Essay, Research Paper: Catcher In The Rye

Literature: Catcher in The Rye

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In J.D. Salinger's The Catcher in the Rye, the first person narration is
critical in helping the reader to know and understand the main character, Holden
Caulfield. Holden, in his narration, relates a flashback of a significant period
of his life, three days and nights on his own in New York City. Through his
narration, Holden discloses to the reader his innermost thoughts and feelings.
He thus provides the reader not only with information of what occurred, but also
how he felt about what happened. Holden's thoughts and ideas reveal many of his
character traits. One late Saturday night, four days before the beginning of
school vacation, Holden is alone, bored and restless, wondering what to do. He
decides to leave Pencey, his school, at once and travels to New York by train.
He decides that, once in New York, he will stay in a cheap motel until
Wednesday, when he is to return home. His plan shows the reader how very
impetuous he is and how he acts on a whim. He is unrealistic, thinking that he
has a foolproof plan, even though the extent of his plans are to "take a
room in a hotel.., and just take it easy till Wednesday." Holden's
excessive thoughts on death are not typical of most adolescents. His near
obsession with death might come from having experienced two deaths in his early
life. He constantly dwells on Allie, his brother's, death. From Holden's
thoughts, it is obvious that he loves and misses Allie. In order to hold on to
his brother and to minimize the pain of his loss, Holden brings Allie's baseball
mitt along with him where ever he goes. The mitt has additional meaning and
significance for Holden because Allie had written poetry, which Holden reads, on
the baseball mitt. Holden's preoccupation with death can be seen in his
contemplation of a dead classmate, James Castle. It tells the reader something
about Holden that he lends his turtleneck sweater to this classmate, with whom
he is not at all close. Holden's feelings about people reveal more of his
positive traits. He constantly calls people phonies, even his brother, D.B., who
" has sold out to Hollywood." Although insulting, his seemingly
negative feelings show that Holden is a thinking and analyzing, outspoken
individual who values honesty and sincerity. He is unimpressed with people who
try to look good in other's eyes. Therefore, since it is obvious that Holden is
bright, the reason for his flunking out of school would seem to be from a lack
of interest. Holden has strong feelings of love towards children as evidenced
through his caring for Phoebe, his little sister. He is protective of her,
erasing bad words from the walls in her school and in a museum, in order that
she not learn from the graffiti. His fondness for children can be inferred when
he tells her that, at some time in the future, he wants to be the only grown-up
with "all these little kids playing some game in this big field of rye and
all." He'll stand on the edge of a cliff and catch anybody who starts to
fall off the edge of the cliff. He got this image from his misinterpretation of
a line from the Robert Burns poem, " if a body catch a body comin' through
the rye." When situations are described, in person or in a book, they are
influenced by the one who describes them, and by his or her perceptions and
experiences. Through Holden's expressions of his thoughts and feelings, the
reader sees a youth, sensitive to his surroundings, who chooses to deal with
life in unique ways. Holden is candid, spontaneous, analytical, thoughtful, and
sensitive, as evidenced by his narration. Like most adolescents, feelings about
people and relationships are often on his mind. Unfortunately, in Holden's case,
he seems to expect the worst, believing that the result of getting close to
people is pain. Pain when others reject you or pain when they leave you, such as
when a friend walks off or a beloved brother dies. It would not have been
possible to feel Holden's feelings or understand his thoughts nearly as well had
the book been written in third person.
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