Catcher In Rye: Point Of View Essay, Research Paper
The World Through Holden Caulfield s Eyes
When writing a novel, the author has the option of using the first or third person narrative. In The Catcher in the Rye, J.K. Salinger creates Holden Caulfield in the first person. As we go from one adventure to the next, we see everything that happens from Holden s point of view. This helps to make him a sympathetic character.
Throughout the novel, Holden Caulfield has a constant inner monologue which reflects on everything that s going on in his life. By listening to this monologue, we have an unobstructed view into his mind and the way it works. This is demonstrated when he tells us how people want him to act his age. ” I get bored sometimes when people tell me to act my age. Sometimes I act a lot older than I am I really do but people never notice it. People never notice anything.” (9) This particular bit of personal wisdom Holden shares with us greatly helps us in identifying with his character. The concept of a child criticizing adults for their behavior is common in reality but it literature is often expressed with the idea of “that s the way I thought before I became wise.” Rarely is the situation seen from the perspective of the wayward but eloquent adolescent. In other words, he reveals the perversity of adult thought for all to see, something with which fellow adolescents can easily identify. Sometimes Holden, using his inner monologue, analyzes a hypothetical situation. While he s walking in the city without his gloves, he ponders what he would do if he found the boy who stole them. Upon finding the gloves in the thief s closet, he decides that he would probably make a few threats but not do anything violent. “It s no fun to be yellow. Maybe I m not all yellow. I don t know. Maybe I m just partly yellow and partly the type that doesn t give much of a damn if they lose their gloves.” (89) Holden s acceptance of his own indifference is true insight. He does not torture himself by calling himself a coward; he knows what s important to Holden. He doesn t have to act like a tough guy over something as immaterial as a pair of gloves. It s this non-conformist strength of his that elicits admiration and consequently helps make him a sympathetic character.
While Holden is interacting with the other characters in the book, he expresses his true feelings to the reader. If the book were written in the third person, we would be forced to deduce what he is actually thinking and feeling by clues the author gives us. In the method Salinger applies, we see much more of Holden. For example, when he is in the hotel with the prostitute, Sunny, he tells her that he is twenty-two years old. She replies in disbelief, “Like fun you are.” (94) Holden finds this juvenile response, with its lack of profanity, strangely disturbing: he looks at the situation and sees that it is a girl, not a woman, who is prepared to sell herself to him. This ugly truth he finds hard to accept. Therefore, he declines Sunny s services but pays her anyway. A simple description of Sunny by some objective narrator would not have had the same effect as seeing Holden s subtle yet personal reaction. Later, when he visits his sister Phoebie at his parents apartment, he borrows eight dollars from her which she was going to use as Christmas money. Innocent and trusting as she is, Phoebie lends it to him without hesitation. In fact, to make him feel better, she says that she ll just “lend” it to him. Holden feels very bad about taking her money, asking that she lend him less; however, Phoebie insists he take it all. All of a sudden he starts to cry, not knowing the cause. Even though this scene is in the first person, giving Holden the ability to try to justify why he s crying and defend his ego, he does neither. Instead, says that he simply cried. He tells his story without any fear of judgement, establishing a relationship of confidentiality between him and the reader.
These private thoughts he shares with the reader show us what an insightful, intelligent, good human being Holden Caulfield is and work to establish his place as a sympathetic character. Still, as talented as Holden is at looking into things and isolating their true significance, he is equally adept in the fields of hypocrisy and self deception. He calls everyone a “goddamn phony” while he s the one who s a compulsive liar. In addition, he tends to yell when he talks to people and is completely unaware of it, as seen in his dialogues with Sally Hayes and Carl Luce. Furthermore, he is unable to make the connection between the dream he has of catching children at the edge of a cliff with his own fear of growing up. He s too na ve to see how he s preventing his still child-like self from entering the confusing, depressing, and sometimes dangerous realm of adulthood. But even these negative qualities are useful in that they compound his complexity. Like us, Holden is imperfect and ultimately even more deserving of sympathy.