Confusion With Reality Essay, Research Paper
English III CP, Per: 6
January 23, 2000
Confusion With Reality
As humans, we adjust to our surroundings and distinguish reality from imagination. At a young age, we play with our imagination and ignore reality. But as we mature, we learn not to take things for granted. We realize that reality is real, and imagination is make-believe. The world can be confusing. Reality is translated differently by each individual. Actions that may be bothersome to some, may seem normal to most. This behavior is evident in the novel The Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger. The main character, Holden Caufield, has a disturbed way of translating the world that appears before him. He takes everything for granted and criticizes everything that he comes across. Throughout most of the novel, Holden remains constant and resists change. But as the novel ends, his monotonous attitude appears to improve. He criticizes people very casually, has a healthier outlook in life, but still dislikes ‘phony’ people.
Holden still criticizes people. At first, he criticizes his childhood, calling it a “lousy childhood (Salinger 1).” The last thing he criticizes is his brother, D.B’s girlfriend. He remarks, “she was pretty affected, but very good looking (Salinger 213).” Holden is a troubled young man who constantly contradicts himself and tends to seek comfort in criticism. He criticizes everything, from his family, to himself, that seems to be the basis of the story. He tries to find himself; he tries to find why he is on this planet. However, his attitude gets better at the end of the story. In the novel’s train station scene, Holden starts to feel sorry for what he did in Mr. Antolini’s apartment. He said, “I mean I started thinking that even if [Mr. Antolini] was a flit he certaily’d been very nice to me. I thought how he hadn’t minded it when I’d called him up so late, an how he’d told me to come right over if I felt like it (Salinger 195).” He sympathized his actions toward Mr. Antolini, calling them uncalled for: he wished he had just gone back. He has matured and realizes maturing takes part on the individual that has to mature, not his surroundings. He feels sorry for taking Mr. Antolini’s actions for granted. In this sense, he has matured a bit. He continues his ’self-analysis’ by mentioning “. . .how [Mr. Antolini] went to all that trouble giving me that advice about finding out the size of your mind and all. . . (Salinger 195).” He gives acknowledgment toward the effort that Mr. Antolini gave to set Holden’s approach in life right. It looks as if Holden has a bright future ahead of him.
Holden has a renewed viewpoint in life. He use to constantly get expelled from colleges for failing most of his classes, but his rendezvous with Phoebe outside the museum appears to set him straight. In the museum, Phoebe wants to go away with him. Incidentally, it scares him to stay, “Feel it once. . . Can’t I go with you? Holden? Can’t I? Please” and Holden responds, “No. Shut up. . . I’m not going away anywhere. I changed my mind. So stop crying and shut up (Salinger 206-207).” ‘Shut up’ is such a strong word for Holden to say, and he used it in defense to his emotions. Holden did not want to stay, but Phoebe’s forcing Holden to go forced Holden to defend himself. He did not want the failures of his life to burden her. Since Phoebe was of a ‘fighting nature’, he would lose in a conflict against her. Consequently, Holden is forced to sacrifice his pleasure for Phoebe’s benefit. Holden is accepted to another school that demonstrates his drive for a better future. However, he has not changed into a totally new man. He still lives in his world, where ‘phonies’ are not welcome.
Holden still considers phonies his enemies. Although he may have matured in many aspects of his personality, he still cannot identify reality from absurdity (a.k.a. make-believe). He still lives in his world, where to his understanding, phonies are those who live life normally. He considers phony, a teacher who acts artificial when a principal walks into the classroom. He considers phony, a person who asks who is on the phone when he already told the person who first answers the call. These are normal situations that we undergo throughout life. He does not change in this aspect at the end of the novel because he imagines his dream life of living in a cabin. He mentions, “I’d have this rule that nobody could do anything phony when they visited me. If anybody tried to do anything phony, they couldn’t stay (Salinger 203).” One can understand that a phony is a person who tries to be what he/she is not, but phoniness is a characteristic. He still does not realize that being phony is part of life. Phoniness is something that is embedded into our minds that enables us to survive. It is the unconscious mind crossing reality.
Holden Caufield is growing mature and bettering his overall attitude toward the world. He not only lessens the intensity of his critical viewpoints toward reality, but it looks as though he will have a fruitful future. Although showing signs of improvement, he still holds adverse attributes to his character. He considers everything below his definition of normal, phony. This is a vital issue in his survival, but one that he can eventually surpass.