Holden Caulfield Essay, Research Paper
Holden Caulfield, the narrator and the main character of The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger, is a young adult, who, at first seems to simply describes his four day adventure in New York City after bring expelled from his forth school. However, at the same time he narrates more; through his many experiences, which he describes in the book, we can see the themes of the work. The theme that definitely stands out is the loss of innocence. Holden portrays himself as an individual, who does not want to grow up and change. From the beginning, it is obvious that Holden does not like anyone, except children. To Holden, the world around him, the adult world and all of its members, is phony. In other words, the innocent world of children is the only world that appeals to Holden. However, in the end the
reader also gets to see Holden’s change and eventual surrender to the adult world. The Catcher in the Rye is simply about Holden’s futile resistance to growing up and his surrender. Holden’s attempts to refuse maturing are seen through his failures in education, his attitude towards the adult world, and his caring for only children, but his sudden fall into maturity shows there is no escape from growing up.
Holden’s actions and the way he describes his experiences clearly show his refusal to grow up. The first sign of Holden’s refusal to leave the childhood world behind is his constant failures in school. Holden has been kicked out of several schools already, from each one within a short period of time, and in the beginning of the book we see him expelled once again. Holden was expelled due to his failing most of his classes because he never worked hard for any of them due to his claims that his classmates and teachers were a bunch of phonies. No matter who Holden meets or sees or even knows, he considers then all to be phonies. The only people, who Holden admires and does not ever put down, are the children which he encounters such as his dead brother Allie and his sister younger Phoebe. Holden continually talks about how great Allie was throughout the book, which leads us to question why, since his brother is dead. He does the same with his younger sister Phoebe, but he never talks about any adults, not even his parents in a positive fashion. Holden not only express his bitter attitude toward the people, but also towards the places that he goes. He does not enjoy himself anywhere he goes, and is clearly bored and wants to be somewhere else. However, there are always exceptions, and in this case it is the museum, which Holden used to visit when he was younger. The museum is a sacred place to Holden because “everything always stayed right where it was,” (121) and nothing ever changed about the place.
As the result, his actions lead us to believe that he is scared of growing up and becoming phony like the rest of the world around him. Holden is scared of education because it is part of maturing, which then makes him a part of the world of phonies, which he is trying so hard to avoid. We can then easily figure out that the reason why Holden admires Allie so much is because his brother never lost his innocence, but died a child. That is also the reason he loves his sister so much, because she is also a child. Holden, although never admitting to it, wishes he could be like Allie and Phoebe, or any child for that matter. Holden not only wants to remain a child himself, but also wants to prevent others from growing up, which would explain his love for the museum and his wanting to become a catcher in the rye. Holden loved the museum because it did not change, which is very important to Holden since he is giving his all to prevent change. Holden’s desire to become a catcher in the rye is key to his idea of remaining a child and preventing other youth from falling into the world of phonies. Holden just simply wants to “catch [the children]” (173) so to prevent their fall, perhaps because he wants somebody to do the same for him, but as we discover shortly there is no catching him and that he himself is falling into adulthood.
Holden begins to change shortly after his visit with Mr. Antolini, his favorite teacher in school. Although he does not know it, but part of his innocence is lost on his way out of Mr. Antolini’s apartment. The idea of Mr. Antolini, someone he admired, making a homosexual advance on him, scared Holden and played a major role in his transformation into adulthood. It gave him a lot to think about, although throughout the book, Holden is in the state of nonstop dizziness and nausea, which is strange because he is in perfect health. That, however, changed while he was waiting for his sister to say good-bye due to his departure. Holden went to the museum, and there to his surprise he found cursing on the wall, which made Holden realize there is no escape from the adult world. He saw that no matter what anyone does or where anyone turns, they cannot run away from the inevitable event of growing up, because nothing was completely innocent. That idea, at first, was too much to handle for Holden, and as the result, he passed out in the museum bathroom. However, Holden “felt better after he passed out . . . [and he] didn’t feel so . . . dizzy any more” (204). The event without a doubt symbolizes Holden’s transformation into adult hood and the end of his dream to become the one who saved all of the children. However, the events following the incident give us an idea and a clear understanding. Holden also, while watching Phoebe on the carousel, decides that, “The thing with kids is, if they want to grab . . . you have to let them do it, and not say anything. If they fall off, they fall off, but it’s bad if you say anything to them” (211). Holden can never be a catcher in the rye anymore, and he has grown up.