Holden Caulfield is the controversial character in
The Catcher in the Rye. He goes through many
changes throughout the novel as he matures from a
child to an adult. In this book, he is portrayed
as a confused teenager trying to find his place in
the crazy world, while criticizing his foes and
contradicting himself. The way he presents himself
throughout the novel allows readers to relate to
him better. His experiences and his thoughts vary,
but still revolve around one main center of
gravity which the author, J.D. Holden has many
distinct characteristics that set him apart from
There is one problem that he cannot
escape, and that is lying. Holden lies to everyone
including two nuns that he meets in a diner.
Another thing is his language. This is
representative of the typical adolescence of his
time and place and indicative of his personal
fears and frustrations. (Magill, Magills…1803).
He is sixteen years old and a junior at Pencey
Prep School in Agerstown, Pennsylvania. His age
ties in to his openness. Holden often expresses
his feelings because he is at the age where he
does not really care about others.
He is not
afraid to tell people what he thinks or how he
feels about them. Holden criticizes people for the
little things that they do. He stereotypes them
just by the things that he notices about them.
Throughout the story, Holden seems to have a goal
set for himself. This quest involves the
preserving of innocence. He believes that if a
child can be saved from the cruel world and things
in it, they will be spared. Another thing in this
journey is that he is looking for an ideal, but
un-human love that will meet all demands.
means that he will have a love for everyone that
is unconditional and that he will recieve love
from everyone else. Finally, the most important
task, is the search for an identity. He is
constantly trying to find his true self amongst
all the evils of the world. Later on, Holden
realizes he can achieve none of this (Unger 555).
The family is really not emphasized much in the
context of this book. Holden does not ever look to
his family for help with his struggles or for
guidance along the way. Although he does mention
his two brothers D.B.
and Allie, the only member
he connects with is his younger sister, Phoebe.
They seem to share a common bond that links them
to each other. His parents never really offer him
the shelter that he is looking for. He is
constantly searching for someone or something to
turn to when he needs help, but considers none of
his family members (Magill, Critical…2935).
Holdens parents are considered wealthy and provide
him with expensive, top of the line luggage. Their
only flaw mentioned is that they are too busy and
do not There is much irony scattered throughout
Holdens story. One example is how, from the very
beginning of the novel, he tells of key things
that he detests, like when people repeat things
constantly over and over. He does not realize that
right after he says this, he contradicts himself
and does the things he says he hates.
It is also
ironic how Holden despises his roommate,
Stradlater. He is always complaining about what a
phony that he is and how he is a secret slob. Yet,
at some points, Holden comments that he would not
mind being like him. His cruelty toward others and
his frustration over his own mistakes just mix
together (Lieder 2). Symbolism is another theme
that runs throughout the novel. Holden has a dream
that one day he can be the ultimate protector of
He wants to save these children from
being exposed to the evil world we live in. His
dream is counterbalanced by a feeling of falling
that he always gets. These two things seem to meet
in his idea of a perfect world and everything
always stays the same (Unger 557). Time is also
used as a type of symbolism. The setting of the
novel is in the cold, and in the middle of winter.
Time to celebrate Christmas, the ending of one
year and awaiting of another in a time of
expiration. Holdens story is one of death to his
adolescent self and a rebirth to a new refreshed
and mature Holden (Unger 556).
This book can also
be seen as a growing process. At the beginning, he
is immature and then as he approaches adulthood,
he starts to get nervous and worried of what lies
ahead (Magill, Critical…2935). The world is also
used in expressing symbolism. It is often used to
represent the madness and cruelty that ruins
people. Holden refers to it when he is talking of
the imminent fall from innocence (Magill,
Magills…1803-1804). Holden experiences many
changes as the maturing process goes on.
realizes that he can not be the catcher in the
rye. The children are going to be transformed and
effected by the world in some way, no matter how
hard he tries to prevent it. He is also reborn to
a knowledge of the world around him. This
refocuses the way he thinks. He, himself is
transformed. He realizes his own phoniness and
deception toward others.
This is a major step. The
main thing that happens is that he obtains a love
for everything. Through this he finds his true
identity and learns the concept of compassion.
Through these changes he becomes peaceful. A
survivor who finally achieves peace of mind.
(Hipple 106). Holden also realizes that even
though he misses everyone, he only really
respected all children and the two nuns. Holden
Caulfield was confused, he criticized a lot of
people, but he also made some people think better
of themselves through lying.
In this book, The
Catcher in the Rye, he penetrates his own
phoniness, in a sort of retrospect, and realizes
his faults. This represents a mature knowledge
that lies at the novels center of gravity. (Unger
555). After coming to these conclusions, it puts
an end to all the struggles that Holden went
through to get Bibliography: Bibliography
“Characters of The Catcher in the Rye.”
12, 2000. Harte, Barbara and Riley, Carolyn, ed.
Salinger.” Contemporary Authors: A
Bibliographical Guide to Current Authors and their
Works. Volumes 5-8. Detroit: Gale Research
Company, 1969. Hipple, Ted, ed. “J.D. Salinger.”
Writers for Young Adults.
Volume 3. New York:
Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1997. “Holden Caulfield.”
September 12, 2000. Lieder, Tim. “So where do the
ducks go in winter?” http://www.geocites.com
/SoHo/gallery/7466/catcher-rye.html. September 12,
Magill, Frank N.,ed. “J.D. Salinger.”
Critical Survey of Long Fiction: English Language
Series, Revised Edition. Volume 6. Pasadena: Salem
Press, 1991. —.”J.D.
Salinger.” Magill’s Survey
of American Literature. Volume 5. New York:
Marshall Cavendish Corporation, 1991. Unger,
Leonard, ed. “J.D. Salinger” American Writers: A
Collection of Literary Biographies.
Volume 3. New
York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1974..
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