Catcher In The Rye Environment In a perfect world, everyone would be happy with the way they are and everyone would accept the differences of others. Unfortunately, the world we live in is not perfect and not everyone accepts who they are . Is there a reason why people cannot be content with their lives or with the differences of other people? The answer is yes, and the reason for the discontent is society. With society telling the masses what is, and is not acceptable, it is no wonder that people seem “lost”, and are desperately searching out their place in the sun. This search for identity seems to be the case in JD Salingers novel, The Catcher in the Rye. Through settings in the novel and symbolism, Salinger illustrates that while the main character, Holden Caulfield, needs the support of the environment around him, the environment also needs Holden as a person.
Holden Caulfield is out of place in any environment in which he is placed. At Pencey, his school, Holden gets excluded from the activities of his classmates. At the very beginning of the novel, Holden becomes expelled because his grades are not up to Penceys standards and also because he does not feel like he belongs there. Holden separates himself from his classmates for the most part by not becoming involved in the school. Although Holden is the equipment manager of the fencing team, he distances himself from his companions by losing the equipment, showing that he does not fit in, and he really does not want to.
As he reflects back on his final day at Pencey he says: ” They kicked me out. ..I was flunking four subjects and not applying myself at all. They gave me frequent warnings to start applying myself..but I didnt do it” (Salinger 4). The school is throwing Holden out because he is not what they want to represent to potential students. They want to show examples of fine, upstanding young men, instead of giving off the image of the failing, confused young man. Salinger uses Pencey as a mock society of some sorts.
Holden does not fit in at Pencey, and he most definitely does not fit in as seen in the later settings of the novel. A second example of Holdens isolation from his classmates can also be seen when he stands alone on the top of the hill during the “big game”. During the football game Holden perches himself above the football field where he can hear the cheering, but he cannot see the crowd. Holden says that he hears the yelling because “practically the whole school except me was there” (Salinger 2). Holdens isolation from his classmates may be his own doing to some extent, however there is another force at work here.
The high standards of good grades and involvement in other activities separate Holden from the rest of his school. Holden never really makes the effort to fit in at Pencey because he knows that it is just a made up society, and that it, like the other settings in the novel is just another place that he does not belong. The Pencey setting in the novel rejects Holden because of his mistake of letting his grades slip. Just as Holdens school casts him out for being different and not making the grade, society casts him out because he is different. After Holden leaves his school, he travels to New York City.
Holden is again singled out and stumbles across the feeling that he does bit belong there either. When Holden is on his way up to his hotel room in New York , the elevator operator offers him a prostitute for five dollars and Holden accepts. The next day, Maurice, the elevator boy comes after Holden, saying he did not pay enough for the services. After a scuffle, where Holden gets hurt, Holden leaves the hotel he is staying in. Holden feels that he cannot go back to that same hotel, but he will not go and search for another one. He says, “I had no place to go.
It was only Sunday and I couldnt go home till Wednesday- or Tuesday at the soonest. And I certainly didnt feel like going to another hotel and getting my brains beat out”(Salinger 106-107). Holden feels as though he cannot go back and he is very reluctant to go forward and find another room for fear that the same thing would happen to him again. Holden is again unable to make a decision. He does not want to move on, because he does not know where he is moving on to, and he cannot go back home because he does not belong there at the moment.
This particular situation with the pimp shows how society needs Holden because he is so vulnerable. His innocence makes Holden easy to step on and take advantage of, and a society usually needs people to crush for its leaders to thrive. The affect that society has on Holden is apparent when Holden purchases the ugly, red hunting hat . Throughout the novel, Holden wears it because he thinks that it is stylish and chic. Unfortunately for Holden, the hat is not stylish, nor chic. It is an ugly hat that makes Holden stick out like a sore thumb. One cannot deny the importance of the red hat.
“..and then I put on this hat that I d bought in New York that morning. It was this red hunting hat, with one of those very, very long peaks”, (Salinger 17). First of all, the color, red is one that you would wear in the country while hunting and trying to stay out of harms way. The red hat is Holdens way of saying look at me!. He is like no one else, given the fact that he is wearing that hat and it proves that he does not belong in his present environment. Holden later comments on his hat when his little sister Phoebe is wearing it. He observ …