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Holdens Lonliness And His Inablity To Grow

Up Essay, Research Paper


Holden is essentially a loner. His biggest problem is that he is very depressed because he has no one to talk to. Although Holden is friendly with many people at school, and although he has several friends in New York, he is constantly lonesome and in need of someone who will sympathise with his feelings of alienation. But the question that arises is why is he such a loner. The reason is that he cannot cope with people, with school, or with every day problems that people his age must face. He avoids reality by living a fantasy life, and every forced contact with reality drives him deeper. Holden cannot communicate effectively. On many occasions in the book we observe that Holden can’t deal with pleasant situation. This is the reason for half of his problems. He does not take responsibility for his own actions. Teens his age are supposed to be responsible for their actions and conduct but Holden has a habit of never owning up his mistake, instead he always blames some one else for his follies. He has no commitment towards important human relation such as parents, friends, teachers etc. He subjects every one he meets to a probing examination, and almost every one fails. This factor also significantly contributes toward his loneliness.

Holden’s inability to communicate and deal with people effectively is probably the largest obstruction in his path to maturity. Throughout the book we see that how hard is it for Holden to have a normal conversation. The very fragmentation of Holden’s speech, his frequent of phrases like ’sort of’, ‘and all’, and ‘I mean’; shows his ineptitude in conversation. For example, after his conversation with the two nuns, he was glad that they didn’t ask him if he was a catholic or not, because, “That kind of stuff drives me crazy. I am not saying that it ruined our conversation or any thing – it didn’t – but it sure as hell didn’t do it any good”, (pg. 113,para I) and, “It wouldn’t have spoiled the conversation if they had, but it would’ve been different, probably “, (pg. 113,para I) From these statements we can observe that either he himself is not sure what he wants to say or he knows what to say but cannot properly mold his thoughts in to words. Either way this inability to communicate effectively is a major factor in his inability to cope with the adult world and often led him into all sorts of troubles. In his encounter with Maurice; Holden’s lack of knowledge of what to say and when to say it got him a smacking from the pimp. In another situation Holden could not effectively communicate his feeling about Jane with Stradlater. Because of this he got into a fight with Stradlater. This made him so depressed that he left the school the same evening. Even the plenitude of uncompleted phone calls that permeate the novel bears witness to his inability to communicate.

Responsibility for one’s action and conduct is an integral part of growing up. As a child grows he learns to be responsible and face the facts of life. But in Holden’s case it was opposite. In the beginning of the novel we come to know that Holden has just flunked out of his fourth prep school. Because of his age, school should be the most important institution of his life. Instead, he casually remarks, “I forgot to tell you, they kicked me out.” And instead of being expelled he said that he flunked because he was surrounded by phonies. Holden’s personality is immature as we see in his visit to Mr.Spencer. When Mr.Sencer asked him if he had any concern for his future, Holden replied, “Oh, I feel some concern for my future. All right. Sure. Sure, I do but not to much.” This kind of reply shows that Holden has not even thought about the consequences of flunking and being kicked out. He has not even given a second thought to what future holds for him. When Holden was the manager of the fencing team, he lost all the foils and equipment on the subway. He was supposed to be in charge and keep an eye on all the things but not only did he failed to do his duty, when the fencing team ostracised him, he refused to admit his mistake and said that he lost them because he had to keep looking at the map. Holden does all the things opposite of what is asked to be done. He read a lot of books, he says in the opening chapters, “I read a lot of books but I am quite illiterate.” In this statement Holden is using the word illiterate to express other people standards what he means is, ” I don’t read they want me to read.” As Stradlater later said, ” You don’t do one damn thing the way you are suppose to.” Learning to spend money carefully is also apart of growing up but Holden spends all his money like a gambler. He had quite a bit of money when he left Pency but he spends it all in two days so he had to ask his kid sister Phoebe for some. And instead of being careful with it, he spended irresponsibly too. Where he could have gone on bus, he took a cab; not only did he drink too much but he also asked others to drink and paid the bill himself. This shows not only his irresponsibility but also is carelessness, which is one of the reasons of his troubles.

Holden’s inability to relate to the world is also evident in his lack of commitment towards relationships. This habit makes him a loner; he is desperate to talk to any one but cannot commit himself to an intelligent and meaningful conversation. The comments that he makes at the very beginning about his parents tells us that he probably doesn’t get along very well with them. This doubt is confirmed when we reach the part about Allie’s death. Holden slept in the garage the night Allie died and broke all of it’s windows to reduce his grief; instead he should have been near his parents and should have talked to them about it. Holden doesn’t even know how to deal with a potentially pleasant situation. On his encounter with Mrs.Morrow in the train, he gave her a false name, drew a fraudulent picture of her son and to top it all told her an outrageous lie about himself that effectively ended the conversation. The lie seemed stupid because he was enjoying the conversation. He seems to keep himself from succeeding in communicating with other people. When it comes to friends we see that Holden is a hopeless grumbler who always keeps an eye on other peoples weaknesses. He lives in a fantasy world where everyone is perfect and when he sees a fault in any one, he keeps that in mind and thinks of that person as a ‘phony’. For this reason he could not get along very well with other people. Stradlater was in a very good mood after his date with Jane Gallagher, and started getting playful with Holden but he lands into a fight Stradlater due to his misconceptions. Holden might be 17 but his mind is definitely immature. Even a prostitute calls him a crum bum. On his date with Sally he comes up with a foolish and impractical idea of running away to Massachusetts and Vermont. And when she puts him down he said, “C’mon lets get outta here. You give me a royal pain in the ass, if you want to know the truth.’ This remark made Sally mad and Holden was left alone again. From this kind of remark we can see that Holden is a failure with girls too. He does not know how to talk according to the situation and this is on of the leading reasons of his depression and loneliness.

We saw Holden having trouble fitting into the world he lived in. From the above examples we can conclude that Holden’s problems are self-imposed and not due to anyone else’s fault. He himself is to blame for all his miseries. When others try to be friendly with him, he puts them down. He is careless & irresponsible and he is not committed towards important human relationships such as family or friends. These all factors contribute to make him less & less attractive for other people. Thus he is left alone. We can realize his loneliness by this statement; ” I sort of miss everybody I told you about. Even old Stradlater and Ackley, for instance. I think I even miss that goddamn Maurice.” But instead of realizing his mistake and improving them, he blames others of being phony. He is not ready to adapt to the rules and ways of the real world. In the epilogue when the psychoanalyst asks him if he is going to apply himself when he goes back to school next fall, he says he has no idea. This kind of response shows that he is willing to analyze himself or take any responsibility. Holden is a total failure in the art of effective communications. His mind is mixed up of what to say and what not to say. His inability to judge what to say at a particular time also contributes to his loneliness. But perhaps the biggest culprit in this case is his lack of commitment towards critical relationships such as family or friendship. We observed that throughout the novel he did not have a close and meaningful relationship with anyone except his sister, Phoebe. And he nearly spoiled it too, in the end. In the situation there is nothing anyone can do to improve his condition. It is upto Holden that how much is willing to the possibility of re-entering the society.