Say What I Want, Do As I Please

Hello there! My name is Melinda, nice to meet you.

Well that was certainly a different greeting than how most people would start off their blog post. But try this one.

How are you doing? My name is Phuong, nice to meet you.

You probably had to stop and wonder how that name is pronounced and by the time you have a clue on how to say this one syllable name, you’re not even paying attention to me. First and foremost, both of the names mentioned are my names, I was born as Phuong but from fifth grade onward, many people know me as Melinda. It is very likely that you are confused how this would correlate in any shape or form to my title-which foreshadows that I will talk about language (words) and actions. What we say and HOW we translate it across are all based on our responses to the judgments that we receive, and of course, the names given to us from our parents hold a very dear and personal value to us-it is the FIRST thing that people will scoff at and judge. A short story called “The F Word” by Firoozeh Dumas is one that I can relate to the most. She talked about the different ways people would react to her when she used her unique Iranian name, “Firoozeh”, which means Turqoise in Farsi, versus her American name, Julie.

As Phuong, many peers didn’t seem to pay attention to me as much, I was simply another “FOB”-meaning fresh off the boat- and wasn’t cool enough to hang out with them. The more embarrassed I became about my own identity, the more reserved and resentful I became. I started to dress with the trend and talked with slangs…all these efforts to be more “Americanized”. In reality, my actions really couldn’t hide my culture and how I am, the real me. But that’s not to say I don’t like being Melinda because I really do. The name is elegant and on the plus side, no one really knows a Melinda so I always feel special that I’m not just another Asian “Michelle” or “Jennifer”.

And that was my answer to my first question: What purpose does expressing yourself with words serve?

The first form of self-expression is through your name because not only is it unique to you and only you (ok, maybe with the rest of the 100,000 other people), but a stranger can have a sense of your culture and be able to know you that way. You live your WHOLE life under that one name and it is your job to feel comfortable and grow into that name. Once you are sure of who you are, all your actions and words will follow through beautifully. But above that, we express because we want companionship in others, we want to share a part of ourselves, to connect, to feel, to love.

In Catcher in the Rye, language is Holden Caulfield’s weapon. It is all he really knows. But once you master something, you are rather weak in another area, and Holden’s weakness is his inability to express himself through actions. Why does he struggles so much? All his problems started because he is already an insecure individual who has a hard time coping with a brother’s death and the idea of growing up. When you embrace reality, the world is not that complicated. Your life up until this point has been cultivated through your decisions, which was based off of your emotions, and under all that emotions is insecurity. Throughout the book, Holden brings up Jane, a girl he has been crushing on forever, to a lot of his acquaintances but he never really goes out of his way (and be a man for that matter) and show Jane that he cares through real actions even though Holden is clearly frustrated, both mentally and sexually. To Stradlater, Holden holds back a lot about his feelings because he doesn’t want to seem desperate. Why is it so hard for people to say what they mean? Simple. Steven Pinker, author of “Words Don’t Mean What They Mean”, explained that when you converse with someone, number one, you are trying to convey a message and ALSO “continue to negotioate that relationship”. Holden simply wanted to seem like the “bad boy” who wouldn’t cry over a girl to Stradlater.

Through my experiences and from reading this book, I learned that you should just live life. Tell the world what you want to say, regardless if others disagree, and do what scares you the most. Until then, you are not truly living.

fly free

Soar above your struggles. (not my pic)


Actions VS Words

There’s the common phrase, “Actions speak louder than words.” People can say that they love you but it isn’t as effective as showing that love. Showing that love could be opening doors for the person, making them food, or playing with their hair. People can be total hypocrites. Where they say they hate it when someone does something but go and do the thing they just said they didn’t like other people doing. My class has just finished reading Catcher in the Rye and the narrator, Holden, hated the movies. He didn’t like the actors because they were “phony” and anyone who watched the movies were also “phony”. Yet he went on a date with Sally to the movies. People can say that they can do something and brag about it but when it comes to a point where they actually have to do it, they chicken out. Holden always talked about how he could fight and would always win. When a guy that was in charge of the hookers showed up at his door demanding the rest of the payment, Holden refused to pay. This resulted in a fist fight in which Holden got beaten into a pulp. He said that he could fight but didn’t even try when the other guy was throwing him punches. You can say things but they won’t mean as much as what you do to prove those words. Actions do speak louder than words.

catcher in the rye


Why is it so hard for people to express themselves?

All though we have all been told how we should all express ourselves and not hide anything inside. But for some people it can be very difficult to express themselves.

I think that a person’s peers play a large role in whether or not they choose to express themselves. This can be seen clearly in “The Catcher in the Rye”. Holden spends a large amount of the novel trying to get people to listen to him. Though he talks to several people throughout the story he doesn’t feel as if any of them are really listening to him. This causes him to not express himself through his words because he feels as if no one cares and no one wants to listen.

Another common reason for someone not to express themselves is a fear of being judged. They might feel that if they express how they feel to someone whether through writing or verbally that the person might see it as annoying or tease them(Expressing Emotions: Why is it so difficult?.Yasinski). While this is common, it is not a fear that anyone should have to have. It has become part of our society to be self-centered, so a lot of people seem uninterested when someone else and how that person feels is the topic of discussion. This causes many people to shy away from expressing themselves.

I believe that a fear of being judged is also a reason why in “The Catcher in the Rye” Holden struggles to express himself, and when he does say something he usually contradicts it. He fears that if he says something that someone else might make fun of him or disagree with him. So, he contradicts it later hoping to please everyone.

There are a lot people that just struggle to express themselves verbally. A lot of people prefer to express themselves through their writing because they are afraid that they will be judged of the express themselves verbally. This is the reason why many people chose to keep journals or diaries. “The reason for this preference once again has to do with how our brains are wired: written words use different pathways in the brain, which seem to flow fluently for many introverts” (Why do introverts struggle to speak.Granneman). While they are afraid to express themselves verbally they can express themselves just as effectively through their writing and it causes them less stress and anxiety.

So through my reading I think that I have learned that there are many parts of a person’s surroundings and peers that determine how comfortable they are with expressing themselves, and that is why many people struggle with expressing themselves.

Do As You Say And Say As You Do… or at least try

The Catcher in the Rye really is an interesting book. I am glad to say that I ended the year with a novel like this because it leaves me thinking. First lets talk about the protagonist Holden Caulfield, shall we? His personality spoke to me from the first page. “If you really want to hear about it”, he states, “the first thing you’ll want to know is where I was born, and what my lousy childhood was like…but I don’t feel like going into it, if you want to know the truth” (pg. 1). From the beginning, Holden is engaging me into a conversation. Now whether his intended audience was me or not is debatable, but from where I was sitting, that is sure how it felt like. Holden began speaking as if he was answering a question you were dying to know. His words wanted readers to believe that he was this interesting, cool character that is basically better than everybody else. But when occasions come to test that theory, his actions say otherwise.

Holden first contradicts himself in the first page, whether he realizes it or not. He starts off saying that he doesn’t want to talk about himself and his whole life story but that is exactly what he ends up doing throughout the whole book. Holden shares with readers the best and worst times of his life. Holden has a habit of contradicting himself in every turn. An example is when he stated, “I’m quite illiterate, but I read a lot” (pg.18).But it’s one thing to say something and then say the complete opposite, and another to say something and do the complete opposite. Because as my sister always puts it, “actions speak louder than words”.

The time that Holden called the prostitute is a good example of this. Holden was trying to convince readers (or himself) how he was feeling sexy so he called a prostitute to come meet him in his hotel room. Only when she came, he suddenly wanted to just sit down and talk. “Don’t you feel like talking for a while?” Holden asks (pg 95). Then when the prostitute got mad because she thought she wasn’t getting paid, Holden assured her saying, “I said I’d pay you for coming and all. I really will. I have plenty of dough” (pg 97) to which he totally ignores when he decides not to give her the ten dollars.

Holden displays personality through his actions and his aura through his words. His actions shows his indecisiveness. “While I don’t believe any one action defines who someone is, I think there’s something to this. Actions speak louder than words. And repeated actions are what shape our character and reputation,” said Lori Deschene in an article. “A good man doesn’t have to go around bragging about being one. He lets his actions speak louder than his words” tweeted @Digitaldrop. This all proves that what you say isn’t the whole truth if it isn’t proven by a little action.


Actions v. Words

Do people pay more attention to words or actions? This was my question I considered while reading “Catcher in the Rye” these past couple weeks. I’ve come to the conclusion, as I thought I would, that people really are more receptive to actions over words. In addition, words describing actions rather than feelings tend to be far more powerful.

Throughout the book, Holden experiences countless occasions of his words being ignored, but his actions being taken slightly more seriously. However, they’re not taken too seriously, as he did punch out the windows in the garage and his parents didn’t send him to therapy then, but still.

Holden also contradicts himself a lot; he constantly says he hates the movies, but imagines himself in one in multiple scenes. In those times, readers overlook his words and just see his actions, which seem to speak louder and tell a different story.

I also definitely don’t think Catcher is the only example of this. Even different kinds of words are more believable than others. If someone says that they’re mad, you’ll probably believe them, but you won’t really have any reason to. But if they say that they were so mad they yelled at their mom, brother, and dog, you’ll probably believe them even more, as long as they’re a trustworthy person.

It’s these specifics that make things like political speeches much easier to swallow and believe. For example, in President Nixon’s Checker’s Speech, rather than saying how he’s an honest person that doesn’t use campaign funds for inappropriate things, he tells a very specific story. Nixon discusses how he got a dog from a voter and through an elaborate display of appeal to pathos he convinces his audience of his good character.

And one of the most obvious examples of actions over words is the breaking of a promise. Whether something small, like keeping a minor secret, or something huge, like Hitler invading Poland even though he said he wouldn’t. Well, that’s pretty extreme, but you get the idea. Throughout history and throughout our everyday lives we see people saying one thing and doing another. And whether they speak before or after doing, we tend to believe what their actions tell us more than their words. Why? Well, let’s leave that for the psychoanalysts to think about.