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The Catcher And The Rye
Love, Affection, and Adulthood
In J.D. Salinger’s controversial 1951 novel The Catcher in the Rye, the main character is Holden Caulfield. When the story begins Holden at age sixteen, due to his poor grades is kicked out of Pencey Prep, a boys’ school in Pennsylvania. This being the third school he has been expelled from, he is in no hurry to face his parents. Holden travels to New York for several days to cope with his disappointments. As James Lundquist explains, “Holden is so full of despair and loneliness that he is literally nauseated most of the time.” In this novel, Holden, a lonely and confused teenager, attempts to find love and direction in his life. Holden’s story is realistic because many adolescent’s face similar challenges.
J.D. Salinger presents Holden Caulfield as a confused and distressed adolescent. Holden is a normal teenager who needs to find a sense of belonging. All though Holden’s obsession with “phonies” overpowers him. Dan Wakefield comments, “The things that Holden finds so deeply repulsive are things he calls “phony”- and the “phoniness” in every instance is the absence of love, and , often the substitution of pretense for love.” Holden was expelled from Pencey Prep School not because he is stupid, but because he just is not interested. His attitude toward Pencey is everyone there is a phony. Pencey makes Holden feel lonely and isolated because he had very few friends. Holden’s feeling of alienation is seen when he doesn’t attend the biggest football game of the year. His comments on the game: “It was the last game of the year and you were supposed to commit suicide or something if old Pencey didn’t win” (2, Ch. 1). This also hints to Holden’s obsession with death. Holden can’t find a since of belonging in the school because of all the so-called phonies. Holden speaks of Pencey’s headmaster as being a phony. Holden says that on visitation day the headmaster will pay no attention to the corny-looking parents. Holden portrays his not being interested by saying, “all you do is study so that you can learn enough to be smart enough to buy a goddam Cadillac someday, and you have to keep making believe you give a damn if the football team loses”(131, Ch. 17). Holden does not care for school or money. He just wants everyone to be sincere and honest.
Holden\'s obsession with phonies causes him to have no positive adult role models to follow. This restrains him from becoming close to anyone but children. He is lost among the feelings and actions of becoming an adult. It seems that Holden’s parents were never affectionate to him. By sending Holden off to these boys’ schools, his parents seem to have abandoned him. In addition, his parents were briefly mentioned in the novel gives the idea that he isn’t close to them. Holden misses being able to talk to his parents. Holden’s father is a sophisticated lawyer who seems to have tried to buy Holden’s love. This in Holden’s eyes characterizes his father as a phony. When Holden and Phoebe discuss what Holden should be; Phoebe suggests him being a lawyer like his father. Holden believes lawyers are good if they’re protecting innocent people’s lives. His materialistic side sees a lawyer in a different way. Holden comments on lawyers, “All you do is make a lot of dough and play golf and bridge and buy cars and drink Martinis and look like a hot-shot”(172, Ch. 22). Holden’s father has provided him with materialistic love but has never showed him much affection. This causes Holden to restrain from having his father as an adult role model. Holden’s mother is still grieving over Allie’s death. Holden pretends to be blind and shouts, “Mother darling give me your hand. Why won’t you give me your hand”(21, Ch. 3)? Holden loves to clown around, but this incident reflects the feelings of isolation Holden receives from his parents. The affection from one’s parents is very important during a time of such transition from a child to an adult. The absence of parental love made Holden feel like all adults were phony. This obviously causing him to have no adult role models leaving him to feel lonely
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Literary realism, The Catcher in the Rye, Holden Caulfield, Holden, J. D. Salinger, Holden Carver
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