Essay, Research Paper: Catcher In The Rye

Literature: Catcher in The Rye

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In The Catcher in the Rye, Holden views the world as an evil place where there
is no peace. This perception of the world does not change significantly
throughout novel. However, as the novel progresses, Holden gradually comes to
the realization that he is powerless to change this corruption. During the short
span of Holden's life covered in this book, Holden does succeed in making us
perceive that the world is crazy. Shortly after Holden leaves Pencey Prep, he
checks in to the Edmont Hotel. This is where Holden's turmoil begins. Holden
spends the following evening in this hotel, which was "full of perverts and
morons. There were screwballs all over the place." His situation only
deteriorates from this point forward as the more he looks around this world, the
more depressing life seems. Around every corner Holden sees evil. He looks out
on a world which appears completely immoral and unprincipled. The three days we
learn of from the novel place a distressed Holden in the vicinity of Manhattan.
The city is decked with decorations and holiday splendor, yet, much to Holden's
despair, "seldom yields any occasions of peace, charity or even genuine
merriment." Holden is surrounded by what he views as drunks, perverts,
morons and screwballs. These convictions which Holden holds waver momentarily
during only one particular scene in the book. The scene is that with Mr.
Antolini. After Mr. Antolini patted Holden on the head while he was sleeping,
Holden jumped up and ran out thinking that Mr. Antolini was a pervert as well.
This is the only time during the novel when Holden thinks twice about
considering someone as a pervert. After reviewing Mr. Antolini, Holden finally
concludes that maybe he wasn't making a "flitty" pass at him. Maybe he
just liked patting guys’ heads as they sleep. This is really the only time in
the novel where Holden actually considers a positive side. This event does not
constitute a significant change. As Holden himself says, "It's not too bad
when the sun's out, but the sun only comes out when it feels like coming
out." The sun is a reference to decency through the common association of
light and goodness. His perception of the world remains the same. The one
conviction that does change during the novel is Holden's belief that he can
change the world. On his date with Sally, Holden reveals his feelings. "Did
you ever get fed up?... I mean did you ever get scared that everything was going
to go lousy unless you did something...?" Holden goes through several
plans. He at one point contemplates heading out west where he will pretend to be
a deaf-mute and live a quiet life. At another point, Holden proposes to Sally to
escape this world with him. It is finally to his younger sister Phoebe that
Holden reveals his ultimate plan. Although Holden describes the situation in a
very colorful and symbolic manner, he essentially tells Phoebe that he wants to
prevent children from growing up. He blames the world's corruption on adults and
believes that when he stops the children from growing up, he will preserve their
innocence and save the world. It takes most of the book before Holden begins to
realize that he is helpless to stop this corruption. Finally, he realizes that
not only is there nothing that he can do, but there is nowhere he can go to hide
from it. Holden takes a while to comprehend these concepts. One good example is
when Holden is delivering the note to his sister. He encounters a
"*censored*-you" written on the wall. Holden careful rubs this off
with his hand so as to protect the innocent children from reading it. Later on,
he finds "*censored*-you" scratched into the surface with a knife. He
discovers that he can't efface this one. Even in the timeless peace of the
Egyptian tomb room at the museum, there is an un-erasable
"*censored*-you." This incident is the beginning of Holden's
realization that his dreams are unattainable. Ironically enough, it is one of
the "innocent" children whom he is trying to protect who finally helps
him come to terms with this realization. It is Phoebe who challenges his plan to
escape out west. As he is telling Phoebe that she can not run away, he discovers
that he too can not run away. "You can't ever find a place that is nice and
peaceful because there isn't any." The final break-down comes near the end
of the book when he is watching Phoebe on the carousel. “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.” Becoming "the catcher"
becomes obviously unrealistic. The gold rings are ironically not gold but really
brass-plated iron. The gold rings are symbols of the corrupted world which
always "wears" a shiny surface to hide its evil. It is at this point
that Holden sees that he can not stop children from growing up and therefore
losing their innocence. They will fall if they fall; there is nothing that can
be done. Shortly after this point, Holden has his nervous breakdown. His
breakdown is due to this depressing realization that the world is corrupt and
filled with evil. He knows now with a sickening certainty that he is powerless
to stop both evil and maturation. As a matter of fact, it is "bad" to
do so.

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