Theme Of Catcher In The Rye Essay

, Research Paper

In the novel Catcher in the Rye bye J.D. Salinger, the protagonist Holden Caulifield views the world as an evil corrupt place where there is no peace. Holden has a phony phobia that restricts him from becoming a fully matured adult. In Holden’s attempted journey in becoming a fully matured adult, he encounters many scenarios involving friendship, personal opinions, and his love of children. His journey is an unpleasant and difficult one with many lessons learned along the way; including the realization that he is powerless to change the world.

Around every corner Holden sees corruption. He looks out on a world, which appears completely immoral and unscrupulous. Holden finds a hard time associating with older, mature individuals. Most of Holden’s fondest memories are of those times with his younger siblings. His comments of innocence help establish this connection “ You take adults, they look lousy when they’re asleep and they have their mouths way open, but kids don’t. Kids look alright.” (pg 159). Holden’s moral revulsion against anything that is ugly, evil, cruel, or what he calls ‘phony’ and his acute responsiveness to beauty and innocence, especially the innocence of the very young is what distances him from adults who he feels create feelings of grief for him. Holden believes that he can change the world and he reveals his feelings on a date with Sally ‘“ Did you ever get fed up? … I mean did you ever get scared that everything was going to go lousy unless you did something…”’(pg 130). Holden proposes to Sally to escape this world with him. It is finally to his younger sister that Holden reveals that he wants to prevent children from growing up. He blames the world’s corruption on adults and believes that when he stops the children from growing up he will preserve their innocence and save the world.

Holden’s phony addiction gets him into trouble at school. Holden looks for the flaws in everyone and tries to eliminate that person he sees as a threat, such as when Holden decides to face off against the phony Stradlater after Stradlater’s date with Jane. Holden also thinks every teacher is a phony who pretends to be helpful to students. If Holden has trouble in school he does not seek help from his peers because he believes that they are phonies. Hence this point is tied into one of the reasons he is kicked out of Pencey, failing four out of five courses. Holden’s avoidance of things phony is very strong and he has a one-track mind. It is either his way or the highway, this is another example of how Holden’s phony problem hinders his chance at full maturity. Holden is so scared of becoming what he considers wrong- a phony- that he does not even want to experience new events, encounters, or new people. Holden comments, if he could star in a movie short ho phony he would seem. Thus he would turn down the offer if it arose “ I’d be a phony if I let them stick me in a movie short” (pg 72). Holden in other words does not like to open himself to others and shies away from interaction.

Holden encounters “ Fuck you” (pg 202) written on the wall, he carefully rubs this off with his hand to protect the innocent children from reading it. Later on he finds “*censored* you” (pg 202) scratched into the surface with a knife. He discovers that he cannot efface this one. Even in the timeless peace of the Egyptian tomb room at the museum there is an inerasable “ *censored* you” (pg 204). This incident is the beginning of Holden’s realization that his dreams are infeasible and that he is helpless to stop the corruption and that there is nowhere he can go to hide from it either. Holden sees that he can not stop children from growing up and losing their innocence and that they will fall if they fall, there is nothing that he can do about that.

Holden learns in the novel Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger that the world is corrupt and filled with evil. He also knows now that he is powerless to stop both evil and maturation. As a matter of fact, he learns that it is also bad to do so. Though due to his phony phobia he becomes lonely and gets himself into trouble where he is not going to ever fully mature.


catcher in the rye


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