and he once ran away from home to live on the streets of Atlanta for two weeks. He said that he was bullied at school because he was not a good athlete.[7]

In 1971, Chapman became a born again Presbyterian and distributed Biblical tracts. He met his first girlfriend named Jessica Blankenship. He began work as a YMCA summer camp counselor; he was very popular with the children, who nicknamed him “Nemo”. He won an award for Outstanding Counselor and was made assistant director.[7] Those who knew him in the caretaking professions unanimously called him an outstanding worker.[8] A friend recommended The Catcher in the Rye to Chapman, and the story eventually took on great personal significance for him, to the extent that he reportedly wished to model his life after its protagonist, Holden Caulfield.[7] After graduating from Columbia High School, Chapman moved for a time to Chicago and played guitar in churches and Christian nightspots while his friend did impersonations. He worked successfully for World Vision with Vietnamese refugees at a resettlement camp at Fort Chaffee in Arkansas, after a brief visit to Lebanon for the same work. He was named an area coordinator and a key aide to the program director, David Moore, who later said that Chapman cared deeply for the children and worked hard. Chapman accompanied Moore to meetings with government officials, and President Gerald Ford shook his hand.[8]

Chapman joined his girlfriend, Jessica Blankenship, as a student at Covenant College, an evangelical Presbyterian liberal arts college in Lookout Mountain, Georgia. However, Chapman fell behind in his studies and became obsessed with guilt over having an affair.[9][10] He started having suicidal thoughts and began to feel like a failure. He dropped out of Covenant College, and his girlfriend broke off their relationship soon after. He returned to work at the resettlement camp, but left after an argument. Chapman worked as a security guard, eventually taking a week-long course to qualify as an armed guard. He again attempted college but dropped out. He went to Hawaii and then began contemplating suicide.[9] In 1977, Chapman attempted suicide by carbon monoxide asphyxiation. He connected a hose to his car’s exhaust pipe, but the hose melted and the attempt failed. A psychiatrist admitted him to Castle Memorial Hospital for clinical depression. Upon his release, he began working at the hospital.[11] His parents began divorce proceedings, and his mother joined Chapman in Hawaii.[10]

In 1978, Chapman went on a six-week trip around the world, inspired partly by the film Around the World in Eighty Days, visiting Tokyo, Seoul, Hong Kong, Singapore, Bangkok, Delhi, Beirut, Geneva, London, Paris and Dublin. He began a relationship with his travel agent, a Japanese-American woman named Gloria Abe. They married on June 2, 1979. Chapman went to work at Castle Memorial Hospital as a printer, working alone rather than with staff and patients. He was fired by the Castle Memorial Hospital, rehired, then got into a shouting match with a nurse and quit. He took a job as a night security guard and began drinking heavily.[11] Chapman developed a series of obsessions, including artwork, The Catcher in the Rye, music, and John Lennon. He also started talking with the imaginary ‘little people’ again. In September 1980, he wrote a letter to a friend, Lynda Irish, in which he stated, “I’m going nuts.” He signed the letter, “The Catcher in the Rye”.[12] Chapman had no criminal convictions up to this point.[13]

Plan to murder John Lennon

Chapman allegedly started planning to kill Lennon up to three months prior to the murder.

He had been a big Beatles fan, idolizing Lennon, and played guitar himself, but turned on him after becoming born-again; he was angered at Lennon’s comment that the Beatles were “more popular than Jesus.” In the South, there were demonstrations, album burnings, boycotts, and projectiles were thrown. Some members of Chapman’s prayer group made a joke “It went, ‘Imagine, imagine if John Lennon was dead.'”[10] Chapman’s childhood friend Miles McManushe recalls his referring to the song as “communist”. Jan Reeves, sister of one of Chapman’s best friends, reports that Chapman “seemed really angry toward John Lennon, and he kept saying he could not understand why John Lennon had said it [that the Beatles were more popular than Jesus]. According to Mark, there should be nobody more popular than the Lord Jesus Christ. He said it was blasphemy.”[14]

Chapman had later also been influenced by reading in a library book (John Lennon: One Day at a Time by Anthony Fawcett) about Lennon’s life in New York. According to his wife Gloria, “He was angry that Lennon would preach love and peace but yet have millions [of dollars].” Chapman later said that “He told us to imagine no possessions, and there he was, with millions of dollars and yachts and farms and country estates, laughing at people like me who had believed the lies and bought the records and built a big part of their lives around his music.”[15]

He said that he chose Lennon after seeing him on the cover of The Beatles’ album, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. He also recalls having listened to Lennon’s John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band album in the weeks before the murder and has stated: “I would listen to this music and I would get angry at him, for saying that he didn’t believe in God… and that he didn’t believe in the Beatles. This was another thing that angered me, even though this record had been done at least 10 years previously. I just wanted to scream out loud, ‘Who does he think he is, saying these things about God and heaven and the Beatles?’ Saying that he doesn’t believe in Jesus and things like that. At that point, my mind was going through a total blackness of anger and rage. So I brought the Lennon book home, into this The Catcher in the Rye milieu where my mindset is Holden Caulfield and anti-phoniness.”[15]

Chapman also said that he had a further list of people in mind, including Johnny Carson, Marlon Brando, Walter Cronkite, Elizabeth Taylor, George C. Scott, and Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, but that John Lennon seemed to be the easiest to find. He separately said that he was particularly infatuated by Lennon. He also considered committing suicide by jumping from the Statue of Liberty.[16] Chapman’s planning has been described as ‘muddled’.[17] Chapman went to New York in October 1980, intending to kill Lennon.[12] He left for a short while in order to obtain ammunition from his unwitting friend in Atlanta, Dana Reeves, and returned to New York in November.

After being inspired by the film Ordinary People, Chapman returned to Hawaii, telling his wife he had been obsessed with killing Lennon. He showed her the gun and bullets, but she did not inform the police or mental health services. He made an appointment to see a clinical psychologist, but before it occurred he flew back to New York, on December 6, 1980.[10] Chapman says that the message “Thou Shalt Not Kill” flashed on the TV at him, and was also on a wall hanging put up by his wife in their apartment; on the night before the murder, Chapman and his wife discussed on the phone about getting help with his problems by first working on his relationship with God.[15]

On December 7, 1980, the day before the killing, Chapman accosted singer-songwriter James Taylor at the 72nd Street subway station. According to Taylor, “The guy had sort of pinned me to the wall and was glistening with maniacal sweat and talking some freak speak about what he was going to do and his stuff with how John was interested, and he was going to get in touch with John Lennon.”[18] He also reportedly offered cocaine to a taxi driver.[10]

Murder of John Lennon

Further information: Death of John Lennon

The entrance to the Dakota building where Lennon was shot

On December 8, 1980, Chapman left his room at the Sheraton Hotel, leaving personal items behind which the police would later find, and bought a copy of The Catcher in the Rye in which he wrote “This is my statement”, signing it “Holden Caulfield“. He then spent most of the day near the entrance to The Dakota apartment building where Lennon and Yoko Ono lived, talking to fans and the doorman. Early in the morning, a distracted Chapman missed seeing Lennon step out of a cab and enter the Dakota. Later in the morning, Chapman met Lennon’s housekeeper who was returning from a walk with their five-year-old son Sean. Chapman reached in front of the housekeeper to shake Sean’s hand and said that he was a beautiful boy, quoting Lennon’s song “Beautiful Boy (Darling Boy)“. Around 5:00 p.m., Lennon and Ono left The Dakota for a recording session at Record Plant Studios. As they walked toward their limousine, Chapman shook hands with Lennon and asked for him to sign a copy of his album, Double Fantasy.[19] Photographer Paul Goresh took a photo of Lennon signing Chapman’s album. Chapman reported that, “At that point my big part won and I wanted to go back to my hotel, but I couldn’t. I waited until he came back. He knew where the ducks went in winter, and I needed to know this” (a reference to The Catcher in the Rye).

Around 10:49 p.m., the Lennons’ limousine returned to the Dakota. Lennon and Ono got out, passed Chapman and walked toward the archway entrance of the building. From the street behind them, Chapman fired five shots from a .38 special revolver, four of which hit Lennon in the back and left shoulder. The death certificate[20] gives the following description: “Multiple gunshot wounds of left shoulder and chest; Left lung and left subclavian artery; External and internal hemorrhage. Shock.”

At the time, one newspaper reported that, before firing, Chapman softly called out “Mr. Lennon” and dropped into a crouched position.[21] Chapman said that he does not recall saying anything and that Lennon did not turn around.[22]

Chapman remained at the scene, appearing to be reading The Catcher in the Rye, until the police arrived. The New York City Police Department officers who first responded, recognizing that Lennon’s wounds were severe, decided to transport him to Roosevelt Hospital. Chapman was arrested without incident. In his statement to police three hours later, Chapman stated, “I’m sure the big part of me is Holden Caulfield, who is the main person in the book. The small part of me must be the Devil.”[20] Lennon was pronounced dead by Dr. Stephan Lynn at 11:07 p.m. at St. Luke’s-Roosevelt Hospital Center.

Legal process

Chapman was charged with second degree murder. When asked why he used hollow-pointed bullets, Chapman responded “because they are more deadly” and “to ensure Lennon’s death.”[23]

Gloria Chapman, who had known of Chapman’s preparations for killing Lennon, hired an attorney who stated at a press conference: “Gloria did not do anything or participate in any way in this trip in a knowing way or in a way in which she did consciously in any way lend any support to Mark’s actions”.[24][25]

Mental state assessment

More than a dozen psychologists and psychiatrists studied Chapman in the six months before the scheduled trial – three for the prosecution, six for the defense and several more on behalf of the court – involving batteries of tests and over 200 hours of clinical interviews. None concluded that he was feigning or malingering. In fact, Chapman cooperated more with the prosecution experts than the defense. The court experts who examined Chapman at Bellevue Hospital concluded that he was delusional yet competent to stand trial. However their report stated that he “may continue to have psychotic episodes” and warned of “fluctuations of mood and…cooperation” with his legal counsel.

The six defense experts declared that Chapman was psychotic (five making a diagnosis of paranoid schizophrenia and one of psychotic manic depression) while the three prosecution experts declared that his delusions fell short of psychosis and instead diagnosed various personality disorders.

Chapman was also seen by religious officials, initially by Rev. Charles McGowan, pastor of Chapman’s old church Chapel Woods Presbyterian, which resulted in Chapman renewing his belief in God and Satan. However they fell out when McGowan released personal details to the media, and for the time being Chapman returned to emphasizing The Catcher in the Rye and wanting a trial to publicize it further.[26]

Plea

Lawyer Herbert Adlerberg was assigned to represent Chapman but, amid threats of lynching, withdrew. Police feared that Lennon fans might storm the hospital so they transferred Chapman to Rikers Island.[27]

In January 1981, at the initial hearing, Chapman’s new lawyer, Jonathan Marks, entered a plea of not guilty by reason of insanity. In February, Chapman sent a handwritten statement to The New York Times urging everyone to read The Catcher in the Rye, calling it an “extraordinary book that holds many answers.”[28] The defense team sought to establish witnesses as to Chapman’s mental state at the time of the killing.[29] It was reported they were confident he would be found not guilty by reason of insanity, in which case he would have been committed to a state mental hospital and received treatment.

However, in June, Chapman told Marks he wanted to drop the insanity defense and plead guilty. Marks objected with “serious questions” over Chapman’s sanity, and legally challenged his competence to make this decision. In the pursuant hearing on June 22, Chapman said that God had told him to plead guilty and that he would not change his plea or ever appeal, regardless of his sentence. Marks told the court that he opposed Chapman’s change of plea but that Chapman would not listen to him. Judge Dennis Edwards refused a further assessment, saying that Chapman had made the decision of his own free will, and declared him competent to plead guilty.

Sentencing

On August 24, 1981, the sentencing hearing took place. Two experts gave evidence on Chapman’s behalf. Judge Edwards interrupted Dorothy Otnow Lewis, a research psychiatrist then relatively inexperienced in the courtroom, indicating that the purpose of the hearing was to determine the sentence and that there was no question of Chapman’s criminal responsibility. Lewis has maintained that Chapman’s decision to change his plea did not appear reasonable or explicable, and she implies the judge did not want to allow an independent competency assessment.[32] The district attorney argued that Chapman committed the murder as an easy route to fame. When Chapman was asked if he had anything to say, he rose and read the passage from The Catcher in the Rye, when Holden tells his little sister, Phoebe, what he wants to do with his life:

Anyway, I keep picturing all these little kids playing some game in this big field of rye and all. Thousands of little kids, and nobody’s around – nobody big, I mean – except me. And I’m standing on the edge of some crazy cliff. What I have to do, I have to catch everybody if they start to go over the cliff – I mean if they’re running and they don’t look where they’re going I have to come out from somewhere and catch them. That’s all I do all day. I’d just be the catcher in the rye and all.

The judge ordered psychiatric treatment in prison and sentenced Chapman to 20-years-to-life, 5 years less than the maximum sentence of 25-years-to-life.[33] Chapman was given five years less than the maximum because he pled guilty to second degree murder, thereby avoiding the time and expense of a trial.

Imprisonment

In 1981, Chapman was imprisoned at Attica, outside of Buffalo, New York. After Chapman fasted for 26 days in February 1982, the New York State Supreme Court authorized the state to force feed him. Martin Von Holden, the director of the Central New York Psychiatric Center, said that Chapman still refused to eat with other inmates but agreed to take liquid nutrients.[34] Chapman was confined to a Special Handling Unit (SHU) for violent and at-risk prisoners, in part due to concern that he might be harmed by Lennon’s fans in the general population. There were 105 prisoners in the building who were “not considered a threat to him,” according to the New York State Department of Correctional Services. He had his own prison cell, but spent “most of his day outside his cell working on housekeeping and in the library.”[35]

Chapman worked in the prison as a legal clerk and kitchen helper. He was barred from participating in the Cephas Attica workshops, a charitable organization which helps inmates to adjust to life outside prison. He was also prohibited from attending the prison’s violence and anger management classes due to concern for his safety. Chapman reportedly likes to read and write short stories. At his parole board hearing in 2004, he described his plans; “I would immediately try to find a job, and I really want to go from place to place, at least in the state, church to church, and tell people what happened to me and point them the way to Christ.” He also said that he thought that there was a possibility he could find work as a farmhand or return to his previous trade as a printer.[36] The Daily Mirror reported he wanted to set up a church with his wife.[37]

Chapman is in the Family Reunion Program, and is allowed one conjugal visit a year with his wife,[38] since he accepted solitary confinement. The program allows him to spend up to 42 hours alone with his wife in a specially built prison home. He also gets occasional visits from his sister, clergy, and a few friends. In 2004, James Flateau, a spokesman for the state’s Department of Correctional Services, said that Chapman had been involved in three “minor incidents” between 1989 and 1994 for delaying an inmate count and refusing to follow an order.[39] Chapman was transferred to the Wende Correctional Facility in Alden, New York, which is east of Buffalo, on May 15, 2012.[6]

Parole applications and campaigns

Denied Parole for Seventh Time ABC News

As the result of his sentence of 20 years to life, Chapman first became eligible for parole in 2000, and is entitled to a hearing every two years. Since that time, Chapman has been denied parole eight times by a three-member board. Shortly before Chapman’s first hearing, Yoko Ono sent a letter to the board opposing his release from prison.[40][41] In addition, New York State Senator Michael Nozzolio, chairman of the Senate Crime Victims, Crime and Correction Committee, wrote to Parole Board Chairman Brion Travis saying: “It is the responsibility of the New York State Parole Board to ensure that public safety is protected from the release of dangerous criminals like Chapman.”[42]

At the 50-minute hearing in 2000, Chapman said that he was not a danger to society. The parole board concluded that releasing Chapman would “deprecate the seriousness of the crime and serve to undermine respect for the law” and that Chapman’s granting of media interviews represented a continued interest in “maintaining your notoriety.” They noted that although Chapman had a good disciplinary record while in prison, he had been in the SHU and didn’t access “anti-violence and/or anti-aggression programming.”[43] Robert Gangi, a lawyer for the Correctional Association of New York, said that he thought it unlikely Chapman would ever be freed because the board would not risk the “political heat” of releasing Lennon’s killer.[44] In 2002, the parole board stated again that releasing Chapman after 22 years in prison would “deprecate the seriousness” of the crime, and that while his behavioral record continued to be positive, it was no predictor of his potential community behavior.[45] The parole board held a third hearing in 2004, and declined parole yet again. One of the reasons given by the board was having subjected Ono to “monumental suffering by her witnessing the crime.” Another factor was concern for Chapman’s safety; several Lennon fans had threatened to kill him if he were released. Ono’s letter opposing his release stated that Chapman would not be safe outside of prison. The board reported that its decision was based on the interview, a review of records and deliberation.[35] Around 6,000 people had signed an online petition against Chapman’s release by this time.[46]

In October 2006, the parole board held a 16-minute hearing and concluded that his release would not be in the best interest of the community or his own personal safety.[47][48] On December 8, 2006, the 26th anniversary of Lennon’s death, Yoko Ono published a one-page advertisement in several newspapers saying that December 8 should be a “day of forgiveness,” and that she was not yet sure if she was ready to forgive Chapman.[49] Chapman’s fifth hearing was on August 12, 2008. He was denied parole “due to concern for the public safety and welfare.”[50] On July 27, 2010, in advance of Chapman’s scheduled sixth parole hearing, Ono said that she would again oppose parole for Chapman stating that her safety, that of John’s sons, and Chapman’s would be at risk. She added, “I am afraid it will bring back the nightmare, the chaos and confusion [of that night] once again.”[51] On August 11, 2010, the parole board postponed the hearing until September, stating that it was awaiting the receipt of additional information to complete Chapman’s record.[52] On September 7, the board denied Chapman’s latest parole application, with the panel stating “release remains inappropriate at this time and incompatible with the welfare of the community.”[5]

It was announced on August 18, 2012, that Chapman would have his seventh parole hearing the week beginning August 20.[53] However, Chapman was denied parole by a three-member board who stated, “Despite your positive efforts while incarcerated, your release at this time would greatly undermine respect for the law and tend to trivialize the tragic loss of life which you caused as a result of this heinous, unprovoked, violent, cold and calculated crime.”[54] Chapman’s eighth parole application was denied in August 2014. At the hearing, Chapman said, “I am sorry for being such an idiot and choosing the wrong way for glory.”[55] “I have peace now in Jesus,” he continued. “He has forgiven me and loves me. He has helped me in my life like you wouldn’t believe.”[citation needed] Chapman’s next scheduled parole hearing will be in August 2016.

Impact

Following the murder, and for the first six years in Attica, Chapman refused all requests for interviews. James R. Gaines interviewed him and wrote a three-part, 18,000-word People magazine series in February and March 1987.[26][56][57] Chapman told the parole board he regretted the interview. Chapman later gave a series of audio-taped interviews to Jack Jones of the Democrat and Chronicle. In 1992 Jones published a book, Let Me Take You Down: Inside the Mind of Mark David Chapman, the Man Who Killed John Lennon.[58]

Also in 1992, Chapman gave two television interviews. On December 4, 1992, 20/20 aired an interview that he gave to Barbara Walters, his first television interview since the shooting.[59] On December 17, 1992, Larry King interviewed Chapman on his program Larry King Live.[60] In 2000, with his first parole hearing approaching, Jack Jones asked Chapman to tell his story for Mugshots, a CourtTV program. Chapman refused to go on camera but, after praying over it, consented to tell his story in a series of audiotapes.

Chapman’s experiences during the weekend on which he committed the murder have been turned into a feature-length movie called Chapter 27, in which he was played by Jared Leto. The film was written and directed by Jarrett Schaefer and is based on the Jones book. The film’s title is a reference to The Catcher in the Rye, which has 26 chapters.[61] Chapter 27 premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in January 2007 and received polarized reactions from critics. The film had a limited release in theaters in the United States in March 2008.[62] Chapter 27 was released widely onto DVD on September 30, 2008. Another film was made before the feature film entitled The Killing of John Lennon starring Jonas Ball as Chapman, which documents Chapman’s life before and up to the murder and portrays Chapman in a somewhat sympathetic light. The film features Ball as Chapman narrating the film and states that all the words are Chapman’s own.

A number of conspiracy theories have been published, based on CIA and FBI surveillance of Lennon due to his left-wing activism, and on the actions of Mark Chapman in the murder or subsequent legal proceedings. Barrister and journalist Fenton Bresler[63] raised the idea in a book published in 1990.[64] Liverpool playwright Ian Carroll, who has staged a drama conveying the theory that Chapman was manipulated by a rogue wing of the CIA, suggests Chapman wasn’t so crazy that he couldn’t manage a long trip from Hawaii to New York shortly prior to the murder.[65] Claims include that Chapman was a Manchurian candidate, including speculation on links to the CIA’s Project MKULTRA. At least one author has argued that forensic evidence proves Chapman did not commit the murder,[66] while others have criticized the theories as based on possible or suspected connections and circumstances.

In 1982, Rhino Records released a compilation of Beatles-related novelty and parody songs, called Beatlesongs. It featured a cover caricature of Chapman by William Stout. Following its release, Rhino recalled the record and replaced it with another cover.[67] New York-based band Mindless Self Indulgence released a track entitled “Mark David Chapman” on their album If. Irish band The Cranberries recorded a song called “I Just Shot John Lennon,” for their 1996 album To the Faithful Departed. It cites events that took place outside the Dakota on the night of Lennon’s murder. The title of the song comes from Chapman’s own words.

Austin, Texas-based art rock band …And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead have also released a song called “Mark David Chapman” from their 1999 album Madonna. Julian Cope‘s 1988 album Autogeddon contains a song called “Don’t Call Me Mark Chapman” whose lyrics suggest it is told from the point of view of Lennon’s murderer. Filipino band Rivermaya released a song called “Hangman (I Shot the Walrus)” on their album Atomic Bomb (1997), supposedly written from Mark Chapman’s point of view.[68]

Chapman’s obsession with the central character and message of the The Catcher in the Rye added to controversy about the novel. Some links have been drawn between Chapman’s and the book’s themes of adolescent sensitivity and depression on the one hand, and anti-social and violent thoughts on the other. This connection was made in the play Six Degrees of Separation and its film adaptation by the character played by Will Smith.[69]

Links have sometimes been drawn between Chapman’s actions and those of other killers or attempted killers. John Hinckley, who only months later tried to assassinate President Ronald Reagan, was also associated with The Catcher in the Rye. Further, John Hinckley’s father, John Hinckley, Sr, was president of World Vision, for whom Chapman was employed. More recently, a writer who experienced mental illness in the same city as Jared Loughner has suggested that examples such as Chapman’s show the need to challenge stigma about mental health problems and ensure there are good community mental health services including crisis intervention.

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Let Me Take You Down

Click image to buy this book

Inside The Mind Of Mark David Chapman, The Man Who Shot John Lennon:

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