The Catcher in the Rye

In J.D. Salinger\'s The Catcher in the Rye, the first person
narration is critical in helping the reader to know and
understand the main character, Holden Caulfield. Holden, in
his narration, relates a flashback of a significant period of his
life, three days and nights on his own in New York City.
Through his narration, Holden discloses to the reader his
innermost thoughts and feelings. He thus provides the reader
not only with information of what occurred, but also how he
felt about what happened. Holden\'s thoughts and ideas
reveal many of his character traits. One late Saturday night,
four days before the beginning of school vacation, Holden is
alone, bored and restless, wondering what to do. He
decides to leave Pencey, his school, at once and travels to
New York by train. He decides that, once in New York, he
will stay in a cheap motel until Wednesday, when he is to
return home. His plan shows the reader how very impetuous
he is and how he acts on a whim. He is unrealistic, thinking
that he has a foolproof plan, even though the extent of his
plans are to "take a room in a hotel.., and just take it easy till
Wednesday." Holden\'s excessive thoughts on death are not
typical of most adolescents. His near obsession with death
might come from having experienced two deaths in his early
life. He constantly dwells on Allie, his brother\'s, death. From
Holden\'s thoughts, it is obvious that he loves and misses
Allie. In order to hold on to his brother and to minimize the
pain of his loss, Holden brings Allie\'s baseball mitt along with
him where ever he goes. The mitt has additional meaning and
significance for Holden because Allie had written poetry,
which Holden reads, on the baseball mitt. Holden\'s
preoccupation with death can be seen in his contemplation
of a dead classmate, James Castle. It tells the reader
something about Holden that he lends his turtleneck sweater
to this classmate, with whom he is not at all close. Holden\'s
feelings about people reveal more of his positive traits. He
constantly calls people phonies, even his brother, D.B., who
" has sold out to Hollywood." Although insulting, his
seemingly negative feelings show that Holden is a thinking
and analyzing, outspoken individual who values honesty and
sincerity. He is unimpressed with people who try to look
good in other\'s eyes. Therefore, since it is obvious that
Holden is bright, the reason for his flunking out of school
would seem to be from a lack of interest. Holden has strong
feelings of love towards children as evidenced through his
caring for Phoebe, his little sister. He is protective of her,
erasing bad words from the walls in her school and in a
museum, in order that she not learn from the graffiti. His
fondness for children can be inferred when he tells her that,
at some time in the future, he wants to be the only grown-up
with "all these little kids playing some game in this big field of
rye and all." He\'ll stand on the edge of a cliff and catch
anybody who starts to fall off the edge of the cliff. He got
this image from his misinterpretation of a line from the
Robert Burns poem, " if a body catch a body comin\' through
the rye." When situations are described, in person or in a
book, they are influenced by the one who describes them,
and by his or her perceptions and experiences. Through
Holden\'s expressions of his thoughts and feelings, the reader
sees a youth, sensitive to his surroundings, who chooses to
deal with life in unique ways. Holden is candid, spontaneous,
analytical, thoughtful, and sensitive, as evidenced by his
narration. Like most adolescents, feelings about people and
relationships are often on his mind. Unfortunately, in
Holden\'s case, he seems to expect the worst, believing that
the result of getting close to people is pain. Pain when others
reject you or pain when they leave you, such as when a
friend walks off or a beloved brother dies. It would not have
been possible to feel Holden\'s feelings or understand his
thoughts nearly as well had the book been written in third
person. The Catcher in the Rye 9-K January 11, 1997

Category: Book Reports