Protector of Innocence: Holden Caulfield of "Catcher in the Rye"

Essay by deazn1High School, 12th gradeB+, July 2007

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My most memorable character in a fictional piece of literature would probably have to be Holden Caulfield from J.D. Salinger’s Catcher in the Rye. The novel is one of the most influential books of the 20th century, and has frequently banned by schools, due to its use of profanity and sexuality.

The story takes place when Holden, a sixteen year old boy, drops out of his fourth high school and struggles over the death of his younger brother Allie. Throughout the book, Holden criticizes and philosophizes about people who are boring, people who are insecure, and people who he considers “phony.” Born into a life of wealth and privilege, he looks down upon the upper-class world he occupies. He questions the values of his class and society and sometimes opposes conventions just for the sake of opposition. Holden is very angry and frustrated throughout most of the book.

There are many characteristics that make Holden memorable to me.

Some are memorable because I feel that I was able to relate to them in the past. Holden struggles between the path of adolescence and adulthood. He cannot stand the fact that adulthood requires being “phony,” and he would rather see people being their true selves and not acting. Being a “phony” is when one is not acting true to oneself. Holden uses it for describing the superficiality, hypocrisy, pretension, and shallowness that he encounters in the world around him. For example, teachers who “act like” teachers by assuming a different demeanor in class than they do in conversation or people who dress and act like the other members of their social class. Similarly to me, Holden does not enjoy when people act different just to impress others.

Holden is also memorable because of the huge differences between us. Holden is extremely judgmental of almost everybody. He criticizes people who are boring, people who are insecure, and, above all, people who are “phony.” Holden likes passing judgment to such an extreme that it often very comical, like when he speculates that people are so crass that someone will probably write “fuck you” on his tombstone. The way Holden can have such a strong opinion of someone he just met makes him seem very cruel. I find myself judging people at time, but not as often and definitely not to that extreme as him.

Holden’s attitude towards sex is very interesting. Holden has not had sex yet, and feels that sex should happen between two people that deeply love each other, but throughout most of the novel Holden tries to lose his virginity. He is disturbed because he is aroused by women whom he doesn’t respect, care for, or whom he refers to as stupid. Also, he is disturbed by the fact that he is aroused by kinky sexual behavior, particularly behavior that isn’t respectful of one’s sex partner, such as spitting in one’s partner’s face. Holden refers to such behavior as “crumby,” but he admits that it is pretty fun even though he doesn’t think that it should be.

One of the memorable things about Holden is the fact that he want to be the “Catcher in the Rye.” Symbolically, this means he wants to protect the children from the phoniness of the adult world. Holden looks like an adult, but with his personality, he struggles to become one throughout the novel. Holden is easily annoyed by the adult world and can barely stand it. His decision to become the “catcher in the rye strongly comes from the fact that he was traumatized by his younger brother’s death. Holden thought he could protect him, but he could not do anything because he brother died of leukemia. Allies death causes Holden to greatly care for his sister Phoebe. He seeks to protect Phoebe from the phony adult world. That’s why he has tears of happiness when he sees his sister riding the carousel in the end.

Holden Caulfield is my favorite and my most memorable character. His struggles with adulthood, dislike for phoniness, and eagerness to protect children make him an outstanding and my most memorable character