The Catcher In The Rye: Holden

Preface -

This book has been steeped in controversy since it was banned in America after
it\'s first publication. John Lennon\'s assassin, Mark Chapman, asked the former
beatle to sign a copy of the book earlier in the morning of the day that he
murdered Lennon. Police found the book in his possession upon apprehending the
psychologically disturbed Chapman. However, the book itself contains nothing
that could be attributed with leading Chapman to act as he did - it could have
been any book that he was reading the day he decided to kill John Lennon - and
as a result of the fact that it was \'The Catcher In The Rye\', a book describing
nervous breakdown, media speculated widely about the possible connection. This
gave the book even more notoriety. So what is \'The Catcher In The Rye\' actually
about ?

Superficially the story of a young man\'s expulsion from yet another school, \'The
Catcher In The Rye\' is in fact a perceptive study of one individual\'s
understanding of his human condition. Holden Caulfield, a teenager growing up in
1950s New York, has been expelled school for poor achievement once again. In an
attempt to deal with this he leaves school a few days prior to the end of term,
and goes to New York to \'take a vacation\' before returning to his parents\'
inevitable wrath.

Told as a monologue, the book describes Holden\'s thoughts and activities over
these few days, during which he describes a developing nervous breakdown,
symptomised by his bouts of unexplained depression, impulsive spending and
generally odd, erratic behaviour, prior to his eventual nervous collapse.

However, during his psychological battle, life continues on around Holden as it
always had, with the majority of people ignoring the \'madman stuff\' that is
happening to him - until it begins to encroach on their well defined social
codes. Progressively through the novel we are challenged to think about
society\'s attitude to the human condition - does society have an \'ostrich in the
sand\' mentality, a deliberate ignorance of the emptiness that can characterize
human existence? And if so, when Caulfield begins to probe and investigate his
own sense of emptiness and isolation, before finally declaring that the world is
full of \'phonies\' with each one put out for their own phony gain, is Holden
actually the one who is going insane, or is it society which has lost it\'s mind
for failing to see the hopelessness of their own lives?

Holden\'s Personality -

There are 3 main aspects in Holden\'s personality :

1. His criticism toward the \'phony\' things in society.
2. His perception that laws (Rules) are \'child\'s play\' for the strong
and a difficult
struggle for the weak.
3. Respect for fellowman.

The criticism toward \'phony\' things in society is expressed in the novel
primarily by the word \'phony\'. Holden is a representative of the world of
childhood whose characteristics are the opposite values to those Holden calls

One of the things Holden often calls \'phony\' is the world of movies and
everything about it. Examples of it are his anger toward his brother D.B.
because he moved to Hollywood, aversion of Sunny the prostitute who tells him
she spends most of her time in film theaters and derision to the three women he
met at the bar who are only interested in movies and famous actors.

Another thing Holden calls \'phony\' is the theater. He finds the theater \'phony\'
because he thinks that instead of demonstrating reality as it is, the emphasis
is put on polishing theatricality. He says he has never seen so much \'phony\'
things like he saw in the theater. Out of these examples and others we see that
for Holden it is very important to be \'real\', honest and not \'phony\', thus the
criticism toward the \'phony\' things in society is the most significant aspect of
his personality

Another important aspect in Holden\'s personality is that rules to him were meant
to serve the strong, whereas he belongs to the weak, thus he ignores them
completely. His attitude toward rules can be demonstrated by these examples :
Ring Lardner\'s tells Holden a story in which a married policeman fell in love
with a girl who drove faster than the speed limit and eventually was killed
because of it. In this story laws (Rules) are mentioned twice :

1. The policeman fell in love with a girl while he was married and
this means breaking social laws.
2. The girl drove too fast and this means breaking traffic laws.

The outcome of