Last Updated 21 Apr 2020

The Catcher in the Rye Critical Essay

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Holden Caulfeild is the main character of J. D.

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. Holden is portrayed as a very troubled and alienated young boy. He alienates himself to protect himself from the hurt of losing his brother Allie, the pain of growing up, and the phoniness of the adult world. Holden grieves the loss of his beloved little brother by thinking of everyone else as not good enough. He wants to fit into this new world he’s coming into as he’s growing up, but he can’t find a place for himself.

During this book Holden always describes himself as a victim of the world around him. He says to Mr. Spencer in the beginning of the book that he feels trapped on “the other side” of life. Throughout the book Holden attempts to find his way in a world that he doesn’t feel he belongs in. In chapter nine Holden tells us about some ducks that he sees in the central park lagoon. The ducks are a symbolic part of the story. The pond is a metaphor for Holden’s life and the stage of his life that he is in when this book is written.

The pond is “partly frozen and partly not frozen. ” It is in transition between two states, just as Holden is in transition between childhood and adulthood. The deeper into this book we get the more we start to realize that the way Holden alienates himself is just to protect himself. Hilden has been hurt before and he makes that very obvious when he speaks of his brother Allie and his death. I slept in the garage the night he died, and I broke all the goddam windows with my fist, just for the hell of it.

I even tried to break all the windows on the station wagon we had that summer, but my hand was already broken and everything by that time, and I couldn’t do it. It was a very stupid thing to do, I’ll admit, but I hardly didn’t even know I was doing it, and you didn’t know Allie. (39) This quote shows us how strongly Holden did care about Allie and what a loss Allie’s death was to his life. Holden tries to pass off his alienation as him thinking he is better than everyone else and is too good to interact with them.

An example of this would be when Holden is in the club and he meets three older women. Holden says, “they didn’t invite me to sit down at their table- mostly because they were too ignorant- but I sat down anyway. ”(73) and “I tried to get them in a little intelligent conversation, but it was practically impossible. You had to twist their arms. You could hardly tell which was the stupidest of the three of them. ”(73) These quotes show that Holden thinks of the women as stupid and below him before he even knows them.

He assumes people are not as good as he is and that everyone has something wrong with them. But really Holden is the one who has a problem interacting with people. Holden is desperately in need of human contact and love. He needs someone to talk to and be close with, but he denies himself that. Which might be one of the causes of his depression. Holden also used alienation to protect himself from growing up. Holden is obviously overwhelmed by change. But instead of growing up, Holden criticizes other people for the things that he is guilty of.

He rarely ever admits to being wrong or not knowing something. One of the few times where he does admit being wrong is when he speaks of sex and admits, “sex is something I just don’t understand. I swear to God I don’t”(63) This shows us that Holden isn’t really as grown up and worldly as he would like us to think. Holden puts on an act to make himself seem much older and more experienced than he really is. In most of the book he does a good job of making that image of himself believable, but this is one part where he shows us that he is still a child.

Holden also uses alienation to protect himself from the phoniness of the adult world. Holden uses the term “phony” as a sort of catch all for all the things he sees in the world that he doesn’t like or doesn’t agree with. An example is when Holden describes childhood as “innocence, curiosity, and honesty”. While he says that adulthood is “superficial and phony”. Holden does not want to grow up, which could be a reason he would describe adulthood as being “phony”. A way that Holden avoids growing up and addressing his problems or flaws is by pointing out the phoniness in the world and in people around him.

Holden uses many different things to alienate himself and to keep himself closed off and protected from the world. He alienates himself to avoid growing up and to avoid changing. Holden even talks at the end of the book about opening up to people. He says, “Don’t ever tell anymore anything. If you do, you’ll start missing everybody”(214) But what Holden does not see that we, as the reader, can, is that Holden’s alienation of himself is one of the pain sources of his pain and depression

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The Catcher in the Rye Critical Essay. (2018, Sep 02). Retrieved from https://phdessay.com/the-catcher-in-the-rye/

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