The Catcher in the Rye

In The Catcher in the Rye, J.D. Salinger portrays Holden Caulfield as a
teenager with definite moral values. Holden firmly believes in having respect for
women, protecting the innocence of children, and being an honest and
unpretentious person.
In the novel, Holden is shown as appreciating women and having a great
respect for them. For example, when Holden realizes that Stradlater did not truly
care about Jane and only wanted “to give her the time,” he became quite angry.
Holden said that, “... he (Stradlater) thought he could give the time to anybody
he felt like” (44). During the incident when Jane began crying after Mr. Cudahy
came out, Holden got very upset because he suspected Mr. Cudahy of somehow
hurting Jane. His feelings of hate towards what Cudahy may have done to Jane
are seen when Holden said, “I asked her...if Mr. Cudahy...had ever tried to get
wise with her. ...I wouldn’t have put it past that Cudahy bastard” (79).
Throughout the book, Salinger emphasizes how much Holden wants to
protect the innocence of children. One occurrence of this is when Holden went
to Phoebe’s school and found “fuck you” written on the wall. He was infuriated
because he knew all the children would see it. He said, “Somebody’d written
‘Fuck you’ on the wall. It damn near drove me crazy” (201). Holden wiped it off
because he wanted to protect the children form seeing it. In fact, the title of the
book deals with Holden wanting to protect kids. Holden told Phoebe, “...I have
to catch everybody if they start to go over the cliff... I’d just be the catcher in the
rye and all” (173). I believe the cliff represents innocence, and Holden wants to
keep the kids from falling off and losing it.
Salinger stresses Holden’s feelings about phony people and honesty
more often than any other value Holden holds. Holden values people that act
the way the really feel rather than being pretentious. He has negative feelings
for anyone that acts otherwise. Throughout the book, Holden talks about being
tired of phonies and wanting people to be honest. Of the many times Salinger
shows these feelings, one is when Holden is discussing living out west in his
own place. He hates phony people so much that he said, “If anybody tried to do
anything phony, they couldn’t stay” (205). When Holden is on his date with Sally
and he begins to talk about George, he mentions “I could see them all sitting
around in some bar, with their goddam checkered vests, criticizing shows and
books and women in those tired, snobby voices” (128). These are the type of
phonies that Holden says he despises because they only do things that make
them look good.
The Catcher in the Rye clearly presents Holden’s value system as being
distinct and fairly unique. It is obvious that Holden feels having great respect for
women, protecting children from the bad things in life, and being honest about
who you are and how you feel are some of the most important things in life.

Category: English