The Catcher In The Rye
The book "The Catcher In The Rye" is a tale which weaves into the
readers mind all the nostalgia and decisions of childhood. The main
character in the novel, Holden Caulifield, is a yound man of about 16 years
who is finding it hard to escape his childhood and become an adult. Holden
believes that everyone in the adult world is a "fake" or a "phony." He also
believes that the only way to survive in the adult world is for someone to
become corrupt. Holden does not seem to have any friends or close
aquaintances (Mr. Antolini is not really a good friend of his) because he is
constantly being moved around from school to school. He would have the
reader believe that the reason for his being constantly moved around is not
for lack of knoledge, heavens no, but because suddenly he realized that all
the folks around him were "phonys" aloowing him the descision to leave.
Holden respects children very much, as the only people he seems to
care about are his sister Phoebe, his dead brother, Allie, and his older brother
D.B. These are all people who he has been in contact with all throughout his
childhood and he has memories with each of them that he holds dear. He has
kept his brother Allie's glove as a reminder of him. Holden realizes that, in
childhood, people think not of their appearance but merely what they know
of themselves. Holden himself does not always dress according to what
people think; he is always wearing his red hunting cap around and receiving
strange looks, and his hair is cut in a very dischevelled crew cut.
While tellling the reader of his time at Pencey, Holden says that most
adults are "secret slobs." A prime example of a "secret slob" is Holdens
Stradlater seems to be a very popular kind of person. He plays sports.
He always has dates to go on; however, Stradlater is the kind of fellow who
shaves twice, yet never cleans his razor. He will spend all the time in the
world fixing his hair, yet he asks his friends to borrow clothes so he can look
Ackley, while not having the adult characteristics of being too
engrossed with his physical appearance, is even more revolting to Holden.
His teeth are mossy and discolored from never brushing them, and he has an
annoying personality. Because of these things, Holden seems to dislike
Ackley even more than Stradlater (the "secret slob").
Holden is caught between two very different worlds, the world of
childhood, where everything can be alright and he never has to move
his kings from the back row, and the world of adulthood, where he
must take risks and apply himself more to what he does.
For example, the reader is rushed back to a nostalgic memory of
childhood when Holden shows the two young boys where the
mummies are, then remarks to himself how, everything else stays the
same while the people grow older. I believe that Holden is thinking that,
even when he is an old man, or is dead and gone, the things in that museum
will still be there, in exactly the same place they were when he was a young
boy, wandering the halls. The Indians will still be bent over from their catch
of fish, and the mummies will still be there, in the same place as always, the
only thing that will be different would be himself. This probably shoves
Holden even deeper into the depression which he is clearly showing.
While wandering the streets of New York, looking for entertainment
after his expulsion, he seems very lonely. He looks to bars and strong drink
for the companionship he feels he needs but it is not to be found. In one bar,
he sees a table with three girls at it and decides it would be gentlemanly of
him to ask one of them to dance with him. After dancing with one, he feels
that her dancing skills were a bit needing, he dances with all the rest of the
girls and then sits with them to buy drinks. He feels that every one of them is
shallow and rude and does not even offer to help pay for the drinks (even
though he would not have made them anyway). He seems even more soured
by this experience, and decides it would be best to go back to his hotel room,
thinking that the entire world must be filled with rude phonys.
When he is in the elevator on the way back up to his room, he asks the
man to send a prostitute up to his room. Her name is Sunny. When she
gets to his room, he feels not the need to realieve his sexual tension, but the
need to communicate and perhaps have a conversation with the girl. He is
saddened by the way she looks when she hangs up her dress on the hook, I
believe he can still see the parts of her childhood which were robbed from
her when she took up her new profession, a little girl, forced into the world
of adults. This depresses him more than anything and he asks her to leave.
They have a dispute over the money and later, a pimp is called in to collect.
After this experience, Holden is left, sitting in a dazed pile, in only his
shorts, sprawled across the floor of his cheap hotel room. He contemplates
suicide but, he thinks, it would give the gawkers to much pleasure, noone
would even cover him. As he lays on the floor in a dazed stupor, I believe he
is thinking of all the unjustices of the adult world, which would allow a
young girl like Sunny (maybe he is thinking of Phoebe?) to be taken
advantage of in such a way. Also, he curses the Pimp which, he believes
cheated him on the amount of money he had to pay.
The next day, instead of sulking around the city, he decided to ask one
of his old girlfriends on a date. Once he meets her at the theatre he realizes
that she too has become a "phony" and is always complying to the
regulations set by the society at the time. He begins to dislike her and after
the date is finished, I think it would be fair to say that Holden hates the girl
at the end of their date. He does not hate her for what she does, but for what
she and the rest of the people his age, who are struggling to grow up and
leave their childhood behind.
His relationship with his sister Phoebe is hard to describe. One could
spent many hundreds of words going on about how Holdens relationship
with his sister signifies all the things he believes are wrong with
the adult world, but I will not do that. Instead, I will show you
certain examples of the comradery shared by the two. It seems that Holden
has come to his sister before with his troubles, because when he approaches
her with his tale of being given the "what-for" out of Pencey, she simply
burys her head in the pillow and says "oh not, not again Holden". He gives
her the record he purchesed even though it was broken and she still cherishes
it, simply because, it was given by her only brother. When he gives her the
present, he tells her how he broke it while he was drunk and she did not
seem too surprised, perhaps Holden has been drowning his sorrows in liquor
for some time. I believe Holden loves his sister very much, more perhaps
than anything else left in his world. His parents, however, do not seem to
mean much to him, because even they, even his own parents, are "phonies".
At one point he calls a old friend of his, who did not part on very good
terms mind you, and invites him for a drink. He does not call this man to
catch up on old times, or to shoot the breeze, he calls because, well, he has
noone else to call. I think that a certain part of Holden wanted to believe that
when his old friend walked in the door, he would not look a day older than
the day he had last seen him. Holden wants to believe that nothing should
ever change and people can continue their own lives without regard to the
thoughts of anyone else. Even though he goes about it in the wrong way,
perhaps Holden is trying to show the people around him, that being all-
important or having a good job isnt everything to life. Everyone needs a tiny
piece of their childhood left to mull over when things get rough, everyone
needs to retain just a tiny fraction of their childhood innocence.
When you get down to brass tacks, the Catcher in the Rye is to be a
classic affermation of everything that is wrong and twisted in the national
character, a gross physical salute to life in this world. It shows the
shallowness of adult life, and the "phonyness" of allways working towards
something which will only do yourself good, and not everybody else.
Catcher in the Rye shows that not all lives are like this, children, perhaps,
have the happiest lives of all.
What happenes when Holden refuses to give up one part of life
(childhood) for another (adulthood) results in a kind of limbo, not yet
an adult, and not still a child. While in this stage, Holden is still able
to critisize everything adults do as self-serving, but he cannot still
connect with young children the way he once could, in this stage, it is
where Holden is most unhappy, and it is where he will remain unless
he decided to change his ways. This is a fate which anyone could fall
victim to, if you begin to only see the dull and boring things in people,
instead of the things which make life great.