A Child’s View: Adult Oppression in The Catcher in the Rye and The Member of the Wedding

In novels The Catcher in the Rye and The Member of the Wedding, Salinger and McCullers both invite the reader to experience how the adult world can have an impact on the lives of young people. In particular, the novels describe how their protagonists (Holden Caulfield in Catcher and Frankie in Member) feel oppressed by the constraints and expectations of an adult world. The Catcher in the Rye has an immediacy that could allow it to be viewed as a more powerful portrayal of a child’s perspective, and The Member of the Wedding’s perhaps more convoluted chronology could be said not to lend it such power. Yet McCullers’ poetic language and underlying metaphors conceivably lets it be seen as just as powerful in a distinctly different way. This view of an oppressive world is shared by both novels despite differences in narrative technique: for example, Holden is male, while Frankie is female; McCullers employs a third-person narrative voice, while Salinger uses the first person. From the outset, both novels make it clear that the main protagonist feels in some way oppressed by the environment or atmosphere that surrounds them. In Catcher this is shown through Holden’s irreverent, even rebellious, voice. The first words are: “If you really want to hear about it.” This ‘you’, with which he addresses1 the reader, engenders sympathy, and perhaps more intriguingly prompts questions of reliability as the reader realises this is Holden’s subjective interpretation of events. The apparent reluctance of the story teller to tell his story is reinforced by a declared lack of desire to describe his “lousy childhood”, where he “was born” or how his “parents were occupied… and all that David Copperfield kind of crap” – all of which demonstrates a dislike for autobiographical conventions. We are already in the world of someone who feels at odds with his environment and who is in opposition to the conventions of the adult world surrounding him. The Member of the Wedding adopts a different approach. It commences somewhat conventionally with “It happened that green and crazy summer when Frankie was twelve years old.” This sentence has a simplicity reminiscent of children’s stories, which raises certain expectations in the reader about the kind of drama that might follow. However, instead of the innocence of childhood, there is ambiguity in the adjectives “green” and “crazy”; atmospheric words that suggest innocence naivety (green) and confusion (crazy). Given that Frankie is “twelve years old”, the reader might conclude that they are being presented with a ‘coming of age’ story. Moreover, the “it” (the first word) is of course elusive to us upon our first reading. Even by the end of the novel, we are still unclear what ‘It’ refers to: it could imply the heavily anticipated wedding of Frankie’s brother, or possibly Frankie’s sexual development (at the end of Part II Frankie (F. Jasmine at this point) still cannot accept the thought of sex, and consequently labels it “crazy” following her evaluation of her sexual encounters). McCullers’ apparent story-telling conventionality (in contrast to Catcher) is perhaps further undermined by underlying metaphors. McCullers uses poetic language composed of many possible meanings. For example, there is atmospheric depiction of the external world to indicate Frankie’s internal world: “In June the trees were bright dizzy green, but later the leaves darkened, and the town turned black and shrunken under the glare of the sun.” . The descriptions of the weather alone conjure an oppressive atmosphere: the ‘darkened’ leaves and the ‘black and shrunken’ town are both metaphorical of Frankie’s despair. Furthermore, “green” could be taken as symbolic of the freshness of Frankie’s youth, and “bright dizzy” could be reflective of her uncertainty at a vulnerable stage of development. McCullers, therefore, does not appear to execute her opening with the immediacy of Catcher, instead quietly rendering her prose with subtle meanings. There is a huge difficulty in deciding which is a more powerful introduction – Salinger’s intimate and opinionated direct-address, or McCullers’ nicety of prose; the direct-address of Holden grabs the reader’s attention by expressing points that appear sensitive to his society’s oppressive nature without appearing to be constrained by such oppression, which can be looked at contextually: set in 1949 (post-war America), Holden critiques the equilibrium that the government was struggling the maintain chiefly due to the threat of communism. McCarthyism constrained the actions of many, particularly those in the arts, and women were restrained similarly from a career outside their home, since the supposedly disrupted idea of a family needed to be put right proceeding the war. It was thought a working father and stay-at-home mother was the appropriate way forward in order to present the ideal that work was ‘unwomanly’. Holden appears to desire to rebel against the aforesaid American ideologies. One female acquaintance, Sally, interprets Holden’s want to “escape” as a want to “travel” telling Holden they will have “oodles of time to do all those things… I mean after you go to college and all, and if we get married and all”. This could be seen as a passive acceptance of the social conventions of the time, and – in the sense that Sally does not question the unimaginative and perhaps dull future she has been conditioned to assume is right – Holden’s ideas are comparatively much less inclined to the status quo; it appears that he sees such a comfortable future as conforming to a life lacking in surprises. Reading on, we encounter in both novels a theme of corruption that threatens to impinge on the lives on the protagonists. The objectivity and lack of bias with which McCullers’ third-person narrative unfolds allows direct unmediated observation of behaviour that is left to the reader to interpret, perhaps psychoanalytically. In Member, pg. 33 (Part I), there is a “queer sin” that Frankie is said to have committed with a Barney MacKean whom she hates so much that she “planned to kill him… shoot him with the pistol or throw a knife between his eyes”, yet this does not necessarily mean Frankie resents Barney. Instead this could be read as a resentment or defensiveness masking fear and guilt for what she has done; she feels corrupted. Symptoms of her sense of corruption are continued throughout Part I: “she could not name the feeling in her”. The reader can sense Frankie’s stress – she is being oppressed by emotions too complex for her age. Additionally, as a result of the narrative’s authenticity, that is we trust the third-person narrative because it appears unbiased, the reader can sense Frankie’s high level of perceptivity in relation to Holden, who could be said to be too possessed by his own despair and anger in order to perceive the world accurately. In Catcher, Holden sees corruption all around him. Of his brother he says “D.B., being a prostitute… out in Hollywood”. The implication is that D.B. – as an author – has not been true to his art having been seduced by material wealth. Of course, D.B. has not necessarily sold-out by going to Hollywood – Holden could instead be masking his true feels; it is likely that he is missing his brother, particularly since he no longer has Allie, his brother, who died. Holden goes on to express his dislike for “phonies”, like his old headmaster, Mr Haas, who he calls “the phoniest bastard I ever met in my life… [who] if a boy’s mother was sort of fat… would just shake hands with them and give them a phony smile and then he’d go talk, for maybe half an hour, with somebody else’s parents” – pg. 12. Holden tells us that this disingenuous behaviour “makes me so depressed I go crazy”. Through such descriptions, the reader gets the sense of what Holden means when he describes people as ‘phony’, and how their ‘phoniness’ affects him because it is often those with social power (like a headmaster) that demonstrate this superficiality; and this entails a feeling of anger for Holden who is subject the actions of ‘phonies’ socially superior to him. Perhaps the difference between the two novels in terms of this theme of corruption is that Frankie feels the corruption within, while Holden feels the corruption from without. So while Holden is explicit in pinpointing the source of the corruption in his brother, former headmaster and others, McCullers alludes to a psychological corruption within Frankie. For instance, on page 32 we learn that in Frankie there is “tightness… that would not break” and that “what she did was always wrong”. The narrative goes no further in describing exactly what this ‘tightness’ is or what is ‘wrong’, instead allowing the ambiguous language to reveal only Frankie’s discontent and confusion. However, like Holden, we can conclude that the corruption is the result of an oppressive experience of the external – that is, adult – world.Chronologically, these novels both effectively convey themes of oppression, and reflect their protagonists’ attributes in radically distinct ways, despite the fact that they each take place over just a few days. Salinger’s episodic narrative pulls the reader rapidly through Holden’s passage of time. Through dialogue, the reader is somehow brought into a sense of real-time, which, juxtaposed with Holden’s tangential stream of consciousness, constructs a chronology whose erratic nature gives the reader a sense of over-stimulation within a short period, similarly to how Holden himself can be said to be overly stimulated by his time in New York’s adult world. One instance – in the middle of the story – demonstrating Holden’s spontaneous liaison with a prostitute2 where he attempts to extricate himself from the situation which begins to make him “feel sad as hell”: he lies about a back operation on his “clavichord… in the spinal canal” (a clavichord is actually a stringed musical instrument). This meeting evokes, again, Holden’s perceptivity to corruption in the external world, and his sadness suggests just how sensitive he is towards it. Following the whore’s elongated departure Holden talks aloud to Allie (his deceased brother), begins to reminisce about his childhood, and then transgressively starts to talk about the Bible and the character he liked best “next to Jesus, was that lunatic and all, that lived in the tombs and kept cutting himself with stones”. His digressions could be said to take away the reader’s sense of time due to their inconstancy, yet we are instantly brought back down to earth with Salinger’s reapplication of dialogue. In this instance, Holden is deviating from Christianity into a disagreement with a boy from school when “somebody knocked on the door… old Sunny [whore] and Maurice [pimp]”. Here an altercation escalates into an argument resulting Holden being “smacked”. Such fluctuation of narrative roller-coasters the reader through time, potently representing Holden’s adolescent bewilderment to a world that he finds restrictive, sinister, and thus oppressive. The effect of Salinger’s juxtaposition between the Bible and the prostitute is perhaps a mirroring of Holden’s character (he is a lesser version of the self-harming lunatic) followed by an illustration of why it is true: by lonesomely wandering, failing to eat, drinking and picking up hookers Holden is harming himself, and maybe he knows so; perhaps he alludes to the biblical lunatic as an extreme of himself, angered by society and severely lacking self-esteem Holden proceeds to downward spiral with an inevitability that could be seen as necessary for the realisation and content that we witness at the novel’s end. McCullers, conversely, convolutes time. Her descriptions of the lugubrious heat and the minutiae of the world expressed symbolically during the endless hours spent around the kitchen table with John Henry and Berenice somehow lengthen our perception of time and seems to slow to Frankie’s pulse-rate: “the sad old kitchen made Frankie sick… she could feel her squeezed heart beating against the table edge”. Such time-lag alludes more to the aforementioned atmospheric oppression which in itself can be said to represent a differing oppressed feeling within Frankie. In Member, Berenice can be seen as a vital character in reflecting Frankie’s feelings of oppression. In spite of their continual bickering, Berenice may feel similarly dispirited to Frankie in how she can be said to represent the repressive world of a black woman in 1940’s Southern states. Her repetitive cycle of abusive relationships can also be seen to be suggested – in addition to Frankie’s psychological troubles – in such metaphors as the monotonous buzz of the radio3, and tuning of the piano in Part II: “… the chords chimed upwards slowly like a flight of castle stairs: but just at the end, when the eighth chord should have sounded and the scale made complete, there was a stop. The seventh chord… struck and insisted again and again…”. Frankie’s wish to “belong” and for escape to Alaska4 and Winter Hill (for the wedding) are set against brooding heat, and time is seemingly stretched. Perception of time is convoluted through metaphors like the clock for example, where “the town was silent except for the clock. F. Jasmine could feel the world go round, and nothing moved”. This kind of imagery creates a slowness but also suggests an unstoppable advance of time, and the transience of life in terms of John Henry’s fate (he dies at the novel’s end). Surprisingly when major events such as the wedding itself occur, it is described in minor, but poignant, detail: “The wedding was like a dream outside her power or like a show unmanaged by her in which she was supposed to have no part”.The closing of Catcher sees Holden as grown: while his younger sister Phoebe rides the carrousel he assumes an adult disposition by sitting on the bench where the parents sit. He concludes that he should not “say anything or do anything” despite that his sister may “fall off the goddam horse” because “The thing with kids, if they want to grab for the gold ring, you have to let them do it, and not say anything. If they fall, they fall off, but it’s bad if you say anything to them”; this is key – it suggests Holden acknowledges the pitfalls of life that the young must go through in order to grow up with a good understanding of the world. He seems to appreciate the suffering that is inevitable with growing up, but realises its essentiality. By the end of this chapter Holden feels “so damn happy” he is “near bawling” at sight of Phoebe who looked “so damn nice”. It could be Phoebe’s innocence, untainted by adult oppression that establishes his sudden revelational happiness. John Henry dies towards the end of the novel, and it is described with the same brevity as the wedding itself, both of which evoke a sense of childishness in that anticipated events occur and – for children – are often anticlimactic, but they greatly affect them subconsciously, and thus shape their development. Berenice’s last words to him are “Run along… for I don’t have the patience to fool with you”. This could be read as being directed to Frankie who perhaps sees John Henry as part of her former self, “the old Frankie”. In addition to her new name, Frances, this appears to indicate a maturing in her. After John-Henry’s death “day after day the sky was a clear green-blue, but filled with light”, which evokes a sense of resolution through colours suggesting an eventually peaceful and unclouded Frankie. The fact the McCullers describes the story’s resolution with a generality over a long period of time causes Frankie’s “happiness” to seem definite, particularly in contrast to Holden’s, whose happiness, as presented here, might only be fleeting. It appears plausible that someone of the same age, race and sex of Holden could “fall in love with the novel [because] they see in Holden […] an incarnation of their youth” (Schriber, 1990). I am of this demographic, so could be seen to have a bias towards this novel, as it does reflect many adolescent emotions and opinions. Yet, besides this, the immediacy – and intimacy – with which we can relate to Holden, and his sensitivity to certain properties of the adult world make The Catcher in the Rye incredibly full in its presentation of an adolescent’s perspective. McCullers’ novel is more politically explicit, as shown in her representation of racism in Berenice and of homosexuality in John Henry who both, along with Frankie, dream of a different world5. This political chord adds another layer of oppression to the novel. Nonetheless, McCullers’ deep-rooted metaphors, affecting pathetic fallacy and authenticity of narrator conjure a slow-burning power, provoking wide-ranging questions. The emotion expressed through the ambiguity of her multi-layered prose is moving, offering a journey of discovery over a seemingly long period of time. Yet the fact the novel runs over about as many days as Catcher perhaps confirms the story’s undeniably poignant delicacy in conveying emotional turbulence. However, both authors construct their narratives in profoundly distinct ways; so much so that it would be absurd to write which is ‘better’.

Growing Pains

Perhaps the strongest theme in The Catcher in the Rye is the main character Holden Caulfield’s fascination and even obsession with the ideal of true innocence; a higher innocence from the superficiality and hypocrisy that he views as a plague on American society. Conjoined with this ideal comes a wariness of adults and an alienation from his peers. His engrossment with purity eventually leads to his nervous breakdown, in that everywhere he turns, someone else has lost his or her innocence. Holden, like most adolescents, embarks on a journey of self-discovery as described over the course of the novel. However, this coming-of-age becomes particularly turbulent for Holden. He feels like he does not belong anywhere, certainly not in the “dirty little cliques” (The Catcher in the Rye 131) that fill his boys’ schools, and not with his distant and rarely mentioned parents.Holden’s peers represent the degeneration slowly turning them into full-fledged adults. He sees that one by one, all of the people his own age are becoming “phony;” that is, growing up. Stradlater, Holden’s roommate at Pencey Prep, is the epitome of what Holden despises in his generation. Stradlater is hypocritical; he goes “crazy when you (break) any rules” (41) while at the same time he makes his date late for her nine-thirty curfew, because “who the hell signs out for nine-thirty on a Saturday night” (42)? His date happens to be a very dear friend to Holden named Jane Gallagher, whom Holden respects and holds to the highest form of admiration and fondness. Holden cannot bear to think that the sexually “impure” Stradlater might jeopardize her innocence, and this makes him lash out violently. Holden later finds his sweetheart, Sally Hayes, and opens up to her completely. He tells her of all his problems and his complaints about society, and is even more depressed to find that she is just as jaded as Stradlater, and on her way to becoming a shallow adult. She meets his extravagant plan of running away with rejection and a disheartening dose of reality, exclaiming that they were “both practically children” (132). Holden’s isolation from his peers is a result of his anger at his generation and at himself; he regards adults as jaded, and is fearful of how everyone his own age is slowly turning the same way. “He is terrified of growing up because he fears he may become like the people he scorns” (Bean), and he already sees this change among his age group.Growing up, to Holden, only denotes negative thoughts, that all adults care about is “how many miles they get to a gallon” (131) on their cars, and other equally superficial things. Adults cannot even participate in charity work, at least “(they can’t) go around with a basket collecting dough…(unless) everybody kiss(es) (their) ass(es) for (them) when they made a contribution” (114). Adults are “phonies” of the highest order to Holden; they lack all the intense emotion, impetuousness, and otherwise human qualities often shown in young people. They are enwrapped in their own superficial pastimes, “mak(ing) believe (they) give a damn whether the football team wins or loses” (131), and in all other ways are self-absorbed. Holden observes this in his own parents and every other older person, and can’t stand to think he could become something like that.Children, on the other hand, are a great source of joy for Holden. He holds “little kids” to the high esteem of Jane Gallagher, in that they are completely uninhibited and innocent in that way. His own little sister, Phoebe, is the epitome of his ideal sense of innocence. She is one of the very few people throughout the entire book that Holden does not label as “phony,” and Holden feels an incredible amount of protective instinct towards her. When Holden comments on the song “The Catcher in the Rye,” he explains to Phoebe that he would want to be “the catcher in the rye” (173), a metaphor for innocence. “(He would) stand at the edge of some crazy cliff…(and) catch (all the little kids) if they start(ed) to go over the cliff” (173). Holden feels that his innocence has already left, but he knows the pain of this and wants to become the metaphorical preserver of innocence. When the children would begin to fall off the cliff and out of grace, Holden would catch them, because no one had caught him. This applies to Phoebe as well. The reason he does not run away from home and instead tries to apply himself is Phoebe; he thinks that if he can stay and prevent her from “falling off the cliff,” then he would have accomplished his goal in life.Holden Caulfield’s story speaks to many because the author, J.D. Salinger, effectively expresses the real thoughts and feelings of a teenage boy, without the sugarcoating or stereotypes often associated with youths. His isolation from and general disgust with society are common adolescent anthems, although particularly strong in the character of Holden. The fact that Holden finds absolutely no stability in his life may be a contributing factor, as every single person he knows becomes “phony,” leaving him in a “one against the world” frame of mind. At the end of the novel, however, Holden finds where he belongs in his own mind and there is a ray of hope for him. In saving Phoebe from her fall from grace, Holden has also saved himself.

Falling In

In his novel, The Catcher in the Rye, J.D. Salinger narrates the psychological and physical tribulations of Holden Caulfield, an overanalyzing, mentally unstable teenage boy, searching for satisfaction in an ever-changing world. In one selection, Holden describes his nighttime journey through Central Park; on the edge of an emotional breakdown, he seeks companionship yet continuously scorns the idea of being with those who care about him. Through Salinger’s manipulation of detail, setting, and repetition, he underscores Holden’s feelings of loneliness and detachment, and he exposes his deteriorating mental state.In order to capture and demonstrate Holden’s unspoken emotions, Salinger employs an ironic selection of details. Holden, lonesome and forlorn, longs to disregard his past experiences; however, as he breaks the record intended for his sister Phoebe, he “…didn’t feel like just throwing [the pieces] away” (Salinger 154). This unbroken tie to his past reappears as he describes the stress and concern of his parents and his “whole goddamn stupid bunch of” relatives if he died (155). Ironically, he imagines only his fear of “…picturing [his mother] not knowing what to do with all [his] suits and athletic equipment and all” and his abhorrence of his grandfather “…calling out the numbers of the streets when you ride on a goddamn bus with him”; these insignificant and unprecedented details highlight Holden’s ultimate mental degeneration (154, 155). Holden’s psychological deterioration continues as he complains about squandering all of his money; after making this proclamation, he unwarrantedly casts his coins into the pond and explains that “…[he didn’t] know why [he] did it, but [he] did it…”(156).Holden’s feelings of solitude and wavering mental conditions parallel the disheartening, abandoned setting of the lake in Central Park. As Holden wanders through the park looking for the lake, he expresses that he “…knew right where it was…but [he] still couldn’t find it” (154). This statement embodies Holden’s psychological state of being; he proposes that he knows what he wants in life yet cannot seem to locate it. When he finally does find the lake, it appears to be “…partly frozen and partly not frozen…”; in this condition, the lake symbolizes Holden’s precarious position on the border between rationality and insanity (154). Desperately searching for the ducks, Holden again appears to be seeking companionship. However, all of the ducks have disappeared, and he is left in isolation. As Holden edges toward the condition of mental instability, he symbolically comes close to “damn near [falling] in once” (154). By italicizing the word “in,” Salinger creates a double entendre; Holden appears to be in jeopardy of literally falling into the lake and figuratively plunging into a state of mental collapse.Finally, through his use of repetition, Salinger emphasizes Holden’s preeminent detachment from the world and progression into physiological insanity. As he wanders through the park, he continuously reemphasizes the darkness around him; in fact, as the chapter progresses, the scene is described as “…getting darker and darker…” (154). Ultimately, Holden expresses that “It’s not too bad when the sun’s out, but the sun only comes out when it feels like coming out”; just as the darkness of the scene successively appears to be significantly intensifying, Holden’s feelings of isolation magnify to the extent of escalating his feelings of hopelessness (156). These emotions eventually generate apprehension and fear of death, the ultimate state of isolation and disconnection from others. As Holden ponders this possibility, he repeats the assertion that cemeteries are “Surrounded by dead guys”(155). Feeling isolated and solitary, he concludes that his detachment from society will infinitely aggrandize after death; therefore, he cannot “…take [his] mind off…” his fear of “…getting pneumonia and dying” (156). In his mentally degenerating state of being, Holden truly believes that he is perishing; consequently, he also deems it necessary to consistently reiterate his sister Phoebe’s fondness and adoration of him. Needing to verify this love in order to convince himself of its actuality, he asserts that “She likes me a lot. I mean she’s quite fond of me. She really is”; this repetition illustrates Holden’s hesitation in recognizing blatant human affection (156).As Holden Caulfield wanders through Central Park, J.D. Salinger adroitly incorporates an ironic selection of detail, a symbolic setting, and a revealing repetition of facts in order to examine this estranged, disturbed character’s emotions. Sinking further and further into a state of psychological abnormality, Holden’s detached and deteriorating thought processes ultimately foreshadow his impending, complete mental breakdown.

Holden Caulfield’s Character Presented in the Novel

The Catcher in the Rye, written by J.D. Salinger, is seen throughout the narrative repeatedly asking the simple question, ³Where do ducks go in the winter?² The simplicity of this question reflects upon a predicament for Holden that remains of the utmost importance and significance throughout the novel. Although a complex character, Holden many times acts analogous to a childish figure that indulges in simplicity, questioning and answering his own quandaries in a simplified, juvenile manner. His fascination with this question can only be looked upon as the unadulterated, more youthful side to his character. Furthermore, finding the answer to the outlandish question remains a persistent top priority for a character that otherwise gives up on various unambiguous opportunities, events, and positive prospects of his life.The first time Holden asks about the ducks is on his way to the Edmont hotel. He curiously asks the cab driver that is driving him to the hotel his opinion on where the ducks go during the winter. The query is uncharacteristically off-topic, yet Holden insists with much verve that his question is a genuine one, and hassles the cab driver for a bona fide response. The question can be described as random and unsystematic, analogous to his existence. Because the ducks and their whereabouts represent the unknown, Holden can greatly relate to them. At a time in his life where he is moving onward into an unfamiliar existence, the main character connects with the ducks because he has finished an important period in his life and is moving on into another phase. However, unlike the ducks, Holden does not know where in his life he is going. He feels that his ³pond,² which represents his life up until his leave from school, is freezing over as well, and he must therefore find a comfortable, secure safe-haven with his newly found independence. Like many other parts of the narrative, Holden can only connect his independence and curiosity in a bizarre manner, and likens them with ducks in a pond. Before visiting the pond himself, Holden once again asks a taxi driver advice on the situation at hand. Taxi driver’s vehicle consequently comes to symbolize a comfortable place for Holden, a safe haven where he can inquire about the ducks. Because the cab drivers are much older then most of the characters that Holden interacts with throughout the book, they are most likely viewed as wiser. Moreover, they possess a keen sense of direction because of what they do for a living, and Holden may possibly consider that they, of all people, might know which way the ducks head during the winter months.Later in the book, the conversation turns to ducks and fish. Holden insists, however, that although the fish mean nothing to him, he emphatically desires to comprehend the ducks¹ situation. The fish could very well be, in a figurative sense, children, still under the protective barrier of the frozen shell of the pond, seemingly very limited to move about freely. The ducks, in turn, seem to be the independent, free adults of the world, at first relying on the pond for support, but then flying away to where the sky¹s the limit with potential and possibilities. In turn, Holden constantly finds himself in situations where he does not know whether to he is more akin to a child or an adult. It is apparent that Holden desires childhood because of his fond, warm memories of youth, but senses that he is being forcefully pushed into adulthood and independence because of his newly established freedom away from a structured, methodical world.Observably, Holden is exceptionally alarmed by the idea of change and disappearance. Because of his abrupt independence, Holden explains in only a way that he can, his life¹s experiences he has accumulated thus far into the novel. Drawing from past encounters and occurrences, Holden can usually muster up an explanation for just about everything. However, when it comes to the ducks in the pond, Holden finds himself in total uncertainty, and at first seems more detached then related to the creatures in the pond. When Holden finally visits the pond for himself, he finds no ducks, and the water is more slushy than frozen over. Immediately Holden thinks about his own death, and what it may be like. This accounts for his feelings of eptiness when, instead of finding the ducks, as he had hoped, the character finds nothing. A feeling of isolation and remoteness fills Holden, and the reflection of death naturally occurs. The slushy water in the lagoon implies that although Holden is an individual now, the transition into complete adulthood is still not finished, and supplementary development will need to continue until the pond completely freezes over, so to speak.At the end of the novel, Holden is indeed able to answer his own question. Visiting the pond himself shows Holden that he has conclusively found what he was in search of. It also suggests that he can understand his life situation sufficiently more then he had at the beginning of the novel. Now he is able to understand that there is indeed a transition period in life, and knows everybody must make the crucial change from childhood into maturity. Since change is inevitable, Holden eventually learns to deal with the radical alterations in his life, and his responsibilities for them. The conclusion that Holden holds is one of much sorrow, yet wonderment. Though Holden still holds a defensively cynical, skeptic tone at the end of the book, the ending is hardly tragic. Although Holden still has much growing up to do, he has learned the indispensable and perpetual lesson of where ducks go in the winter.

The Presence of the Psychological Lens in The Catcher in the Rye

As a soldier in WWII, J.D. Salinger did not write about the war like his counterparts. He wrote about tragedy, but from a teenage perspective in the shape of Holden Caulfield. Through the psychological theory of trauma in J.D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye, the psychological lens can be used to analyze while some argue mental illness in adolescence should not be taken seriously because many victims are well-off and experience few other problems, it should be due to how illness results from repressed trauma and causes an identity crisis transitioning into adulthood; unless signs of internal conflict is typical for becoming an adult.

The psychological lens glimpses into the behavior and motivations of characters. The lens concerns expression, personality, and state of mind; it draws on psychology and psychoanalysis. TED Talk “Depression, the Secret We Share” by Andrew Solomon delves into the minds and lives of those suffering from mental illness. Instances within the text reflect experiences in The Catcher in the Rye analyzed by the psychological lens.Through the psychological theory, Holden expresses behavior of repressed trauma from childhood in the novel. Holden Caulfield experienced quite an amount of trauma at an early age; his brother Allie passed away when they were young. Time does not heal all wounds, though, because years later Holden imagines his brother, “ … I’d make believe I was talking to my brother, Allie. I’d say to him, ‘Allie, don’t let me disappear. Please, Allie.’ And then I’d reach the other side of the street without disappearing. I’d thank him. Then it would start all over again as soon as I got to the next corner” (Salinger 257). Soon after, Holden decides he is going out west to start anew. Yet, he is only reacting to panic in the moment. As Holden connects his location with memories of Allie, Holden wants nothing more than to escape; but he would only be running from his problems instead of finding peace. Holden’s trauma is due to his attachment to Allie—Holden denies his brother has passed. In addition, Holden’s trauma contributes to his isolation, “We can see that Holden’s alienation is the cause of most of his pain. He never expresses his own emotions directly, nor does he attempt to discover the source of his troubles. He desperately needs human contact, care, and love, but his protective wall prevents him from looking for such interaction” (Chen 145). As a result of his repression, Holden does not share his trouble, which allows his depression to spread. He intentionally pulls away from others so he can conceal his trauma.

Mental illness can cause or prolong an identity crisis during adolescence. Teenage years are synonymous for personal discovery, but mentally ill teens such as Holden feel they do not belong. Mr. Antolini advises, “‘I think that one of these days,’ he said, ‘you’re going to have to find out where you want to go. And then you’ve got to start going there. But immediately. You can’t afford to lose a minute” (Salinger 245). Mr. Antolini tells Holden while he may not understand where he is now, everything will work out later; but Holden does not understand. It seems easy for teenagers to discover what they want to pursue, but mental illness can spiral into an identity crisis that could prolong into adulthood. Furthermore, Holden already has an image for his identity, “Anyway, I keep picturing all these little kids playing some game in this big field of rye and all. Thousands of little kids, and nobody’s around—nobody big, I mean—except me. And I’m standing on the edge of some crazy cliff. What I have to do, I have to catch everybody if they start to go over the cliff—I mean if they’re running and they don’t look where they’re going I have to come out from somewhere and catch them. That’s all I do all day. I’d just be the catcher in the rye and all. I know it’s crazy, but that’s the only thing I’d really like to be” (Salinger 224). Holden views himself as the preserver of innocence. When Phoebe suggests he pursue science or law, Holden does not see himself with a real career—instead, he associates his identity with what he despises most: adulthood.

One popular criticism attached to The Catcher in the Rye is Holden is not depressed, but a spoiled teen with no sense of identity. A critic scorns, “In the course of 277 pages the reader wearies of this kind of explicitness, repetition and adolescence, exactly as one would weary of Holden himself” (Goodman). In her original 1951 article, Goodman criticizes Holden Caulfield as the typical self-centered adolescent. The use of “repetition” implies this depiction has been done before. While Goodman makes note about the lack of authenticity in Holden’s character, nonetheless she misses subtle bits of isolation and self-destruction associated with depression and not typical adolescence. In his TED Talk, Solomon addresses whether depression is just a part of human personality, “Being able to have sadness and fear and joy and pleasure and all of the other moods that we have, that’s incredibly valuable. And major depression is something that happens when that system gets broken. It’s maladaptive” (Solomon 8). Usually, adolescence is accompanied by images of teenage angst. Yet teens suffering from mental illness more often than not feel only indifference. Holden’s inability to care—from being expelled to feeling threatened in Antolini’s home—is all a precursor to what Holden fears as a disappointing life.

A common criticism which attempts to invalidate mental illness is that victims from privileged backgrounds cannot suffer because they are not outwardly miserable. Solomon depicts this typical situation, “And yet it turns out that if you have a really lovely life but feel miserable all of the time, you think, ‘Why do I feel like this? I must have depression.’ And you set out to find treatment for it. But if you have a pretty awful life, and you feel miserable all of the time, the way you feel is commensurate with your life, and it doesn’t occur to you to think, ‘Maybe this is treatable’” (Solomon 7). Essentially, mental illness is a lottery and while the sufferers can be privileged or poor, they feel the same wave of sadness and apprehension. This reflects Holden and his depression, because even though he comes from a well-off family and a nice home, he has feelings of hopelessness and despair. In fact, Holden spends much of The Catcher in the Rye by recklessly spending his father’s money, and pleading his sister Phoebe for more. He was raised in an environment which holds money as a source for happiness. During when Holden reaches what is possibly his lowest point, “My bags were there and all, and I figured I’d sleep in that crazy waiting room where all the benches are. So that’s what I did. It wasn’t too bad for a while because there weren’t many people around and I could stick my feet up” (Salinger 252). Even though Holden has a stable family and home, Holden is so abhorred by the idea of going there that he sleeps on a subway bench. His depression is what denies him from the help he needs,symbolizing his isolation. Though he felt unsafe, he considers returning to Mr. Antolini, because Mr. Antolini offered him solace. Holden may have grown up privileged, but there was nothing money could buy to repair his esteem.

While the psychological lens is not the only lens to analyze The Catcher in the Rye, the discussions developed from analysis can be used to compare our modern perspective on mental illness to a much more primitive one. For decades, the idea that Holden was just a misbehaved teenager was common among critics, but failed to dig deeper into the suffering Holden feels from his social isolation and trauma brought in by events throughout his lifetime. It cannot be presumed that Salinger and Holden shared similar experiences, but the authenticity in his words conveys in a subtle manner that trauma affects everyone in different multitudes, and The Catcher in the Rye is just one perspective.

Holden and the Canon: Evaluating the Aesthetic and Classic Status of ‘The Catcher in the Rye’

J.D Salinger’s ‘The Catcher in the Rye’ has been controversial since its release in 1951. Its focus on crude and sexual subject matter means it was banned in many places, even in some American schools today. Works in the canon, sometimes referred to as ‘the classics’ are broadly defined as works that, because of their innate literary value, are ‘regularly in print’, have ‘a consensus of academics, historians and teachers’ and ‘are studied for school examinations’[1]. ‘The Catcher in the Rye’ has consistently been in the top 100 novels since its publication, but has struggled to gain either a consensus among critics or a reputable academic following. This essay shall explore what has held ‘Catcher’ back from canonical status, despite its broad and long-standing popularity, and whether it is the text or the canon itself that should come under question. [1] Critical Anthology- Section 6

Critics who dismiss ‘Catcher in the Rye’ have generally done so because they consider the writing to be simplistic or unrefined. Canonical texts are usually expected to be ‘aesthetic’ and therefore ‘Elegant, witty, patterned, controlled.’[1] Some critics will particularly highlight that ‘Writers do not simply choose ‘ordinary’ words, like the words we use for conversation.’2 It is perhaps in this light that Catcher falls down, as the narration often uses an informal sociolect with profanity and slang like ‘godamn’, aswell as unsophisticated compound adjectives like ‘pimpy-looking’ creating an unrefined style for the text. On the other hand this is accompanied by sophisticated language devices throughout the novel, which is full of recurrent metaphors and symbolism. One example is the ‘duck pond’ in New York: ‘You know those ducks in that lagoon right near Central Park South? That little lake? By any chance, do you happen to know where they go, the ducks, when it gets all frozen over?’. Not only does his repeated questioning about the ducks connote his curious child-like nature, but it also symbolises to Holden what he desires- impermanent change- that the ducks return every Spring. This exemplifies literary devices in the novel which, although simplistic in presentation, demonstrate aesthetic themes woven into the structure, thereby raising the apparent ‘value’ of the writing. [1] Ways of Reading: Advanced Reading Skills for Students of English Literature by M. Montgomery- Critical Anthology

Conversely, though, we may consider that the literary value of ‘Catcher’ can be found in this ‘simplistic or unrefined’ language too. The use of a vernacular which doesn’t conform to formal or literary English arguably adds value to the text because, through his repeated motifs of ‘phony’, ‘madman’ or ‘godamn’, Holden constructs his unique idiolect. This helps him to assert his own characteristic cult of individualism, which the novel inspired in popular culture too, using language and tone to create imagery for the character himself and thereby reflecting one of the dominant themes in the novel through linguistic self-isolation and individualism. We may therefore deduce that, although there are certainly traditionally aesthetic elements in Salinger’s work, there is, in conflict with literary consensus, value to be found in the ‘unrefined’ elements of Caulfield’s writing too.

Another supposed requirement for ‘classics’ is that they stand the ‘test of time’, largely because their subject matter is not considered ephemeral or commercial but ‘for all time’, notably ‘they are unlikely to be at the same time texts which discuss specific political questions’2. Even before entering the debate however, it is important to recognise that many classics when first produced were indeed commercial, be it Shakespeare or Dickens. ‘Catcher in the Rye’ comes under potential criticism here as ephemeral and possibly politicised as it may be considered too symptomatic of the angsty 1950s period in which it was set and written. To an extent this is true since the novel was written at the beginning of counter-cultural revolt culminating in the 1960s and elements such as Caulfield’s time at a ‘prep school’ and flunking all subjects except creative writing are autobiographical of Salinger, who is known for regarding himself especially as an outsider. Sociologists in the 50s began to fear the ‘homogenisation’ of culture, with Riesman warning of an ‘other-directed’ man[1] who conforms to society. For Holden, the motif ‘phony’ covers everything in society that justifies his isolation from it ‘One of the biggest reasons I left Elkton Hills was because I was surrounded by phonies. That’s all. They were coming in the goddam window’- linking his mental sickness with the relevant societal sickness in the 50’s conformist, materialist culture. This implies that perhaps the counter-cultural, isolationist and individualistic aspects of ‘The Catcher in the Rye’ are in fact intrinsically linked with issues rooted in the author or period and therefore less significant ‘for all time’. [1] The Catcher in the Rye: The Voice of Alienation by Timothy Aubry, assistant professor of English at Baruch College, The City University of New York- http://alanreinstein.com/site/213_Catcher_files/voice.of.alienation.aubry.pdf

However, many have seen ‘Catcher in the Rye’ as being invaluable in its subject-matter as it helped establish, through Salinger’s innovative almost anti-bildungsroman form, a new genre in the teenage perspective. It has been said by critics that ‘It is the first novel of the modern teenage years.’ and that ‘There is a strong dialogue between the book and the teenage experience- they are mutually shaping.’[1] Indeed, the angsty tone and unreliable narration help to capture something of the, previously unacknowledged, ‘teen spirit’. Holden is the perfect allegory for holding onto childhood and innocence through the teenage experience- helping create value. One aspect of this is the recurrent mental analepsis concerning his brother Allie: ‘He’s dead now. He got leukemia and died when we were up in Maine, on July 18, 1946. You’d have liked him. He was two years younger than I was, but he was about fifty times as intelligent. He was terrifically intelligent. His teachers were always writing letters to my mother, telling her what a pleasure it was having a boy like Allie in their class.’ Holden was 13 when he died, significantly the start of puberty, thereby helping to construct an allegory in which Holden’s longing for Allie comes to symbolise his longing for childhood. Similarly, the book’s titular extended metaphor in which Holden describes his ideal life as ‘the catcher in the rye’- ‘What I have to do, I have to catch everybody if they start to go over the cliff— I mean if they’re running and they don’t look where they’re going I have to come out from somewhere and catch them. That’s all I’d do all day. I’d just be the catcher in the rye and all.’ The use of the pastoral refuge imagery demonstrates Holden’s desire to return to a better time where he stops kids falling off ‘cliff’s into adulthood and experience. Such a theme is seen constantly in the novel, including later in the ‘Natural History Museum’- ‘The best thing, though, in that museum was that everything always stayed right where it was. Nobody’d move. You could go there a hundred thousand times’- representing his deep longing for things to stay as they were. These demonstrate not only established and moving literary techniques, adding value, but also a central theme of such importance that it helped establish a genre. The teenage experience is a significant aspect of life universally and therefore Catcher not only stands the test of time but also brings something new and necessary to the ‘classics’. [1] http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/magazine/8084931.stm – Dr. Graham (Leicester University)

Both the preceding points of genre and language raised issues about what gives ‘value’, about how we define and assign literary worth. Barthes raises this issue in his work, where he explores the idea of ‘readerly’ and ‘writerly’ texts[1], each deriving their value from different forms of pleasure. The canon, comprising mostly ‘writerly’ literature is about challenging the reader and producing something artistically beautiful. ‘Readerly’ texts on the other hand provide pleasure to the reader by immersing them in another world or person’s story, the reader may forget that they are in fact reading, and language may not be as complex or patterned. The informal direct address used by Holden, for example, such as ‘I’ll just tell you about this madman stuff’, pulling us into his world and including us in his superior perspective, or the angst-ridden tone mirroring teen’s inner conflicts, have just as much value to a consumer, regardless of canonical ‘aesthetic’. It is therefore worth considering alternative theories of literary value such as Barthes’s when deciding whether ‘Catcher in the Rye’ has a place in the canon, particularly in appreciating both its evident ‘readerly’ and ‘writerly’ aspects. [1] Ways of Reading: Advanced Reading Skills for Student of English Literature by M.Montgomery- Critical Anthology

Perhaps one observable failing in ‘Catcher in the Rye’ is that ‘Plot is in short supply.’[1] It’s supposed to form ‘complex patterns or structures’[2], and is arguably an important factor even in establishing ‘readerly’ value as it creates interesting storylines. Often there are narrative gaps in Holden’s storylines, sometimes left unconcluded with a relatively cyclical arc, leaving readers without a sense of resolution or explanation- ‘That’s all I’m going to tell you about. I could probably tell you what I did after I went home, and how I got sick and all, and what school I’m supposed to go to next fall, after I get out of here, but I don’t feel like it.’ It is easy to feel as though nothing of consequence occurred in this novel. Another reading of the text however, is that the narrative is a mental one, as opposed to a more solid material one, in line with its experimental anti-bildungsroman form. Although the text only covers three days of Holden’s life it feels significantly longer due to the lack of distinct chronological markers and even the absence of consistent paragraphing, with some anecdotes rambling on for multiple pages. These however are excellent structural imagery for an inner monologue. The distortion of time and lack of impetus or direction in plot may be addressed by the fact that this reflects Holden himself, who in his depressed and deteriorating mental state lacks all of these things. It does, indeed then, in this psychoanalytical reading ‘form complex patterns and structures, either being echoed by other ideas in the text or reaffirmed in the form of general themes.’ 7 taking us on a journey through the unstable mind. [1] http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/magazine/8084931.stm – BBC Magazine Why does Salinger’s Catcher in the Rye still resonate?, created 5/6/05 [2] Ways of Reading: Advanced Reading Skills for Student of English Literature by M.Montgomery- Critical Anthology

Overall then, an exploration of general literary features such as form, plot and language, demonstrates how ‘Catcher’ fulfils many of the aesthetic ‘conditions’ for literary value through sophisticated devices and complex, consistent themes. This is the case even if the presentation of them is unconventional within the established canon. Interestingly, Holden’s central themes resonate with canonised heroes of American literature like Gatsby or Huckleberry; be it the social insider turned prisoner, the unique idiolect or the Romantic’s legacy of innocence battling experience. The text does however raise questions about how we assign value to literature such as whether politicised subject matter has a place or whether readers’ pleasure is as important as aesthetic worth. It’s worthwhile noting that the canon can be criticised as a group of texts selected by ruling elites, middle classes or older generations of critics and it’s therefore highly reasonable to consider these alternative aspects when discussing value. ‘Catcher in the Rye’ certainly benefits from such a discussion as the dissident narrator, the nonstandard vernacular and the personal form all add value despite all being points of potential criticism too. It is through a combination of conformist and alternative literary value that ‘Catcher in the Rye’ has a place within the canon, perhaps most pertinently through its attempts to not be a ‘classic’.


A-Level English Literature B Critical Anthology by AQA, Cambridge University Press 2015 http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/magazine/8084931.stm – BBC Magazine Why does Salinger’s Catcher in the Rye still resonate?, created 5/6/05 https://study.com/academy/lesson/why-is-the-catcher-in-the-rye-a-classic.html%20-%20lesson – Study.com Why is Catcher in the Rye a Classic? https://www.sparknotes.com/lit/catcher/context.html – SparkNotes Editors. “SparkNote on The Catcher in the Rye.” Context, accessed 20/07/17 http://studentacademichelp.blogspot.co.uk/2009/05/catcher-in-rye-holden-caulfield-and.html – An essay from Academic Help, The Catcher in the Rye: Holden Caulfield and American Protest, created 21/5/09 http://alanreinstein.com/site/213_Catcher_files/voice.of.alienation.aubry.pdf – The Catcher in the Rye: The Voice of Alienation by Timothy Aubry, assistant professor of English at Baruch College, The City University of New York, The Guilder Lehrman Institute of American History

The Catcher in the Cold War: 1950s Society and the Question of Responsibility

According to Joseph Cummins, a researcher on teenage rebellion in the 50’s and 60’s, in 1946, 3.4 million babies were born in the U.S, which is more than ever before. This was followed by 3.8 million in 1947. After 1954 4 million babies were born every year until 1964 when the baby boom tapered off. These children came of age in the 50’s and 60’s and immediately began to rebel. (Cummins) As parents were faced with a new, more dangerous form of teen rebellion to match the historically tense times. While all the attention was turned to up keeping new societal norms and pushing communists out of 50’s America, teens like Holden were allowed to simply slip through the cracks and watch as their own mental states deteriorated without the proper treatment. Although people say the book The Catcher in the Rye is not a social commentary on the ills of the 1950’s Salinger provides a first-hand account on the societal norms, historical tensions, and psychological states at the time, proving that responsibility fosters hypocrisy.

This time period is infamous for its invisible war against communism as well as the unsettling need to live a cookie cutter life style following the economic boom. Parents found a safe place in the suburbs being able to provide more for their children than their parents had ever provided them. There were certain rules that needed to be followed, and if they weren’t followed, children were shipped off. Professor at Stanford Richard Powers states, “A significant proportion of the adult generation disapproved of the values and lifestyle of the teens, and were doing something about it, including setting new rules, restrictions and prohibitions. Boy’s hair touching the ears wasn’t allowed, punishable by expulsion. Most girls weren’t allowed to wear pants. The new slang – hipster talk – bothered most adults. It was part African American, part beatnik and part street gang… an offensive combination in the eyes of the status quo.” (Powers) This comes off as extremely controlling and bit hypocritical seeing as parents wouldn’t allow their children to be their own individual. This is something everyone has wished for and is entitled to, this was being ripped from them which led to the isolation and loneliness among teens. While attempting to juggle teenage rebellion parents also had another growing concern, the spread of communism. Alan Nadel puts it like this “This all played out through publicized trials of suspected spies and subversives, Loyalty Oaths, Hollywood and Academic purges, as well as extensive anti-communist legislation.” (Nadel) This made this time very difficult on the average man because every citizen was both the threat and the threatened. The constant thought that anyone around you could be a enemy waiting to strike could drive anyone bonkers as well as having no truthful test of loyalty. This shows through Holden’s speech as well as the continuous use of the word ‘phonies’ referencing the need to always be on guard against ones friends, neighbors, and family members.

Political tensions at the time were at an all time high, and the American people reflected that in the way they carried themselves and in their rhetoric. Alan Nadel, author of “Rhetoric, Sanity, and the Cold War: The Significance of Holden Caulfield’s Testimony,” states “This aspect of fiction could not be more emphasized than it is by Holden Caulfield’s speech, a speech which, moreover, reflects the pressures and contradictions prevalent in the cold war society from which it was forged.” (Nadel) Holden’s use of profanity throughout the book showcases his growing irritation, this could be reflected back onto politics in this time period. At one point, the US and the Soviet Union were wartime allies but in peacetime quickly became enemies due to conflicting ideologies and competition when it came to global interests. This bred a form of paranoia that reshaped foreign policy for years after the cold war. History.com states, “Many people in the United States worried that communists, or “subversives,” could destroy American society from the inside as well as from the outside.” (History.com) Holden represents this paranoia the American people were feeling at the time in The Catcher in the Rye when he heads to New York, hags a cab, then proceeds to ask the cab driver many questions which only brings about irritation in the driver as well as making him suddenly more paranoid and questionable of Holden. (Salinger Page 82) People at this time were constantly on edge, always on the lookout for the enemy in hiding. This reflects back onto the cab driver because at time in order to not be suspected of being in bed with the enemy it was a necessity to look, and act like everybody else. The 50’s was an era of great conformity in a political time period of disarray and disloyalty. Everyone led the same cookie cutter lifestyle, some afraid to fall out of line in fear of being a suspected communist. This time period was also littered with less than professional school environments and abstinence only sex education that in the end only hurt the children.

Despite many notable attempts from schools to make their programs better, they still faced difficulties in defining the goals of family life and sex education. According to Rose M. Somerville, an author on family life and sex education, states, “The fact that some of the difficulties are contradictory merely compounds the problems.” (Somerville) This itself screams hypocrisy at the highest of levels To define the goals of family life correctly the need for sex education becomes even higher. How is a child expected to understand the severity of their choices as an adult without having knowledge of how to handle adult problems? Isn’t that what the school system is paid to do for Americas children? Not teaching children the importance of safe sex and how to avoid unwanted pregnancies can make or break their futures as well as the future of Americas children. As the baby boomers grew up and started to blossom into individuals, parents began putting an end to things like boys with long hair, jeans, rock n roll, and fast cars because these were all deemed as unethical and not the societal norm. This is questionable considering when the parents of this generation were themselves teenagers they too wished for freedom and individualism, in a sense one could say they were rebelling. If children didn’t follow through with their parents’ wishes they were packed up and shipped off to boarding school in hopes they would be ‘molded’ into a more productive member of society when if put in their shoes wouldn’t wish this upon themselves making their morals and fitness to be parents up for debate. As Holden states in the book “They didn’t do any more damn molding at Pencey than they did at any other damn school” (Salinger Page 2) this shows that the schools themselves didn’t mold the students into anything special, they simply heavily encouraged the students to fall in line, which many did with ease. They attended all the football games, sitting on the sidelines tirelessly cheering for their team, despite not knowing why they liked them in the first place. They learned all the material, simply because they were told to. They scored high on all the state tests, because they were expertly trained in how to pass them.

It could be argued that in these days, no one ever had a thought of their own. they were always being told what to wear, what to say, and what to do. Take this example from Salinger: “The game with Saxon Hall was supposed to be a very big deal around Pencey. It was the last game of the year, and you were supposed to commit suicide or something if old Pencey didn’t win.” (Salinger Page 1) Again the morality of these parents is up in the air once you encourage your child to live a life they do not want to live and force them to participate in things that in the end they have no interest in. The theory alone is shaky, but it lacks evidence to support the argument for the cookie cutter life style other than simply “I told you so.” That by itself can be stressful for a child on top of the rejection of who they really are inside as and, in Holden’s case, trauma over the loss of his brother drove him nearly out of his mind and the belief is it was for the greater good? If the reader really begins to analyze Holden it could be inferred that Salinger is referencing the end of the book where Holden suffers a mental breakdown and following that is sent to a psychiatric hospital for treatment. Holden himself didn’t fit into societal norms, like, for example, not going to the most important football game of the year, he didn’t take his own life but a psychiatric hospital visit however can definitely be categorized under, as Salinger states, “or something.” (Salinger Page 1) Throughout the book, the reader watches as Holden’s frustration begins to eat at him slowly leading to the deterioration of his mental state. The book begins with Holden acting like a seemingly normal teen brimming with angst but as the book continues it becomes evident that something is wrong with Holden, not just normal teenage rebellion.

However, no one else seems to recognize what Holden is going through and he is labeled just another teenage rebel, and for that fact most adults choose not to bother with him due to the difficulty he presents. Carl Pickhardt, a psychologist, puts it this way, “Parents usually dislike adolescent rebellion, it’s not only that it creates more resistance to their job of providing structure, guidance, and supervision.” (Pickhardt) Holden was not the only teen in this time period with this problem, many teens found it hard to express themselves and many mental illnesses were overlooked due to political tensions and the comfortability provided by the economic boom. This raises questions about why his parents didn’t get him help after the passing of his brother and before it was too late, at a time when grief counseling was most definitively needed. This brings about a sense of selfishness that was prevalent in cold war society that allowed a cycle of hypocrisy to live on even as it does now in modern day society. Joseph Cummins, a researcher on teen rebellion in the 50’s and 60’s, claims, “Since millions of baby boomers were raised in the affluent suburbs that had sprung up after the war, they began their rebellion against the materialism of their youth.” (Cummins) Differentiation between parent and child led to many disagreements and hypocrisy directed towards their children because parents thought they knew what was in the greater good for their child. Many, though, rejected the materialism of their upbringing while their parents embraced it, parents became angered with their children for taking advantage of a comfortable lifestyle they wished they could have enjoyed when they were younger and believed they were ungrateful. This left teens feeling isolated and unaccepted with no one to turn to, wishing they had someone to love them for who they are, something that at one point, their parents wished for as well. This could just as well lead to rebellion for the sole purpose of attracting attention, Psychologist Joseph Cummins explains, “Rebellion can cause young people to rebel against their own self-interests — rejecting childhood interests, activities, and relationships that often support self-esteem. It can cause them to engage in self-defeating and self-destructive behavior” (Cummins) This is exactly what Holden decides to do.

If analyzed closely, Holden’s actions reflect a need to be accepted and a cry for help that he tried to express through rebellion. This drives Holden to do things he wouldn’t in his right mind do, and in turn, drives him to the brink of insanity. It all comes to a peak when Salinger writes, “Somebody had written fuck you on the wall. It drove me damn near crazy. I thought how Phoebe and all the other little kids would see it, and how they’d wonder what the hell it meant, and then finally some dirty kid would tell them.” (Salinger Page 201) The idea of someone else getting robbed of their innocence, in his case when his brother had died, drove him absolutely mad. Holden never wanted someone’s mind to go where his had gone, especially not the one person he cared about the most, his little sister Phoebe. The death of his brother ultimately opened Holden’s eyes to all the bad there was in the world, it was like a surgical intervention on a patient who hadn’t gone under anesthesia yet. It was painful jolt into a new world he wasn’t prepared for, and Holden will have scars that will last forever, whether they be visible or not. He wanted to save Phoebe from that, he wanted to save everyone from that, but they didn’t want his help. Not everyone shares this opinion however, some critics say that responsibility doesn’t foster hypocrisy among adults, it only fosters understanding. Of course, no child likes to be told what to do by their parents but sometimes in the end it is for the greater good, even if they haven’t come to that conclusion themselves yet. Psychologist Carl Pickhardt claims, “The parent knows best because new exposure puts the teenager at the mercy of inexperience and ignorance” (Pickhardt) Sureley when they were younger parents didn’t like eating their vegetables, but they were forced anyway because in the end, it made them healthier. In turn they urge their child to eat their vegetables despite the unappealing taste knowing that, in the end, it will to make them just as healthy. With that in mind there is still the remaining question of why make someone do something you wouldn’t do yourself, if it truly is for the other person’s greater good shouldn’t they believe that too as well as have the right to make choices for themselves? It is still argued that the responsibility of being a parent brings about a new sense of understanding of the greater good, but yet in this time period Rose M. Somerville states “These Obstacles were to loom even larger, Among such obstacles were the following, difficulties in defining family life, fear, and uncertainty when facing changes.” (Somerville) If the parent themselves are unsure how could they be expected to know what is best for someone else?

Nonetheless, teenage rebellion was a muffled call for help whose signs were blatantly ignored in the face of budding communism, the need to fit in, and the cold war proving that hypocrisy makes roots in those who take on more responsibilities. In order to fix this problem among families that is found even in modern day society we must encourage parents to become more empathetic when facing their child’s problems, this can bridge gaps in family members and can improve mental health among children by letting them know they are accepted and they are loved for who they are. Let this be a lesson and from before us from here on the rule of thumb for every society should be ‘If I couldn’t get through this, why should I expect someone else to?’

Work Cited

Cummins, Joseph . The Rebellion of the Youth in the 1960s. Classroom. Nadel, Alan. “RHETORIC, SANITY, AND THE COLD WAR: THE SIGNIFICANCE OF HOLDEN CAULFIELD’S TESTIMONY.” The Centennial Review, vol. 32, no. 4, 1988, pp. 351–371. JSTOR, JSTOR, Pickhardt, Carl E. Rebel with a Cause: Rebellion in Adolescence. Psychology today , 6 Dec. 2009. Powers, Richard. “The Life of a 1950s Teenager.” 1950s Teenagers, Stanford University, socialdance.stanford.edu/Syllabi/fifties.htm. Salinger, J. D. The Catcher in the Rye. Little, Brown and Company, 1951. Somerville, Rose M. “Family Life and Sex Education in the Turbulent Sixties.” Journal of Marriage and Family, vol. 33, no. 1, 1971, pp. 11–35. JSTOR, JSTOR,

The Cyclical Nature of Running Away: Analysis of Holden Caulfield and Francis Weed

In both “The Country Husband” and The Catcher in the Rye, Francis Weed and Holden Caulfield attempt to escape the cyclical nature of their societies, but are ironically brought back to a routine lifestyle that is both predictable and blatantly understood by both protagonists. Both struggle to fight through the cage of false appearances and uniformity, attempting to reinvent their monotonous personalities and extricate themselves from their irrational peers. By running away and obtaining characteristics foreign to their natural personalities, Francis and Holden ironically revert back to the cyclical nature of their rejected societies, their rebellions unable to overcome the compelling cycle of monotony.

Holden Caulfield, unable to tolerate the brainwashing nature of his teen peers in high school, rejects the “stupidity” of trying to fit in, an ungraspable concept to the teenager with rationally-based sentiments. Believing his knowledge of the corrupt society contrasts the other teenagers’ ignorance to their issues, Holden “didn’t have any goddamn choice except to leave” (Salinger 98). Hypocritically, Holden leaves because of the lack of acceptance, proving that although he claims he does not desire to fit in, his intentions are to find a society in which he feels accepted. His roommate Stradlater, the jock opposite Holden, maintains his habitual shaving routine with a razor that “he never cleaned or anything” (Salinger 31). Each boy follows a strict routine that is unnatural to Holden as they do not stray from their predictable patterns of character and actions. The nature of the general structured society repulses Holden as his individuality and rational thoughts are (in his mind) superior to the social standards followed subconsciously by everyone else.

Ironically, as Holden escapes from his own routine-based school and social life, he revisits once again another area of sameness and perpetual routine. The carousel, representing each race and kind of person all rhythmically moving to the same song of –– calls to him, leading him back to his social cycle. Running away from his previous setting drives Holden to run to the same rhythm of the carousel, once again falling into the path of routine as he ends the story looking out at his sister, just as the other indistinguishable adults. Holden watches his sister, caught in the circle of childhood, “go around and around,” just as the other children follow. Although Holden originally rejected the never-ending carousel of childhood, he returns to the cycle. His character, even though it undergoes mental reevaluations and irrational decisions, never altered from the beginning as it reverts back to its original cycle. Subconsciously, Holden reverts back to the typical teenager he rejects while seeking comfort from his family, the foundation of the average American society.

In “The Country Husband” Francis Weed ironically tries to change his personal routine after his near-death awakening, but in the end ends up in the same marital structure he began in. He begins to notice the daily routines of his neighborhood, exclaiming his dislike of them, constantly seeking out the negativity in his neighborhood. The identical family homes all housing perfectly-appearing couples and families strikes Francis as unnatural and within him arouses a rebellion that he executes with the rejection of his marriage, and the lust for an untouchable woman. His actions speak louder than his words as he unreasonably seeks a relationship with his children’s babysitter. Although his lust grows for her, this new feeling resulting from his mental awakening is nothing more than experimentation just as the rest of his neighbors. His feelings, based on a social rebellion resulting from the hatred of the cyclical relationships of his town, are nothing more than meaningless lust.

Overall, Francis Weed’s duty still remains with his children, and the typical parties and fatherly obligations still define his life. As he begins to run his family life off its normal tracks, he cannot cope with the mental instability that follows, leading him to seek counseling, a coping mechanism common among the stereotypical American. The way his family ceases to care of Francis’ problems is another moment of his awakening that startles him to the point of reconsidering his relation to his children and wife. He “doesn’t like to come home every night to a battlefield,” but when his children refrain from acknowledging his personal tragedy, it becomes clear his family is under a spell of ignorance along with the rest of his neighbors (Cheever 204). Temporarily giving in to his obsession, Francis also haunts a younger woman, almost a girl, and “did this nearly every night.” After his experimentation with his rebellious lust, Francis spends “another evening among his kind neighbors,” the invariant neighbors whom Francis attempted to desert (Cheever 205).

Although both Francis and Holden run from their seemingly poisonous settings, they end each of their journeys in a state of vulnerability they possessed at the beginning of their escapes. Each man subconsciously aspires to be an anomaly of their societies, but only differ from their peers in their awakened knowledge of the cyclical nature of their own cities. Both men run from the fear of the cyclical world, yet end up in an alternate monotonous schedule. Francis and Holden both recognize that the objects of people’s desires there are mundane, and therefore judge the outside world harshly. It is only after each story that the authors present the notion that although people try to seek individualism, sameness is inevitable.

Hooking Up With Holden: Exploring Sexuality in The Catcher in the Rye

“Sex is something I just don’t understand. I swear to God I don’t,” (Salinger, 63). It might take Holden Caulfield nine chapters to admit to this, but his sexual confusion is present from the first pages of J.D. Salinger’s famous novel The Catcher in The Rye. Stemming from the dichotomy of sexual openness in America, underlined by an immense sensitivity, and sprinkled with teenage confusion, Holden’s relationship with his sexuality is a turbulent one. Holden experiences a constant string of emotions concerning sexuality, spanning from excitement to guilt. All of these emotions are difficult, and are a pressing internal struggle for Holden. Holden Caulfield’s disconnection from his sexuality is a notable contributor to his social difficulties.Certainly the broadest cause of sexual issues in The Catcher in The Rye is Holden’s relationship to societal sexual expectations. America during this time features contrasting beliefs surrounding sex. For the older generation, which includes Holden’s distant parents, “most sex in America had been forced into the closet. Even masturbation was despised and thought to be the source of many physical and psychological ills. The only officially endorsed sexual behavior was monogamous heterosexual marriage,” (Ferguson, 2). Only private, vanilla-no-sprinkles-please sex was acceptable, and even this ultrabland intercourse was never spoken about. In a predictable reaction to this uptight sexual culture, the younger generation rebelled and embraced sex, which later partially motivated the sexual revolution. We see this open sexual excitement in Holden’s private school, Pencey Prep. Holden tells his reader that at Pencey “all you do is talk about girls and liquor and sex all day,” (Salinger, 131). While all of Holden’s friends are making out with girls, and then vividly retelling stories about said making out sessions, Holden can’t quite assimilate into that culture. A part of Holden does experience sexual excitement; he goes on dates regularly, comments on girl’s appearances, and is jealous of his roommate Stradlater’s sexually adventurous ways (Salinger, 43). But there is also an equally strong part of Holden that wants sex to be intimate and incredibly personal. Both perspectives are showcased as Holden reflects on an usual sexual scene observed outside his hotel room window; “I can even see how it might be quite a lot of fun, in a crumby way, and if you were both sort of drunk and all, to get a girl and squirt water or something all over each other’s face. The thing is, though, I don’t like the idea. It stinks, if you analyze it,” (Salinger, 62). On one hand Holden is excited, and at times overwhelmed, by sex. On the other, he is upset by and quietly sensitive to sexual energy. Holden is clearly confused about where he lands between these two opposing ends of the spectrum. Society is sending mixed signals to all young adults, and Holden is a prime example of the confusion that can ensue.The Catcher in The Rye is commonly known for its exploration of growing into adulthood, and the inevitable loss of innocence. Eero Helenius connects innocence and sexuality well- “With regard to sex and sexuality, then, Holden is primarily concerned with protecting the innocence of those — girls, in specific — yet untainted by its ever-pervasive influence,” (Helenius, 25). The themes of innocence and adulthood are closely related to, and supported by, a number of sexual examples. The clearest example of innocence lost to sex is found as Holden orders a prostitute to his hotel room. Immediately after confirming his room number with the elevator boy turned pimp, Holden starts to regret his decision (Salinger, 91). When the prostitute arrives, Holden is turned off by her childish appearance, noting that she “(…) was young as hell,” (Salinger, 94). The prostitute, who goes by Sunny, enters wearing a green dress and quickly takes it off. Holden’s obsession with innocence is clear as he reflects on this dress- “I took her dress over to the closet and hung it up for her. It was funny. It made me feel sort of sad when I hung it [the green dress] up for her. I thought of her going into a store and buying it, and nobody in the store knowing she was a prostitute and all. The salesman probably just thought she was a regular girl when she bought it. It made me feel sad as hell- I don’t know why exactly,” (Salinger, 95). Despite his lack of emotional intelligence, Holden expresses a deep pain in reaction to this innocent dress being used for prostitution. Holden may not know why he’s so sad about this dress, but readers do; witnessing an apparently regular, young girl turn to the impersonal world of sex work is heartbreaking for our innocence-obsessed narrator. Holden’s pained relationship with sexual innocence is also present, and even more personal, in his childhood friend and love interest Jane Gallagher. To Holden, Jane represents tender childhood memories and youthful beauty. Holden tells a story of when Jane and he are playing checkers, making a special note of how Jane keeps all of her kings in the back row through the game. This is of course a terrible strategy, but she “ (…) liked the way they looked (…),” (Salinger, 32). Much in the same way Holden has unrealistic but comforting tendencies, Jane puts the innocent desire of aesthetics above the adult goal of winning the game. Jane has a history of sexual adulteration, namely her “boozehound” father-in-law walking around their house naked. Jane’s father-in-law, a blatant symbol of harsh adult life, interrupts their checkers game to ask if they have any cigarettes, but Jane cannot meet his eye and begins to silently cry. (Salinger, 78). This exchange serves as evidence that Jane has been sexually abused by her father-in-law. Holden tries to comfort her, but lacks the proper communication skills. This tragic example of sexual adulteration sets the stage for another Jane-related pain for Holden. Stradlater, Holden’s super-sexual roommate, goes on a date with Jane. Holden, and readers, infer that Stradlater and Jane have sex, which is heartbreaking to Holden. Holden desperately tries to bring innocence back to the situation by asking Stradlater about Jane’s delicate back row of checkers, to no avail. As Eero Helenius puts it “Stradlater does not ‘even care if a girl kept all her kings in the back row’ (Salinger, 43), a detail about Jane’s character that means everything to Holden but nothing to Stradlater,” (Helenius, 24). This loss of sexual innocence is experienced as death for Holden: death of childhood, death of beauty, death of general innocence. Peter Shaw expands on this abstract death, writing that there are two parts of teenaged psychological development (Shaw, 101). The first is mourning death of innocence, and the second is experiencing love. According to Shaw, “If Holden is unable to move on from mourning [the death of innocence], he is equally unable to to commence the being-in-love portion of his maturation process. He is suffering through (…) ‘the prime danger of this age’: an excessively prolonged ‘moratorium’ on growing up.” Jane Gallagher stands as a beacon of youthful innocence throughout The Catcher in The Rye, and the combination of her father-in-law and Stradlater’s inconsiderate treatment of her are incredibly painful for Holden, holding him back from a more adult mindset. Holden Caulfield is famous for his hypocrisy. And concerning sexuality, Holden’s hypocritical ways do not falter. Holden tells us “In my mind I’m probably the biggest sex maniac you ever saw,” (Salinger, 62). However, only a few lines later, Holden also tells us that he feels guilty and dirty when he has sexual fantasies. Despite being interested and excited by sex, Holden does not take any legitimate actions towards have sex. And eventually, it is revealed that Holden has not yet had sex at all. “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. Something always happens,” (Salinger, 92). That certainly doesn’t sound like the “sex maniac” Holden had just described himself as. Holden’s sexual hypocrisy extends onto others too. As Holden dances with a few girls at a club, he comments on how dumb and simple-minded they are. However, he also notes how one “(…) when she turned around, her pretty little butt twitched so nice,” (Salinger, 73). Despite criticizing girl for not being intelligent enough, he also finds her attractive and tries to get the three girls to stay out with him. Holden experiences sexual excitement, but hypocritically fails to take the actions that would lead to intercourse. Holden Caulfield’s hypocrisy extends into the world of sexual fetishes, which he holds a restrained interested in. Although Holden again takes no actions to explore his fetishes, he clearly holds interest in certain socially divergent sexual practices. The first of these is a sexual interest in older women. This fetish arises as Holden flees from Pencey Prep to New York City. On his train to New York, Holden encounters Mrs. Morrow, the mother of Holden’s classmate Ernest Morrow. Holden tells us “She was about forty or forty-five, I guess, but she was very good looking,” (Salinger, 54). Holden is approximately sixteen during this interaction, placing Mrs. Morrow at nearly three times his age. Some social constraint is present in his language- Holden says “but she’s very good looking.” She is old but good looking; the word “but” characterizes her attractiveness unexpected, unusual. We can assume that if Holden was admiring a girl his own age, he would say “She is 16 years old and very good looking,” as a young girl’s attractiveness is far more accepted. The decision for Holden to write “but she’s very good looking,” shows that he knows she should not be considered attractive to him. As Holden settles into his hotel room, he reveals more of his atypical sexual interests. Just outside the window, Holden silently observes as two scenes unfold in a hotel next to his. The first is a grey-haired business man who adds a full outfit of women’s clothing, including silk stockings, heels, a bra, and even a corset. In the adjacent window, Holden observes a male-female couple spitting water on each others faces. Holden finds a special interest in this couple, writing “The trouble was that kind of junk is sort of fascinating to watch, even if you don’t want it to be,” (Salinger, 61). There is shame in Holden’s fetish interest; Holden describes his fascination as “trouble”, and openly states that he doesn’t want to be interested in it. Again we see hypocritical behavior, this time in a more explicit sexual manner. An interesting facet of Holden’s sexual disconnection is the possibility of homosexuality. The homosexual nods in The Catcher in The Rye are more subtle than the heterosexual ones, but are relevant nonetheless. The possibility of homosexuality would certainly contribute to Holden’s immense sexual confusion and disparity. The first, and most subtle, suggestion of homosexuality in Holden arises as he watches Stradlater walk to the bathroom- “He went out of the room with his toilet kit and towel under his arm. No shirt on or anything. He always walked around in his bare torso because he thought he had a damn good build. He did, too. I have to admit it,” (Salinger, 26). Again, some shame is present in his voice; he has to admit that he thinks Stradlater is well-built. The next nod towards homosexuality is Holden’s use of the word “flit”. The term was used as a derogatory term for queer and queer-appearing men during mid 20th century, and has since faded in popularity. Holden uses the term with a hateful tone to describe two men he spots at the end of a bar. Despite providing no basis for their homosexuality, Holden aggressively assumes their sexuality (Salinger, 142). During his meeting with Carl Luce, an old classmate notorious for sexual knowledge, Holden remarks that Luce knows “who every flit and lesbian in the United States was. All you had to do was mention somebody- anybody- and old Luce’d tell you if he was a flit or not,” (Salinger, 143) Holden then expresses an irrational fear that he himself would “turn into a flit or something.” A secretive interest with the alternative lifestyle of homosexuality was normal for American culture at this time, but Holden’s language shows a more emotionally charged reaction than interest. His fear of one day waking up a gay man reveals a deeper connection to homosexuality, or at the least bisexuality. We also see that Holden’s disconnection from his clearly homosexual interests creates an off-putting judgement of queer people, in particular other men. Fear of homosexuality arises, even more pronounced, when Holden stays with his old teacher Mr. Antolini. Mr. Antolini is welcoming of Holden, offering him a place to sleep in his apartment when Holden is in need. Holden falls asleep on Mr. Antolini’s couch, and awakens to Mr. Antolini petting his head. Mr. Antolini had been drinking heavily, blurring his sense of what is socially appropriate. The move is not entirely homoerotic; it could also be described as fatherly, concerned, or just drunken. But, keeping in mind that Holden is wearing only his underwear, and that Mr. Antolini had just told Holden “Goodnight, handsome,”, the interaction is undeniably homosexual to some extent (Salinger, 192). Holden flees the apartment, startled and upset by the move. Holden’s immense fear of a homosexual encounter with Mr. Antolini prevents him from seeing any of the fatherly, caring motivations that Mr. Antolini probably held. The act certainly is inappropriate according to American social norms. However, if Holden was more in touch with his homosexual interests and desires, his reaction would not have been so intensely negative. He still would have been startled, but perhaps later would have at least considered the kind, concerned motivations Mr. Antolini certainly held. Here Holden’s judgement of queerness cuts short any chance of a beneficial relationship with Mr. Antolini. All of these sexual tensions, misunderstandings, and disconnections lead to a very sexually confused Holden Caulfield. His confusion and disconnection lead to a number of socially inhibiting tendencies. The most clearly noted would be his infamous judgemental attitude. Holden constantly judges others, a habit frequently associated with insecurity. Another component of his social troubles is his rage, certainly fueled by judgmentalism. For example- in the beginning of the novel, before readers are acquainted with Holden and his lack of self-awareness, Holden enters a rageful fit, physically assaulting Stradlater (Salinger, 43).Holden’s rage, unsafe and juvenile, is triggered entirely by the thought of innocence lost to sexual intercourse. The move feels childish, both in its emotional immaturity and in Holden’s obvious physical disadvantage against the stronger, bigger Stradlater. This brings us to Holden’s last inhibiting trait; masochism. Before Stradlater and Jane go out, Jane is waiting outside of Holden’s dorm room. Jane- the lovely, kind, delicate character Holden adores- is alone, waiting just outside Holden’s dorm. Holden does not even step outside his dorm room, let alone go downstairs to speak with his childhood favorite. He then repeatedly contemplates calling her once he’s in New York, but can’t bring himself to go through with it. Holden’s inability to reach out to Jane despite his feelings is a prime example of his passivity and indecision. Despite having the opportunity to speak with Jane, Holden cuts himself off from this social interaction. The same goes for the previously explored fetishes Holden holds. He’s interested, excited, by sexual adventure. But he again cuts himself off from exploring these sexual activities that would bring him joy. Holden’s mixed drink, one part rage to two parts self-restriction, intoxicates him throughout the novel, leading directly to his depression. The narrative of The Catcher in The Rye occurs as Holden is experiencing peak sexual confusion. Readers witness Holden exploring intrigue, guilt, and discomfort. All of these are perfectly healthy during sexual development, but make emotional life quite difficult. Most readers of The Catcher in The Rye are just as young and impressionable as Holden is, making it important to analyze his developments. Holden is an angry, judgemental, and self-inhibiting character. These traits are not without good reason; Holden is lost not only in social identity formation, but in finding his sexual identity as well.

Works Cited Ferguson, Michael. “Book Review”. Journal of Homosexuality, Volume 57. Taylor & Francis Group, LLC. 2010. Helenius, Ero. “Socialization, Sexuality, and Innocence in The Catcher in the Rye”. University of Tampere School of Language, Translation and Literary Studies. May 2014.Salinger, J.D. The Catcher in The Rye. Little, Brown, and Company Edition. Warner Books. May 1991. United States of America.Shaw, Peter. “Love and Death in The Catcher in the Rye”. New Essays on Catcher in the Rye, edited by Jack Salzman. Cambridge University Press. 1991. The Pitt Building, Trumpington Street, Cambridge CB2 1RP.

The Maturation of Holden Caulfield and Henry Fleming

The Catcher in the Rye and The Red Badge of Courage detail the gradual maturation of two immature boys into self-reliant young men. The steady speed at which Salingerís and Craneís language streams enables the reader to see the independent events that lead up to the ultimate rite of passage for both Henry and Holden. Although the pinnacle of maturity Holden reached concerned his pessimistic view of the world and Henryís was a unifying moment of bravery, both boys experienced an epiphany over the course of their respective tales. Holden came to a realization in the timeless peace of an Egyptian tomb that forced him to reevaluate his immature and selfish views. His new attitude was first displayed while he watched Phoebe snatch at the gold rings of the Central Park carousel. Henry found his manhood during the fierce chaos of battle. These final rites of passage differ in particulars, but their underlying themes possess many similarities.As The Catcher in the Rye progresses, Holden comes to terms that he is powerless to rid the world of evil and forever protect both young children and himself from growing up. Although his perception of the world as a corrupt and phony place is not modified significantly, his final realization is a tremendous step towards accepting the inevitable- he must mature eventually, and the world will never be pure. The enlightenment itself is a step towards manhood. His epiphany occurs after spotting another “fuck you” etched in the serene Egyptian tomb. Holden sees he cannot escape perversion even in the ancient vault. He grasps that he cannot possible go about the world erasing all the profanity scrawled throughout it; eventually, every child is going to have to be concerned and upset as they come to terms with its meaning. They must grow up one day, as he knows he must as well. Salinger follows up Holdenís epiphany with several supporting events. Holden has a nervous breakdown because he now knows with an abrupt and sickening certainty that he is unable to stop both evil and maturation. His emotional outpouring at the merry-go-round further sustains his prior reasoning that he cannot stop maturation. “All the kids kept trying to grab for the gold ring, and so was old Phoebe, and I was sort of afraid she’d fall off the goddam horse, but I didn’t say anything or do anything. 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’s bad if you say anything to them.”He knows that he cannot catch them with his net spun of dreams- they will eventually have to experience a fall. Itís part of growing up. Upon seeing this, Holden himself has developed.Henry Fleming enlists as a youth with heroic fantasies of battle lingering in his mind and walks off the “place of blood and wrath” three days later a serene veteran of battle. He came from hot plowshares seeking a Homeric Iliad, timid and anxious about his potential and what others think of him. He ponders a great dilemma: will he run from battle? He is reassured after asking the tall soldier his question. His friend tells him that he would do what the rest of the regiment was doing. Henry is not an individual yet, he is a fragment of a mass of men. Henry feels as though running from the backlash of the first skirmish he fought was a great debacle, and he is further tormented when the tattered soldier asks him how he got his feigned wound. He is haunted by pangs of guilt. As he participates in more battles, the opposition grows more and more human, as opposed to the monsters he envisioned them to be earlier. He sees them as human when he experiences his first surge of fierce, animalian anger. Henryís epiphany occurs in the following “battle”. He discards the expectations of his peers and declares his individuality and courage by seizing the flag from the dead color sergeant and waving it before the regiment. He risks death as the easiest of targets and thus displays his courage and strength. The seizing of the flag is Henryís ultimate rite of passage. He discards the terrified and cautious youth he enlisted as and becomes a mature, courageous adult. His reach for the flag proves he is as brave and courageous as the warriors whose stories dazzled him as a boy. Henry and Holden began both their stories weaker and more ignorant than they left them. How are their rises to maturity similar and different? Both stories cover a time period of about three days. The three days are greatly important, as they detail the rite of passage from youth to maturity. Such a prodigious transformation in a mere three days implies an extraordinary sequence of preceding events. Both The Catcher in the Rye and The Red Badge of Courage tell a story of one of the most relevant time periods in both of the main characterís lives- their rise to adulthood. Both characters seem to have promising futures ahead of them. Holden ends his account of “the madman stuff” that happened to him last Christmas giving the impression that he will try harder in school and that he actually missed the people he criticized so harshly. Henryís story closes as he strolls through a landscape he now appreciates. The concluding sentence, “over the river a golden ray of sun came through the hosts of leaden rain clouds,” is an almost romantic depiction of the bright future Henry has before him. The language the authors use to convey the story differs. In The Catcher in the Rye, Holden himself describes the events. The language is down to earth and flows easily, exactly as if the reader were sitting and listening to Holden instead of the psychiatrist. Because Holden told his story in one sitting, there is no prominent change in language over the course of the story. In The Red Badge of Courage, a narrator tells Henryís tale. Figurative language and a vivid use of color support the narration. The story opened with a paragraph darkened with ominous red and black shading and ended on a blissful golden tone, illustrating Henryís rise to maturity even through colorization. The narration also differs in that Henryís narrator is impartial to the story, whereas Holden clearly attempts to alter certain facts in his favor. For example, when he and Sally are talking, Holden speaks as though Sally was a bit mixed up and that he was in fact speaking in a normal tone of voice. However, the reader can still manage to detect this falsity from his frenzied narration. The Red Badge of Courageís narrator does not try to shield events out of shame or haste; the story is much more straightforward. Again, Holdenís immaturity is displayed through narration as he scrambles to hide his embarrassment. The rise to adulthood is a common theme explored by authors. The path from youth to maturity can be prodigious in its complexity and length, but Salinger and Crane have each provided an account of this nature that occurred over only three days. Fueled by the strength they acquired after overcoming personal barriers, the protagonists reached maturity through their own epiphanies. Henry found his in the dignity he wished to uphold for himself and his regiment, and Holden in a pitiful realization that he is powerless to change the world. The price Henry and Holden paid for their maturity was a loss of much of the egocentricity they had possessed. As Tolstoy said, “everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself.”