Catcher In the Rye: The Quest For Love


In many novels in J.D. Salinger\'s library of books, there is a recurring
theme of the loss of innocence of children, the falling and the confusions of
childhood, and many other ideas that apply to the ideas of adolescence and the
life of the average teenager growing up. Many of his themes occur in a short
period of time in a child\'s life that affects him/her in a very profound and
significant way. The idea of love is also a major theme that arises in many of
his characters and that indicates the character of the individual. He uses love
in the context of being a device that is used to protect and to care for people
who need protecting and caring. In the novel, Catcher in the Rye, by J. D.
Salinger, love is used by a character, Holden Caulfield, who struggles
desperately to find a certain somebody or anyone to allocate his love to, but
realizes finally, that this love is not necessarily expressed through saving “
the children in the rye” from the time of trial, but actually caring for them
and being their friends, during the time of trial.
The quest of finding the true love of people is an ongoing dilemma in
the lives of many people all throughout the world. The constant need for love is
overwhelming, and the tragedy of this great world is the fact that some people
do not find the proper love that they deserve. Holden Caulfield is a perfect
example of the striving to acquire a love sought all throughout his life.
According to this quote, “He is simply expressing an innocence incapable of
genuine hatred. Holden does not suffer from the inability to love, but does
despair of finding a place to bestow his love” (Heiserman and Miller 30), Holden
Caulfield has the need for allocating his cornucopia of love for people. His
quest is very simple. He wants to do good. As compared to tragic heroes in the
past,
"Holden seeks Virtue second to Love. He wants to be good. When
the little children are playing in the rye-field on the cliff
top, Holden wants to be the one who catches them before they
fall off the cliff. He is not driven toward honor or courage.
He is not driven toward the love of woman. Holden is driven
toward love of his fellowman...." (Heiserman and Miller 25).

In other words, he is not a tragic hero, but rather a misfortuned hero that
struggles to find a person to give his love to. There is nothing tragic about
his life.

Holden also seeks circularity in his life. According to this quote,
I felt so damn happy all of a sudden, the way old Phoebe kept going
around and around. I was damn near bawling, I felt so damn happy,
if you want to know the truth. I don\'t know why. It was just that
she looked so damn nice, the way she kept going around and around,
in her blue coat and all. God, I wish you could\'ve been there"

(Salinger 213),

Holden revels in the virtues of softness of the edges, a roundness that can\'t
hurt anyone. He finds a comfort in the circular motions of the carousel.

"All the kids kept trying to grab for the gold ring, and so was
old Phoebe, and I was sort of afraid she might 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" (Salinger 211).

This illustrates the pure innocence of children, and the gold rings portray a sort of
round goal that children seek and reach for. This quote is later on in the story
and the true symbolism is realized toward the end of the novel.
Holden also seeks the truth from people in general, reaching for the one
theme left in the world, innocence. One kind of bitter truth he does not seek is
phoniness. In this, he means the people losing innocence or people who already
lost innocence, or has “fallen from the cliff”. He is led to believe from his
early years that adulthood is a form of fake maturity. That is why he seeks to
find adolescents, to