’s The Catcher In The Rye Essay, Research Paper
J.D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye provides a provocative inquiry into the crude life of a depressed adolescent, Holden Caulfield. Without intensive analysis and study, Holden appears to be a clearly heterosexual, vulgar yet virtuous, typical youth who chastises phoniness and decries adult evils. However, this is a fallacy. The finest manner to judge and analyze Holden is by his statements and actions, which can be irrefutably presented. Holden Caulfield condemns adult corruption and phoniness but consistently misrepresents himself and is a phony as well as a hypocrite.
Holden criticizes phonies although he engages in phony conversations and uses ‘phony’ words. Before he leaves Pencey Prep, in his visit with Mr. Spencer, Holden partakes in an obviously phony conversation. During their talk old Spencer uses the term “grand” (p7) which infuriates Holden, “Grand. There’s a word I really hate. It’s a phony” (p9). But he had already used the word “nice” (p1) and later uses the word “swell” (p124) both of which are ‘phony.’ Later, while he was on the train he struck up a phony conversation with Mrs. Morrow. In order to elicit pity from her, and misrepresent himself, he explained his reason for going home early was not that he was flunking classes (the truth) but, that he had “to have this operation” (p58). Holden deceives others by misrepresenting himself and acting phony.
Holden is a hypocrite because he continually enjoys what he virulently condemns. He proclaims that he hates “the movies like prison” (p29). However, he goes to the movies. He also states, “I don’t like any shows” (p117) and, “I don’t like [the Lunts]” (p125), even though he purposely bought tickets for Sally and him to watch the Lunts. Once in the theater, he expounds, “the show wasn’t as bad as some I’ve seen” (p125). Holden is insolent towards his school, stating it’s “for the birds” (p4). However, once again he contradicts himself by remarking that it has a “very good academic rating” (p8) and “it’s as good as most schools” (p55). Further confirmation that Holden is a phony.
Once in his room at the Edmont Hotel, Holden is quick to become a voyeur to the erotic and carnal activities of others in the hotel. Although he supposedly detests what he sees he does observe a male transvestite for quite a while. Holden says, “the hotel,” which he personally chose, “was lousy with perverts” (p62). While staring at the obscene acts being performed he admits that “that kind of junk is fascinating” and he wouldn’t mind doing it “if the opportunity came up” (p62). Another example Holden’s hypocrisy. He criticizes the ‘perverts’ then acknowledges he would do the same thing if he could.
Holden claims to be heterosexual but that is ‘phony’ to shroud his subconscious, homosexual propensities. Holden is quite bold in announcing his own sexual attractiveness at several times through out the novel. He boisterously declares, “I am quite sexy” (p54) and that he is “probably the biggest sex maniac you ever saw” (p62). Both of these statements are made by Holden to impress upon the reader his sexual prowess. It is a thinly veiled attempt which allows Holden not to express his true intimate feelings, which he is timid to admit. In order to expose the doubt in his sexual commitments one should examine his statements and actions as well as the conduct of those he associates with.
Holden affiliate with two other gay men, Mr. Antolini and Carl Luce. Salinger is careful to connect the three through their attraction to older women, possibly as a means to conceal their true sexual desires. Carl Luce is dating a Chinese woman who is “in her late thirties” (p145). While Antolini is married to a woman who was “about sixty years older” (p181) than him. Furthermore, Holden becomes attracted to Mrs. Morrow as seen in his personal observations. He said, “she was very good looking” (p54) and “had quite a lot of sex appeal” (p56). The link of older woman is not a coincidence but rather a cognizant attempt to link the three.
In his relations with females, Holden sabotages his relationships. When he is with Sally Hayes he starts to fool around with her but when they are in a cab and can only “horse around” (p125). While in the hotel Holden observes the other perverts who arouse him. “I was feeling pretty horny” (p63) he admits, after watching a male transvestite (see above). Next, he decided to call Faith Cavendish, (an ‘easy’ girl who “didn’t mind doing it once in a while” p63) at a time when he knew she could not meet him. Then, when she attempts to make contact with him later he avoids it by declaring, “Tonight’s the only time I can make it” (p66). A premium example of his subconscious controlling his rejection of women was with Sunny, the prostitute. In that situation, Holden has a girl alone with him in private, who is willing to engage in intimate relations with him but when she started “getting funny. Crude and all” (p97) Holden gets nervous and says he just had an “operation” in order to avoid making sexual contact. He then loses ten dollars and gets beat-up because he refused to get friendly with a girl. All three of the incidents described above were opportunities in which Holden decided not to get sexual with girls and went so far as to purposefully avoid them. On sexual matters Holden is a hypocrite.
A flagrant and disturbing case of homosexuality takes place in the home of Mr. Antolini. First, when Holden goes to bed Antolini says “Good night, handsome” (p191). Next, while Holden is sleeping on a couch, with his pants off, he is awakened by Antolini “petting” him “on the G.D. head” (p192). This situation is compounded by the fact that for Holden, that “kind of stuff’s happened to me about twenty time since I was a kid” (p193). In addition, perverts were always “being perverty when I’m [Holden] around” (p105). Such evidence is indisputable, as it is stated by Holden himself.
Holden Caulfield’s alleged rebellion is non-existent because he has joined the phonies and corrupt adults, as evident in his conversations and self-contradictory actions. Moreover, his constant prevarications about himself serve to disguise his true feelings which he is reluctant to admit. His desire to be a catcher in the rye reveals his insecurity and want to have someone ‘catch’ him. Holden is a confused juvenile who displays a tough and vulgar attitude to conceal his delicate and chaotic psyche. The conflicts that he must face because of his evasion of the truth and hypocrisy eventually overwhelm him and lead to his mental breakdown.