, Research Paper
The Catcher in the Rye
It is a worldwide known concept that communication among different people is a necessity of one’s life if it is to be a happy one. Human companionship is something everyone will do anything for. Yet, some people have difficulties in communicating with others especially when they see problems among the people they try to communicate with. In this novel, “The Catcher in the Rye,” the author, J.D. Salinger, illustrates the protagonist’s difficulty in communicating with other people, especially with the women he encounters throughout the novel. The reader can see Holden Caulfield’s failed attempts to communicate with people. In the conversations Holden has with people, he usually makes up lies or ends up embarassing them or himself. In others, he usually ends up being hostile towards them. Yet, it seems obvious that the reason for his failed attempts of communication is because he won’t allow people to express themselves as they are. He automatically assumes that they are “phony” because of their first impression towards him. He won’t give them a chance to express themselves unless he decides that their first impression towards them makes them “likeable”.
Although Phoebe Caulfield may be Holden’s younger sister, she is someone whom Holden looks up to for support and advice. She is one of the few people he feels great affection for and he talks about her with obvious happiness. Everything that he says of Phoebe is something that brings contentment to him and he becomes gentle and avoids the jokes that usually fill his sentences. Everything he says sounds touching. It is obvious that being with children such as Phoebe makes Holden very happy.
“I sat there on D.B.’s desk and read the whole notebook. It didn’t
take me long, and I can read that kind of stuff, some kid’s notebook,
Phoebe’s or anybody’s all day and all night long. Kid’s notebooks kill
me.” (pg. 161, “The Catcher in the Rye”)
Not only does Holden feel great affection for Phoebe, Phoebe feels great affection for Holden as well. It isn’t too hard to understand that she and Holden are especially close since one of their brothers is dead and the other lives miles from their home. It is also surprising on how quickly Phoebe realizes that Holden came home earlier than expected. It is obvious that Phoebe is much more mature and articulate for her age to realize something like that so quickly. It is as if she is Holden’s older sister instead of the younger one.
Another female that takes part in Holden’s life is Sally Hayes. She is a beautiful but shallow girl that Holden has dated in the past. To Holden’s standards, Sally is another “phony” person but her beauty makes Holden put his standards aside for the moment. The unusual thing is that Holden made it clear that he disliked the girl, yet he said that the minute he saw her, he felt like marrying her. On their date together, he tells her that he loved her even though it was a lie, and yet he meant it when he said it. In return, Sally tells Holden that she loved him as well. After exchanging their false feelings for each other, Holden tries to explain what is happening in his life, but she is incapable of understanding his problems.
“Well, I hate it. Boy do I hate it. But it isn’t just that It’s everything.
I hate living in New York and all. Taxicabs, and Madison Avenue buses,
with the drivers yelling at you to get out at the rear door, and being
introduced to phony guys, and going up and down in elevators when you
just want to go outside.” “I don’t know what you’re even talking about” (pg.
130-31, “The Catcher in the Rye”)
In the end of his conversation, he asks her to help him which is one of the most unrealistic things he has done yet. Sally Hayes is the last person who might be willing to help Holden with his troubles. She doesn’t even understand most of what he is saying, and Holden is asking her for her assistance, in which she doesn’t seem the least bit interested in giving. Another mistake Holden makes is that he asks her to come and live with him in the woods and that they could get married. Obviously, Sally tells Holden no and is trying to change the subject. His attempt to try to reach out to a person is failing because he is saying the wrong things to the wrong person. And because of this attempt, it cause Holden to use profanity which annoys Sally and finally insults her.
Holden’s attitude toward girls is strange and complicated as his feelings for them change from person to person. With his sister Phoebe, thier relationship provides Holden with a sense of happiness and security since he knew her all his life. As with Sally, even though they knew each other just as long, he seems to despise her and treats her quite differently than Phoebe. You can see the apparent affection between Phoebe and Holden, while with Sally, there is no such affection at all. He never says anything critical of Phoebe whereas there is a great deal of criticism about Sally and girls her age. When Holden tells both of them about his problems, both of them give different responses. Even though Phoebe doesn’t exactly understand the reason for Holden’s actions, she is thoughtful enough to pay attention to Holden as he tries to explian what is happening in his life. With Sally, however, she doesn’t comprehend to what Holden is trying to say and is not interested in trying to understand. And because of that, Holden becomes hostile towards her. So therefore, he is alone again and more depressed than before, angry with himself for even talking to Sally about his current situation.
“The terrible part, though, is that I meant it when I asked her. That’s
the terrible part. I swear to God I’m a madman.” (pg. 134, “The Catcher
in the Rye”)
Holden is admitting that he is in trouble and is asking Sally for help, and unfortunately, she is not concerned in doing so. It’s strange how whenever Holden is expressing his feelings, he is expressing them to the wrong person . It is also unusual that Sally would actually go out on a date with Holden when it seems as if she has no interest in him whatsoever as being his good friend. With Phoebe however, she seems to have a sense of understanding of Holden and his problems and is a perfect role model for Holden to look up to, even though she may be younger. She is already showing signs of growing up much faster for her age and plays a central role in Holden’s thoughts and has much influence on what happens to him at the end of the novel.
In dealing with communication among other people, Holden Caulfield has a difficult time in getting along with others throughout the novel. During the whole novel, Holden seems to be always wishing to make contact with another person. Yet, his chances of making contact with people are slim, and if he does, they usually end up in conversations that become hostile. The reason he fails to make contact with most people is nearly his own fault. He is also finding the wrong things to say to people. If he can’t find someone to talk with, it’s often as much his fault as that of the people he meets. The only person he has managed to have a decent conversation without lying and becoming hostile is with his sister Phoebe. The reason is that he adores her so much because she adores him. As with Sally Hayes, he does not like the way she acts and believes that she is a “phony” even though he remains civil towards her. In all, Holden Caulfield is faultfinding, choosing to like only those who fall under his careful standards and disliking those who do not. His attitude towards women will change only if he decides to change the way he view them.