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by J.D. Salinger

Wisdom and Knowledge Theme

"Teddy" explores different kinds of wisdom and knowledge. Main character Teddy embraces a spiritual understanding of the world and the soul, and discusses at length the danger of logic and intellectual concerns. Logic, he explains, gets in the way of real knowledge. To grasp how the world really works, he says, we have to rid ourselves of logic. Teddy's serene understanding of life and death is contrasted with the overly academic concerns of Nicholson, whose self-congratulatory approach to knowledge seems to be looked down on by the author.

Questions About Wisdom and Knowledge

  1. Why does Nicholson get up "rather suddenly" at the end of the text and rush after Teddy?
  2. Teddy tells Nicholson that, if he had his way, he would make children vomit up the apple of logic and intellectual stuff before trying to teach them anything. What does he plan on teaching them, and why would logic or intellectual stuff get in the way?
  3. If Teddy is supposed to be beyond logical and intellectual pursuits, why is he so concerned with word games, and looking up words and phrases in the dictionary?

Chew on This

Try on an opinion or two, start a debate, or play the devil’s advocate.

An overly-logical, analytical, or intellectual approach to "Teddy" obscures the story's real meaning.

In "Teddy," Salinger reveals his lighthearted approach to Zen and pokes fun at those who take it too seriously.

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