The significance of the first and last chapters of The Catcher in the Rye by JD Salinger is apparent because they introduce Holden Caulfield and the way he thinks, and end the book with evidence of HoldenÃÂs psychosis. The first chapter establishes the perimeters of HoldenÃÂs personality. From the first sentence, the reader is bombarded with HoldenÃÂs angry, pessimistic thoughts and view on life, as well as introduced to HoldenÃÂs psychological problems. The last chapter is significant because it ends the book, giving proof of HoldenÃÂs psychotic break with very subtle hints.
The first chapter of The Catcher in the Rye is significant because it introduces the protagonist, lays the foundation of his thought process and views throughout the novel, and declares HoldenÃÂs psychological issues. The first chapter is the chapter of the novel which introduces Holden, the protagonist of the story, a sixteen year-old boy who moves from school to school, continuously kicked out.
The story begins with teenage defiance, as Holden speaks of most people wanting to hear about his childhood and history, and all that ÃÂDavid Copperfield kind of crapÃÂ (Salinger, pg 1) but he defies the reader and does not speak of his history. This defiance is a part of HoldenÃÂs character, part of what makes him so uniquely interesting. Holden is not just a whiney teenage boy who is mad at the world, but actually a sadly jaded adolescent narrator. Holden sees the negative in everything, and barely comments on the positive things hesees. HoldenÃÂs psychological issues are introduced in the first chapter, when he says, ÃÂIÃÂll just tell you about this madman stuff that happened to me around last Christmas just before I got pretty run-down and had to come out here to rest.ÃÂ (Salinger, pg 1) It is both funny and ironic that Holden uses the word madman to describe the happenings at Christmastime, when he is actually the madman, and he says he had to rest, when really he was being hospitalized.. HoldenÃÂs tributes to his madness are minimal and he seems to avoid mentioning it.
The way Holden thinks is crucial to the novel, and such a viewpoint is introduced in the first chapter. If Holden did not think so negatively and exude such pessimism toward life in general, the novel would be little more than a whiney teenagerÃÂs cry for attention. He does not care what others think of him and is rebellious toward all things popular, ÃÂThe whole team ostracized me the whole way back on the train. It was pretty funny, in a way.ÃÂ (Salinger, pg 3) Holden thinks people being angry at him is funny, and that is a little odd. Most teenagers like fitting in, but Holden doesnÃÂt care. Not only does Holden have completely apathetic attitudes toward the worldÃÂs perception of him, but he also has antipathetic views toward institutes of learning, such as his school, Pencey Prep. He expresses hostility and annoyance when he speaks of Pencey PrepÃÂs ads, ÃÂThey donÃÂt do any more damn molding at Pencey than at any other school. And I didnÃÂt know anybody there who was splendid and clear-thinking.ÃÂ (Salinger, pg 2) HoldenÃÂs view of his peers is cynical, but it makes the novel. Were Holden the ÃÂgood-morning sunshineÃÂ type, the novel would be nowhere near as raw, real, and hilarious as the end result is. The manner in which Holden presents his thoughts; in an easy-to-understand, adolescent thought process which is easy for teenagers and anyone who has been one to relate to.
The last chapter of the novel is a very important component because it very accurately ties together all the happenings of the novel. In the last chapter, HoldenÃÂs manner of being still has the same negative aura, and he makes another comment about his psychological problems, ÃÂA lot of people, especially this one psychoanalyst guy they have here, keeps asking me if IÃÂm going to apply myself when I go back to school next September.ÃÂ (Salinger, pg 213) This comment is the only comment about HoldenÃÂs psychosis other than the comment on the first page. The two chapters are significant in this manner because Holden makes no other mention of his mental problems, and it is important to the reader that they are aware of this fact. The last chapter also makes the reader aware of how estranged from people Holden makes himself, on purpose. He makes a comment that demonstrates his apathy toward the rest of the human race, ÃÂItÃÂs funny. DonÃÂt tell anybody anything. If you do, you start missing everybody.ÃÂ (Salinger, pg 214) This of course demonstrates that Holden feels, and actually has feelings toward other human beings, and he isnÃÂt as unfeeling as he tries to come off as during the course of the novel.
The first and last chapters of The Catcher in the Rye are the most important chapters of the novel because they introduce and make closing comments about HoldenÃÂs personality and his psychological problems. HoldenÃÂs personality, were it softer and more genteel, would not complete the novel as it does, nor would the presence of his psychological issues. The first and last chapters also demonstrate that while Holden wants to come off as unfeeling, he really has a heart underneath that seemingly harsh exterior.
BibliographySalinger, JD. The Catcher In The Rye. Boston, Mass; Little Brown and Co, 1951