Catcher In The Rye Themes Essay, Research Paper
catcher in the rye: themes
The Catcher In The Rye
In a novel, the theme is the insight of real life. J.D. Salinger’s initiation novel, The Catcher In The Rye, describes the adventures of 16-year old Holden Caulfield, the protagonist and first person narrator, who refuses to grow up and enter manhood. The most important theme developed by Salinger is Holden’s problem of dealing with change; he has trouble dealing with death, he refuses to accept children’s loss of innocence as a necessary step in the growing-up process, and has difficulties with growing up.
Holden has a near obsession with the death of his younger brother Allie, who died at age thirteen due to leukemia. Holden had punched and broke all the windows in the garage out of anger; he says that his hands still hurt from the incident. Throughout the novel, Holden dwells on Allies’ death. From Holden’s thoughts, it is obvious that he loves and misses Allie. In order to hold on to his brother and to minimize the pain of his loss, Holden brings Allie’s baseball mitt along with him where ever he goes. The mitt has additional meaning and significance for Holden because Allie had written poetry, which Holden reads, from the baseball mitt. Towards the end of the book, Holden proves again that he can’t cope with death. Phoebe, his younger sister, is putting him on the spot by asking him what he likes, but Holden can only think of two nuns and a boy, James W. Castle. James W. Castle was a boy who Holden had lent his sweater to, Castle died unfortunately by being thrown out of a window wearing Holden’s sweater. Another thing that haunts Holden is the fact that during roll call in class, his last name always is called after Castles’ last name. After the brief moment of reminiscing, Holden irritates Phoebe by saying, “I like Allie?”. He has trouble acknowledging the death of his brother.
Holden cannot accept the loss of innocence as a step into the growing up process. The ones that he loves most, are those who are younger to him, they are innocent, and untouched by society’s truths. Holden says, “?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?I have to catch everybody if they go over the cliff?I’d just be the catcher in the rye?” Holden wants to save these little kids, to protect their innocence, not from falling from a cliff, but from the world. Another major moment of his protection is when he went to Phoebe’s elementary school to talk to her before he had to leave. He saw swear words on the walls, that made him crazy inside. Holden couldn’t stand the idea of Phoebe or her friend seeing the writing on the wall, they would wonder what it meant, and some dirty kid would tell them. Then, it would be just like Holden not doing his job, as in his vision of him saving the kids that were going to fall off the cliff. Holden attempted to wipe off some words from the wall, but he found out it was useless, he said, “If you had a million years to do it in, you couldn’t rub out even half the [swear] signs in the world. Its impossible.”
Holden doesn’t want to grow up. He speaks about adulthood, “?going to get an office job and make a lot of money like the rest of the phonies.” Although Holden tries to do grown up things, he still wants to be a kid. He envies childhood and it’s innocence. He is in an elevator and is confronted by a pimp; the pimp offers to give him a prostitute for five dollars. Holden accepts the offer and then, the prostitute comes to the door, comes inside, and Holden pays her and doesn’t receive her services.
In summary, Holden has trouble dealing with change. Holden can’t deal with death, loss of innocence, and growing up. These complications lead him into an asylum for the insane. He seems to be happy there.