The Catcher in the Rye

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The Catcher in the Rye, by J.D Salinger, opens with the narrator, Holden Caufield telling a story of three days that changed his life. Holden was expelled from numerous schools, due to his lack of interest and great depression. This all started when his younger brother, Allie, died. Although Holden has had a tough life, he compares his problems to the worlds, and his seem insignificant. Holden is ashamed and disgusted at the way people treat each other. Holden gets an insight into what the world is really about and wants no part in this evil, corrupt place. He begins to worry about the symbol of innocence, children, and that someday they will be infected by society. He wants to become the catcher in the rye, so that he can stop the children falling off the cliff into adulthood. He eventually comes to terms with this fantasy being an impossibility, and goes insane.

Holden is a very confused seventeen year old boy, who throughout the novel is searching for meaning. The death of his younger brother Allie, depresses him extremely during the novel, and it leads to him not being able to communicate well with anyone. Because of this lack of communication with the world, he thinks that no one will listen or talk to him.

“People never notice anything,”

(Salinger 14 8)

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Holden can not form lasting, meaningful relationships with people, as he is afraid of loss. He becomes very withdrawn and childish after his brothers death, and has a sense of isolation from the world. His parents choose not to talk to Holden about Allie’s death, as he was very connected to him and may cause more unnecessary trauma.

“But it wasn’t just that he was the most intelligent member

of the family. He was also the nicest…”

(Salinger 14 )

Holden views the world as an evil place that is full of ‘phonies’. These ‘phonies’ are people that are not true to themselves or each other. Throughout the novel Holden has many encounters with these phony people, and finds that the center of there world is to look good. The core of this phony society is money. It all has to do with how much you make and what you do with it.

“ Goddamn money. It always ends up making you blue

as hell.”

(Salinger 14 10)

Money makes the world go around, and if you do not have it your descriminated against. It is the center of most relationships and Holden can not see why. When Holden meets Maurice, the pimp he is disgusted at the way he treats Sunny. He use’s Sunny to live and in a way is betraying her. He gets most of the profit and Holden can not understand why someone would use someone else for financial gain.

All Holden wants to do is to talk to an adult about his personal problems. Money is nothing to him, and he will even pay a prostitute, not to have sex with, but to sit down and talk to him.

“…I just didn’t want to do it. I felt more depressed than

sexy, if you want to know the truth.”

(Salinger 14 87)

Holden wants to find out about her, but she is unable to respond. This is probably due to the way that Maurice has treated her, and she to can not form meanigful relationships. Once again he finds that people are not interested in listening to him, and he gets more depressed.

Possibily the only people that listen to Holden, excluding Pheobe, are the nuns. The way that people treat the nuns really makes Holden upset, because they seem pure to him. Again, they are descriminated due to their money status. Holden describes their suitcases, which is a way of seeing how wealthy someone is.

“They were these very inexpensive-looking suitcases �

the ones that aren’t genuine leather or anything.”

(Salinger 14 7)

Holden can not come to terms with people judging one another just for the suitcase they have. No matter how kind or generous that person is, they will be treated differently over financial status. Holden believes that money has the biggest effect on society, and like the new testement says, “the love of money is the root of all evil.”

Holden wants to escape this phony world ruled by money and evil. Holden, throughout his search for answers, finds only falseness, and a world that he does not want to live in. He turns to the symbol of innocence in society, the children, for guidence. Every kid that he meets immediatly lights up his eyes, and gives him a sense of hope.

“God, I love it when a kids nice and polite when you tighten

their skate for them or something Most kids are.

They really are.”

(Salinger 14 107-108)

When he heard a boy singing the catcher in the rye song, he wanted to become the catcher. If Holden was the catcher he could prevent the children from growing up into such an evil world.

“ if a body catch a body coming through the rye.”

(Salinger 14 104)

This is Holden’s turning point because it made him happy and gave him hope. He truly thought that he could become the catcher and save Pheobe and the rest of the children from growing up. As the story progresses, and Holden goes deeper and deeper into insanity, he comes arcross some graffiti on the schools wall. He quickly rubs it off so that no children would see it and become infected. He comes across another graffitied wall, but this time the words are scatched in. It is at this point where Holden comes to the realization that he is helpless.

“ The thing with kids is if they want to grab for the gold ring,

you have to let them do it, and not say anything. If they fall

off, they fall off, but it is bad if you say anything to them.”

(Salinger 14 10)

This happens when Pheobe is on the carousel reaching out to touch the gold ring. By this time Holden has come to the realization that he can not be the catcher, and therefore can not stop Phoebe from entering adulthood. The gold rings are ironically not gold but brass plated iron. This is a symbol of the adult world which ‘wears’ a shiny surface to hide the truth.

Holden has told his story from the mental institution. He has told us what he told D.B, and at the end is sorry to have even told it at all. Leading up to his breakdown, many things made Holden upset. Aside from his insignificant personal problems, he tells us of his deep sorrow for how the world is, and how people treat each other. It is a phony place that he can not do anything to change. Growing up is an inevitable part of life, and nothing, not even the catcher in the rye can stop it.

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