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The Catcher In The Rye

The Catcher in the Rye 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.

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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.

The Catcher in the Rye

Holden Caulfield, the main character in J.D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye, is what I believe to be one of the most well-developed characters which I have read about. He has many characteristics that are all his own, such as the way he views the world, his friends and his family. One of the main things that characterizes Holden, is that way that he thinks the entire world is “phony.”Holden’s view of the world as “phony” is a very strong one, and in most cases, is correct. Holden thinks that the majority of the people in the world are putting on some sort of an act to impress or befriend people. In a way, Holden is probably correct in thinking that most of the people he came in contact with are “phony,” such as his roommate at Pencey, Ward Stradlater. In one instance, Holden refers to Stradlater as a “secret slob.” He describes how Stradlater always tries to be neat and tidy on the outside so as to impress people, but how he is not when you get to know him. In the scene where Holden and Stradlater are in the “can,” and Stradlater is getting ready for a date, Holden describes Stradlater’s razor as “rusty as hell and full of lather and hair and crap.” Another of Holden’s run-ins with “phonies,” came to him while he was in New York City. He was lonely and looking for someone to keep him company, so he calls a girl named Faith Cavendish. He was told about Faith by a friend of his who went to Princeton, Eddie Birdsell. When he calls Faith, she has no desire to talk to him whatsoever, and she makes that quite clear, until Holden drops the name of Eddie, and she instantly perks up at the thought that Holden might be an important person. She asks Holden where he’s calling from, and he replies “a phone booth,” and he tells her that he has no money, and she then tells Holden that she has no time. The way that Faith changes her mind so quickly when she finds that Holden has no money is a prime example of the “phonies” Holden encounters. Another general example of what Holden thinks is “phony” is actors. He talks about how D.B. took Phoebe and him to see “Hamlet,” and he talks about Sir Laurence Olivier, and how the play would have been good, except that Olivier “knew he was good, and that spoils it.” Holden says how he can’t go to a play and pay attention to what the actor is saying because he “has to keep worrying about whether he’s going to do something phony every minute.”Holden has another incident with phonies when he invites Sally Hayes on a date. Holden takes her to a play, which he considers phony as it is, but then at intermission, Sally meets a man who she hasn’t seen for years, and they began a big phony act. Holden says, “You’ve though that they hadn’t seen each other for twenty years they probably even hugged and kissed checks and all.” This is the kind of behavior that Holden obviously never grew up with, isn’t used to, and doesn’t like. Through his experiences in New York City, and his many flings with phony women, Holden grows to believe that everyone in phony in some way. He thinks that the whole world is phony, and it’s not likely that everyone in the world is corrupted or “phony,” so is it possible that all the characters in the novel are all really normal and Holden is really the only “phony” one?


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