Essay, Research Paper: Catcher In The Rye

Literature: Catcher in The Rye

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In JD Salingers' Catcher in the Rye, a troubled teenager named Holden Caufield
struggles with the fact that everyone has to grow up. The book gets its title
from Holden's constant concern with the loss of innocence. He did not want
children to grow up because he felt that adults are corrupt. This is seen when
Holden tries to erase naughty words from the walls of an elementary school where
his younger sister Phoebe attended. "While I was sitting down, I saw
something that drove me crazy. Somebody'd written 'Fuck you' on the wall. It
drove me damn near crazy. I thought how Phoebe and all the other little kids
would see it, and how they'd wonder what the hell it meant, and then finally
some dirty kid would tell them- all cockeyed, naturally- what it meant, and how
they'd all think about it and maybe even worry about it for a couple of days. I
kept wanting to kill whoever'd written it. I figured it was some perverty bum
that'd sneaked in the school late at night to take a leak or something and then
wrote it on the wall. I kept picturing myself catching him at it, and how I'd
smash his head on the stone steps till hew as good and goddam dead and
bloody." (201) His deep concern with impeccability caused him to create
stereotypes of a hooligan that would try to corrupt the children of an
elementary school. Holden believed that children were innocent because they
viewed the world and society without any bias. When Phoebe asked him to name
something that he would like to be when he grew up, the only thing he would have
liked to be was a "catcher in the rye." He invented an illusion for
himself of a strange fantasy. He stated that he would like to follow a poem by
Robert Burns: "If a body catch a body comin' through the rye." He kept
"picturing all these little kids playing some game in this big field of rye
and all. Thousands of little kids, and nobody's around- nobody big, I mean-
except me. And I'm standing on the edge of some crazy cliff. What I have to do,
I have to catch everybody if they start to go over the cliff- I mean if they're
running and they don't look where they're going I have to come out from
somewhere and catch them. Thatˇ¦s all I'd do all day. I'd just be the catcher
in the rye and all. I know it's crazy, but that's the only thing I'd really like
to be." (173) Holden wants to stop children from "falling" into
losing their innocence and becoming an adult, and he takes pleasure in the
attempted thwarting of maturation. In the beginning of Catcher in the Rye, his
initial character is one of a child. Throughout the book, he takes steps and the
forces of change take a toll on his childish ways. In the end, he seems to be
changed into a man. Holden is definitely extremely immature in the beginning of
the book. He characterizes almost every person he meets as a "phony".
He feels that he is surrounded by hypocrites in a school filled with fakery.
Principal Thurmer, the principal of Holden's high school, Pencey, was the leader
of the whole charade. During a teacher/parent day, Principal Thurmer would only
say hello to the wealthy parents of students. He would not associate himself
with those that were not financially stable, because he was a phony. Holden also
maintains a lack of responsibility throughout the whole book. He was the
equipment manager of the fencing team at Pencey, but he lost the equipment on
the subway. He also failed out of two schools for lack of effort and absences
from classes. Holden also had a daydream about two children who never grew up,
whore main in a perfect world forever. This daydream is a result of his younger
brother Allie's death. Allie represents the unchangeable youth of which Holden
must let go if he ever expects to maintain sanity. Holden has a fixation on
childhood, which shows itself in many forms. His glorification of children,
inordinate admiration of Phoebe, idealization of his dead younger brother, and
the joy he gets from reminiscing about his own childhood all contribute to his
obsession with innocence and youth. Throughout the middle of the book, forces of
change unfold on Holden. While waiting for an old friend of his, he had the
sudden urge to go into a museum that he had visited while still a child in
school in order to bring back memories of his childhood. However, when he
finally reached the museum, he decided not to. "Then a funny thing
happened. When I got to the museum, all of a sudden I wouldn't have gone inside
for a million bucks. It just didn't appeal to me..." (122) This shows that
Holden is becoming an adult. He did not want to enter the museum because he
realized that he was too old to take part in such an activity. When he takes
Phoebe to a carousel later in the book, he decided not to ride on it, or even
stand on it during a rain storm, because he felt "too old" to get on.
Holden also had another one of his childish fantasies for his future. He wanted
to go and be a deaf mute somewhere in the west, so he wouldn't have to deal with
all the phonies and hypocrites of every day life. Phoebe told him that she
wanted to go along with him, but he denies her of this because of his growing
responsibility and metamorphosis as an adult. He told her, "I'm not going
away anywhere. I changed my mind." (207) At the end of the book, Holden
seems to be much more mature. His key step was when he did not ride with Phoebe
on the carrousel. Holden only watched his sister ride along. In the center of
the carousel, there was a gold ring. The children riding on the carousel would
reach for the gold ring in order to win a prize. "All the kids kept trying
to grab for the gold ring, and so was old Phoebe, and I was sort of afraid she'd
fall off the goddam horse, but I didn't say anything or do anything. The thing
with kids is, if they want to grab for the gold ring, 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) This carousel symbolizes life, and the constant
journey of childhood into adulthood. Children would sometimes fall when striving
to reach the gold ring in the center of life, or their complete success or
adulthood. Holden would have yelled out to the children that it was dangerous to
try to achieve this goal, but he realized in this anagnoresis that the children
should go along the path of life by themselves. Throughout the book, Holden
tried to save all children from growing up and losing their innocence. When he
realized that he could not achieve this goal, he had a nervous breakdown and
could not deal with it. However, it is an inevitable fact that everyone has to
grow up.

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