Everyone has to make choices about what is important to them during life, and often, the time when this is hardest is the teen years. In The Catcher In The Rye , author J.D. Salinger epitomizes the growing pains of these teen years. The main character, Holden Caulfield, is a sixteen year old boy who has many ideas and values typical to teens. He also has characteristics that for teens are not necessarily normal. Salinger uses a train of thought writing which shows the emotions and thoughts, as well as physical actions of Holden. His character is developed just as you would get to know him if you were meeting him. This style is effective in showing his different characteristics and makes the change of normal to not normal traits more visible.
Looking at his normal side, Holden is rebellious against the world, and despises the fakeness of it.
Mainly he hates people. He thinks that rich people are crooks, and that the more expensive the school is that he's attending, the more crooks there are. He says when he goes to visit Mr. Spencer that he's not too crazy about sick people. He doesn't like how Catholics stick together and he doesn't like intellectuals. He hates the phoniness of people and says, "it drives me crazy. It makes me so depressed I go crazy. He calls the athletes bastards, and just about everybody else a moron. On his way out of Pencey he yells, "Sleep tight, ya morons." And rather than referring to a person as 'that guy' or 'the blond girl', he calls people perverts, screwballs, pimpy- looking guys,whory-looking blondes, dopes, jerks, corny, and ignorant. His hatred is not limited to people though. He also hates cars and cliques, movies and money. He hates the word 'grand'. While talking to Mr. Spencer he informs us of this. "There's a word [grand] I really hate. It's a phony. I could puke every time I hear it." He also hates when people say something twice, yell good luck, and say "Glad to've met you." He hates it when an actor knows he's good, and how football players bash each other all over the place and act like they are supposed to commit suicide or something when they lose. And as if thinking these things aren't bad enough, he goes off and rambles about all of this to Sally. "Well I hate school. Boy, do I hate it. But it isn't just that. I hate living in New York and all. Taxicabs, and Madison Avenue buses, with the drivers and all always yelling at you to get out at the rear door, and being introduced to phony guys that call the Lunts angels, and going up and down in elevators when you just want to go outside, and guys fitting your pants all the time at Brooks..." (Now, you have to remember that he is trying to get her to run away with him at this time. Saying this doesn't seem to help him any. It's all kind of ironic anyway, because he says when they move away he can do all this stuff.) Getting a bit extreme? Well not only does he hate all this, he hates life!!! When Mr. Spencer tells him that life is a game, he thinks "If you get on the side where all the hot-shots are, then it's a game, all right, I'll admit that. But if you get on the other side, where there aren't any hot-shots, then what's a game about it?" Now his dislikes may have started out rather normal, but they seem to have gotten a bit out of control. Where do you draw the line between normal and bitter? If you still don't think that Holden is half a bubble off, here's more evidence. This crosses the line of being bitter and clearly becomes quite cynical. I think maybe Ackley may have thought Holden was a bit odd when he pulled the peak of his hunting hat around to the front, then pulled it way down over his eyes so he couldn't see a thing. He then started yelling, "I think I'm going blind. Mother darling, everything's getting so dark in here... Mother darling give me your hand. Why won't you give me your hand?..." Or when he took his hat, looked at it, closed one eye like he was taking aim and said, "This is a people shooting hat, I shoot people in this hat." I'm sure maybe the cab drivers thought he was off the deep end a bit when he not only started talking about the ducks, but obsessing over them. I don't know too many people who wonder if the lagoon at Central Park is frozen and if it is, where the ducks have gone. He wonders where the ducks go when the lagoon gets all icy and frozen over and if some guy came in a truck and took them away to a zoo or something or if they just flew away. A guy needs a little help when he starts saying "What I really felt like, though, was committing suicide. I felt like jumping out a window. I probably would've done it too." Or when he says he's sort of glad they've got the atomic bomb invented because if there's ever another war, he's going to sit right on top of it. He'll volunteer for it. When he's walking to Phoebe's school, he kept feeling like he was going to die every time he crossed the street. He then started talking to Allie and planning it out so that he could move out west and become a deaf-mute so he didn't have to talk to anybody. The whole affect of this cynicism is magnified through the train of thought writing style of Salinger. All of Holden's thoughts and ideas are just thrown out. It is the rambling of internal thoughts : harsh, quick, and confused. He definitely appears to be a mentally unstable person.
And as if appearing to be cynical wasn't enough, Holden comes right out and tells you, "But I'm crazy. I swear to God I am. About halfway to the bathroom, I sort of started pretending I had a bullet in my guts... Now I was on my way to the bathroom to get a good shot of bourbon or something to steady my nerves...Then I'd walk downstairs, holding onto my guts, blood leaking all over the place...as soon as old Maurice opened the doors, he'd see me with the automatic in my hand and start screaming at me..but I'd plug him anyway." Now, Holden ends up in an mental institution, and rightly so, in my opinion. The funny thing is, or maybe sad, or even odd, is that through the whole book you know that he is at an institution. The purpose of going to an institution is to get better. But Holden's attitude doesn't change at all. Through the whole reality of his insanity, he ends up the same way that he started out- cynical, defiant, and bitter.