J.D Salinger's "The Catcher In The Rye"

Essay by dre_Junior High, 8th gradeA, February 2007

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"The Catcher in The Rye" is a rather amusing and fascinating book, and although at first glance Holden resembles the over-sensitive and self-conscious teen that struggles to live up to his responsibilities as "growing-to-manhood", the book is written in such a way that one can only feel pity for Holden. He has been through a lot in his age; the death of his brother, his older brother now a writer and don't see each other as much, and also the cynicism he has in regard to his college called Pencey. Throughout the book Holden explains what he is feeling, and what his opinion is on anything and everything. This novel depicts the troubles Holden has with the younger generation, and the older generation, and seeing what the youth of the world is turning into. Holden is depicted as a very judgmental, emotional, caring as shown by his treatment towards his sister, and extremely opinionated youth, although at times his views seems biased and unwanted.

Holden has strayed from the path of the 'normal male stereotype' in which one must be interested in sports and girls and care about his future, but what Holden lacks in being a stereotype male he made up for his caring nature.

Holden has many conflicts with the world, but one of his main conflicts is he passes judgment on people quickly and almost without care. An example is when he met Ernie he thought was "kind of snobbish person" and thought him "as one of the biggest bastards", but finally recognized that "He isn't, he just got one of those original personalities...takes time to get used to." Holden judges people on the way they interact with other people and the way they look, like the nuns, the prostitute in which made Holden "feel very depressed and sad as hell", and Stradlater, "a sexy bastard" and "very strong, and I am very weak". He doesn't let many people enter his world, so he doesn't find out too much about other people. He lived his life without seeing the true characters of people, and for this reason, he did not make many friends. His state of mind was if it said it's bad, it must be bad. Yet, despite his over-sensitive opinions, one can only feel pity for Holden, as he is simply disillusioned and trying to find his way in a maze of rights and wrongs.

Holden has also failed in another aspect of life, and that is the turning into manhood and the responsibilities he faced; at school academics, and the way he was supposed to act like a man by "interested in drinks and watching the game and talking about girls". Mr. Spencer and Holden talk about his direction in life: "'Do you feel absolutely no concern for your future, boy?' 'Oh, I feel some concern for my future, all right. Sure. Sure, I do.' I thought about it for a minute. 'But not too much, I guess,'" further shows his lack of will in learning and his future. "If you want to know the truth, I'm a virgin. I really am. I've had quite a few opportunities to lose my virginity and all, but I've never got around to it yet." (Salinger 92) Holden reveals his sexual innocence by blurting out that he's a virgin during his description of his encounter with Sunny, the prostitute. Whereas the "typical" male, as Holden describes, would see this as an undesirable trait, Holden seems to be quite proud of it. Holden's own opinions of sex and girls are varied, for example when he said "Sometimes I can think of very crumby stuff I wouldn't mind doing if the opportunity came up. ...quite a lot of fun... if you were both sort of drunk..., to get a girl and squirt water... each other's face. The thing is, though, I don't like the idea. It stinks, if you analyze it." Holden is confused about sexuality, unlike most of the other teenagers for his age who would simply just dive into the action without though. Although despite these un-manly traits, Holden makes up for in compassion for others.

One of the most prominent emotions throught the book is the amount of care Holden shows for many of the people in his life, such as Jane, his ex-girlfriend, and Phoebe, his kid sister, and to an extent Sally. Jane was once Holden's close friend, but she moved away when he went to college. Holden ended up meeting up with sally, where Holden told her of his crazy plan to run away with him, and she refused. Holden reined his temper that was building and recognize his error and "apologized like a madman":" she started crying...I stuck around, apologizing and trying to get her to excuse me". Holden may sometimes have a short temper, but he feels compassion for people he knows, and doesn't want to harm her further. Holden shows he can be very short-fused, but very caring as well.

Holden's sister, Phoebe, is one of his most treasured possessions. Holden sees Phoebe as an angel, who can do no harm. He tries his hardest to keep her away from harm. He wants to create a protective layer of morality for the younger generation, so when they grow up, they will raise their children as they were raised.

" Fuck You on the wall... I thought the Phoebe and all the other kids would see it, and wonder what it meant... I rubbed it off "

This shows that Holden cares for Phoebe, and any other kid who would be influenced by such profanity. He did not want Phoebe to see it, so she would not grow up wondering and finally figuring out what it meant. Holden did not want anyone to grow up in an environment which he thought would not be safe, or an environment which would prove to develop into the way today's older generation acted. Holden thought that today's older generation was full of hypocrites, and phonies, who didn't care for anyone but themselves. Holden wants to be the Catcher in the Rye to protect children from the world in which he is forced to live. While talking with Phoebe, she asks Holden what he would like to be. He responds saying: "'Anyway, I keep picturing...little kids playing... in this big field...Thousands of little kids... And I'm standing on the edge a cliff. What I have to do...to catch everybody if they start to go over the cliff...That's all I'd do all day... just be the catcher in the rye and all.'" He is trying to save a generation from turning into bad people, from falling off the cliff. He would be The Catcher in the Rye.

Holden's personality is unique and genuine and amusing, unlike some of today's society's personalties, and thus made the book somewhat differentiated and stand out from others in terms of style. Holden is often cynical and selfish at times, but shows courage and determination and compassion. He doesn't just think about the older generation, but thinks about the younger generation and how they would turn out. He tries to change the world, so the world is not full of phonies. He would be The Catcher in the Rye, and whilst it is foolish for him to dream like so, it is nonetheless admirable and brave.