JD Salinger's Catcher in the Rye is written from the perspective of the protagonist, Holden Caulfield. It revolves around Holden's tumultuous transition into adulthood and his vision of adulthood. Although he is not yet an adult, he embarks on a journey that brings him into contact with the reality of adult life.
His infamous adventure causes him to resent adulthood and tries to avoid it as much as possible. Salinger's novel therefore highlights two things: the dangers of embracing childhood too long and not letting go; and the dangers of entering early adulthood.
Basically, Holden's life is an interplay of the two scenarios, which makes him a special case. Firstly, he aspires to be forever young. He doesn't want to be an adult because he equates adulthood with "dizziness". In contrast, he sees children as innocent, kind and pure. The characters that are particularly close to your heart are children.
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There's Allie - her late brother, Phoebe - her younger sister, and a boy singing the song "Catcher in the Rye" in New York. Wanting to be "fake" like adults, he desperately searches for ways to stay young. For a person who hates work and responsibility, it's absurd that he just wants to stop all the kids from growing up. He says,
“I keep imagining these kids playing in this big field of rye and such a game. Thousands of little kids and nobody's there - nobody big, I mean - except me. And I'm standing on the edge of a crazy cliff - I mean when they're running and they don't know where they're going."
For him, maturity is so difficult and painful that he compares it to falling off a cliff. Holden therefore wants to be the guardian who protects children from their descent into adulthood. He has a soft spot for the status quo and wants life to be the way it was when he was a kid. He wants life to be fun, like when he was a kid.
The idea of responsibilities scares him and, as a result, he hates being seen as a young adult. He does his best to avoid hard work and responsibility. A good example of his carelessness is when he fails every subject except English and is expelled from school as a result. He also doesn't want to face problems and thinks that running away from them will solve them. So, instead of going to his parents' house to tell him that he is dropping out of school, he rushes to New York to carry out activities that are detrimental to his well-being.
He passionately hates work because it is an adult activity. He equates his brother's work with prostitution because he doesn't value work or responsibility. The fact that his brother D.B is a successful Hollywood screenwriter doesn't compel him to explore the possibilities of adult life.
He is obsessed with his older brother visiting only once a week, which doesn't impress him. Holden obviously misses the trips they used to take with his older brother in New York. Another person Holden dislikes and calls a "fake lazybones" is Dr. Thurmer, the director of Pencey Prep.
This unwarranted hatred of his director is attributed to the fact that the director represents what Holden hates. Dr Thurmer is the direct opposite of Holden. While Holden wants to stop the children from growing up, Dr. Thurmer them in adults.
He also transfers this animosity onto his peers because they embrace adulthood so vigorously. He doesn't want to participate in any activities with them, including sports. He doesn't go to the school's annual football game against Saxon Hall like everyone else. Instead, he decides to visit his former history teacher, Mr. Spencer.
As manager of the school's fencing team, he was supposed to find her in New York. However, due to his carelessness, the team's equipment is lost in the subway and everyone is forced to return early. He is unrepentant and unapologetic. He's just having fun having compromised the team's plans.
There are several factors about Holden that ruin his experience of adulthood, causing him to hate adulthood. First, he's not as good at getting along with adults as he is with children. When it comes to men, he can't have a proper conversation with them without coming out like a child, which infuriates her.
For example, when he tries to talk to the taxi drivers about ducks, they get mad at his childish questions. Even his friend Carl Luce can't stand his immature conversations and lets him have fun in his solitude. As for women, he is just desperate for their attention and they completely avoid him.
Of course, because of his unconventional nature, he has the ability to scare people. Therefore, everyone seems to stay away from him except his family members. As a result, Holden is very lonely and has no one in his group that he considers a close confidant. In fact, he only attracts friends who, like him, are considered to be at the bottom of the social hierarchy.
For example, Robert Ackley is too awkward even by Holden's standards, and Luce is too girly for Holden to be irritated by being around him. Ward Stradlater is probably the only person he associates with in the "cool clique" and this is based solely on the fact that Stradlater is his roommate and the fact that he uses Holden to run errands while he has appointments. Jane Gallagher is one of the few people he loves very much, but she answers his calls.
Second, he has no responsibility. Believing himself to be just a kid, he wants to get the benefit of the doubt in everything he does. But life in general doesn't work that way. There are no second chances in adulthood and everyone must be responsible for his actions. In adult life things don't seem to be going the way he would like and that makes him frustrated.
For example, when Stradlater refuses to share the details of his encounter with Jane, Holden gets angry and insults him. Stradlater is forced to hit him and Holden bleeds from his face. He is also attacked by Maurice, the elevator operator, when he refuses to pay a prostitute the full amount, even though they do nothing together.
Also, your approach to adulthood is really misguided. His adult adventure is nothing more than a desperate attempt to have sex with women. He is particularly affected by the relationship between Stradlater and his first love, Jane Gallagher. He therefore goes to New York in hopes of finding someone who will save him from his loneliness.
Unfortunately, he fails to attract every woman he meets because his angry outbursts and constant lies reveal his desperation. Having spent his entire life in a lonely bubble, he doesn't interact with enough people to realize that disappointments are a part of life. Betrayal and rejection hit him so hard that he drowns himself in alcohol and smokes to the point of drunkenness.
With a future that looks bleak due to the humiliations he suffers from the wrong adults, he embraces the good memories of his past. For example, he fondly remembers the days when he would play with his friends until dark, which he can't bring himself to do now. He also holds the memories of his beloved brother Allie, who died of leukaemia. He can't get over his death.
Another person he admits to liking is James Castle, who committed suicide because other boys tormented him. He also loves the memories of him and Jane holding hands and how good it was to be around her. All the people he cares about are either dead or not with him. He therefore seeks affection and attention from adults, but they just don't understand him. This frustrates him, and as a result, he is unable to look up to anyone other than his younger sister, Phoebe.
While in New York, he tries to undo the sweet memories of his childhood. He goes to the museum and is horrified that his life is changing, but the museum is still the way it was when he was a kid. He even goes to see ducks, a pastime she used to do with his brother D.B.
He also takes Phoebe to the zoo and convinces her to ride the carousel that played the same song when he was a kid. Therefore, Holden prefers childhood over adulthood because it suits his behavior. In adulthood, he is lonely and isolated, and accordingly depressed.
As Holden's life shows, nothing good can come of trying to live in socially and biologically unconventional conditions. His idea that childhood is perfect is nothing more than an erroneous excuse for living in the past. It is not uncommon for the past to be looked back on with nostalgia and considered perfect. However, this is not always the case, especially for people from broken families. Living in the past has its weaknesses. For example, it limits present and future prosperity.
On the other hand, Holden also gives us a glimpse of the dangers of the busy life. Still a little boy in prep school, he embarks on an adventure of drunkenness and sexual excesses with prostitutes. His mind and body are not yet ready for such things, but he indulges in them anyway. As a result, he has a distorted idea of what adult life is all about.
There are dangers associated with children skipping steps and simply plunging into adulthood. They are rarely mentally stable. Due to lack of planning, they are presented with a life of struggle and misery, which affects their perception of life. His life is full of sadness and regret, which can lead to serious health complications, as in the case of Holden, who is forced to go to a nursing home due to a nervous breakdown.
How is adulthood different from childhood in The Catcher in the Rye? ›
Therefore, Holden prefers childhood to adulthood, because it is accommodative of his behavior. In adulthood, he is lonely and isolated and as a result, he is depressed. As Holden's life reveals, nothing good can come out of trying to live on terms that are unconventionally both socially and biologically.What is Holden Caulfield's vision of childhood and adulthood in The Catcher in the Rye? ›
Holden Caulfield sees childhood as the ideal state of being. He thinks adulthood is filled with corrupt people. The only way anyone can win in the adult world is if the cards are stacked in his favor. The characters in The Catcher in the Rye play a diverse set of roles in the war between childhood and adulthood.How is Holden stuck between childhood and adulthood? ›
Salinger, Holden embodies the limbo between childhood and adulthood by trying to maintain both “worlds”. For example throughout the novel Holden behaves like an adult but still behaves like a child and tries to preserve his innocence and the innocence of children.How is childhood portrayed in The Catcher in the Rye? ›
Salinger scrutinizes the understanding of preserving childhood innocence in Catcher in the Rye by using symbolism. Salinger intertwines symbols signifying childhood innocence to contradict the harsh realities of adulthood. Throughout the novel, Holden desires to retain the pureness and virtue among children and nature.How do you differentiate between childhood and adulthood? ›
How do we differentiate one from another? Solution : Childhood, according to the author, is a happy time in one's life when one can trust everybody. Adulthood is defined by logical and imaginative thinking, as well as the ability to interpret and discern, as well as the ability to learn new things.Why is an adults perspective on life different from that of the child in the story should Wizard hit mummy? ›
Solution : An adult's perspective on life is different from that of a child because of the difference between their respective experiences and exposure to the world around them.Why is Holden obsessed with childhood? ›
He considers almost every adult he meets to be a phony, and repeatedly states his fear of turning into a phony himself. Conversely, children represent purity to him, and his desire to return to the innocent state of his own childhood.What does Holden realize about growing up? ›
Holden is just scared of growing up, he still looks for attention, he still wants to have problems like other children and therefore he strongly resists growing up. “More than anything else Holden fears the biological imperatives of adulthood - sex, senescence, and death” (Bloom 32).What psychological disorder does Holden Caulfield have? ›
Caulfield may be seen as suffering from a variety of mental illnesses including depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). This mental state could be a result of a variety of factors, including the death of his younger brother Allie, as well as witnessing the gruesome scene of a classmate's death.What is Holden's point of view on adulthood and adolescence? ›
In J.D. Salinger's The Catcher in the Rye, Holden Caulfield is extremely scared of entering adulthood, which is caused by his loss of innocence as a child. Holden's fear of becoming an adult causes him to have an obsession with preserving youth and the innocence that comes with it.
What does Holden's age say is ironic about his age and appearance? ›
Holden is 16 years old. He says that his age and appearance are ironic because he acts younger than he is but looks older because of his gray hair. Because he lives in New York, he was thinking about the lagoon in Central Park and if it would be frozen over when he got home.Why does Holden think adulthood is phony? ›
Holden characterizes “phonies” as people who are dishonest or fake about who they really are, or people who play a part just to fit into a society that Holden questions. Therefore, Holden hates “phonies” because they represent everything he fears or fights against, such as adulthood, conformity, and commercialism.How does Holden's childhood affect him? ›
Motivated mainly by his own distorted perspective of society, Holden highly treasures innocence of childhood. Holden realizes that his own childhood has been stripped away from him and strives to preserve other children's childhood, especially Phoebe, as long as he can by becoming a “catcher in the rye”.What is it about children that Holden finds so much more appealing than adults? ›
Holden loves kids, but not in a creepy way. Really. He just thinks they're cute little bundles of hilarious innocence: genuine, caring, and naturally kindhearted. In contrast, adults are “phony,” self-centered, and generally “bastards.” So, what's he?What does Holden say about adulthood quotes? ›
“I don't give a damn, except that I get bored sometimes when people tell me to act my age. Sometimes I act a lot older than I am - I really do - but people never notice it. People never notice anything.”How does the poet view the adults in contrast to the child? ›
The behaviour of adults is hypocritical. They tell children that we must love one another but they themselves do not practise this. When he grew up, the poet realised that adults were not as loving as they claimed to be. They preached love towards each other but never practised it.What are the transition that is happening between childhood and adulthood? ›
Adolescence is the period of transition between childhood and adulthood. Children entering adolescence are going through many changes in their bodies and brains. These include physical, intellectual, psychological and social challenges, as well as development of their own moral compass.What are the stages from childhood to adulthood? ›
Toddler ( one to five years of age) Childhood (three to eleven years old) - early childhood is from three to eight years old, and middle childhood is from nine to eleven years old. Adolescence or teenage (from 12 to 18 years old) Adulthood.How does the author differentiates adults from children in the The Little Prince? ›
What differentiates adults from children in The Little Prince? Is the distinction simply one of age, or is it based on something else? Throughout The Little Prince, Saint-Exupéry portrays children as innocent and truthful and adults as corrupt and dull.What difference did you notice between the relation of the adults and the children when faced with danger? ›
Solution : There was lot of difference between the way in which the adults and children reacted when they faced danger. The adults lost hope and waited for their end with a heavy heart. At this point, they were motivated by the children. The children offered moral support to the adults.
What does the poet as a child think about the adults in Childhood? ›
The poet believes that the people around him are hypocrites. It seems that the poet will never be able to trust people around him ever again. This is because he is aware of their hypocrisy. The poet believes that adults preach love but their actions don't reflect that.What is the painfulness of growing up Catcher in the Rye? ›
The Painfulness of Growing Up
He wants everything to be easily understandable and eternally fixed, like the statues of Eskimos and Indians in the museum. He is frightened because he is guilty of the sins he criticizes in others, and because he can't understand everything around him.
Holden cares deeply and wants to protect the childhood innocence of is Phoebe. One symbol that Salinger uses is in the title of the book.What does Holden finally realize at the end? ›
In a brief final chapter, Holden concludes the story, telling us that he doesn't know what he thinks about everything that has happened, except that he misses the people he has told us about.What does Holden realize about life by the end of the novel? ›
Holden does evolve toward the end of the novel. His acceptance of Phoebe's need to "grab for the gold ring" indicates that he sees her as a maturing individual who must be allowed to live her own life and take her own risks. At this point, he finally sees that children have to do this, and adults must let them.What is the main lesson of The Catcher in the Rye? ›
As its title indicates, the dominating theme of The Catcher in the Rye is the protection of innocence, especially of children. For most of the book, Holden sees this as a primary virtue. It is very closely related to his struggle against growing up.What is Holden's biggest problem? ›
Major ConflictThe major conflict is within Holden's psyche. Part of him wants to connect with other people on an adult level (and, more specifically, to have a sexual encounter), while part of him wants to reject the adult world as “phony,” and to retreat into his own memories of childhood.What is the main cause of Holden's depression? ›
Why is Holden Caulfield depressed? After Holden's brother, Allie, died his emotional world turns upside down and he cannot grasp reality or the need to grow up. He struggles with loneliness, feelings of suicide, and discontentment with the world.Is Holden a narcissist? ›
Many critics have depicted him as having narcissistic traits.What is Holden's final ironic comment? ›
Holden's final statement—“Don't tell anybody anything. If you do, you start missing everybody”— suggests that he is still shackled by the same problems he has dealt with throughout the book.
What are 3 words to describe Holden Caulfield? ›
If one could describe Holden Caulfield in three words, they'd probably be: Angsty, obnoxious, and anti-phony. The sixteen-year-old protagonist of J.D. Salinger's iconic and only novel, The Catcher in the Rye, has annoyed, baffled, and offended readers since its release in 1951.What does Holden's GREY hair symbolize? ›
An important symbol in “The Catcher in the Rye” was the gray hair located one side of Holden's head, acting as a physical symbol of Holden's inevitable transition from an innocent child to a mature adult.What is Holden Caulfield vision of childhood and adulthood? ›
Holden Caulfield sees childhood as the ideal state of being. He thinks adulthood is filled with corrupt people. The only way anyone can win in the adult world is if the cards are stacked in his favor. The characters in The Catcher in the Rye play a diverse set of roles in the war between childhood and adulthood.Does Holden blame himself for Allie's death? ›
Holden's relationship with Allie enables him to see "the beauty of a child's innocence," but he feels a great deal of guilt and "blames himself for not being able to 'catch' Allie[,] even though there was nothing he could do to save him from cancer." There is an appropriate, rather than rich, use of language about ...What is the theme of childhood in Catcher in the Rye? ›
As its title indicates, the dominating theme of The Catcher in the Rye is the protection of innocence, especially of children. For most of the book, Holden sees this as a primary virtue. It is very closely related to his struggle against growing up.What does Holden say is the difference between kids and adults when they sleep? ›
Holden tiptoes to D. B.'s room, because Phoebe likes to sleep there when D. B. is in Hollywood. He finds Phoebe sleeping peacefully, and he remarks that children, unlike adults, always look peaceful when they are asleep.How does Holden represent the fear of growing up? ›
Holden is just scared of growing up, he still looks for attention, he still wants to have problems like other children and therefore he strongly resists growing up. “More than anything else Holden fears the biological imperatives of adulthood - sex, senescence, and death” (Bloom 32).Why does Holden protect children's innocence? ›
Holden doesn't want the children to struggle in life, like he is dealing with. He wanted children to stay children and preserve their innocence because he doesn't want them to fall in the corrupted and complicated world of adulthood.What does adulthood symbolize? ›
Becoming an adult is different for everyone. For some young people, it means living on your own or going away to college. For others, it means starting your first real job and becoming financially independent. No matter what the circumstances are, becoming an adult means taking responsibility for your life.What is the difference between childhood and adulthood do you think the only difference is between that of innocence and hypocrisy? ›
Childhood is full of innocence. A child is neither a hypocrite nor manipulative. adults talk about love but their actions are not loving. Childhood is a state of innocence softness, love and purity of heart whereas adulthood is marked by rational and creative thoughts, ability to perceive and differentiate things.
What are the similarities and differences between childhood and adulthood? ›
There are many similarities between these two stages of life such as the continuous desire to learn and the necessity of friendship. The differences outweigh the similarities though, including the difficulties of aging, the burden of responsibilities, and the troubles of decision making.What is the poet trying to convey when he says that childhood is hidden in an infant's face? ›
What is the poet trying to convey when he says that childhood is hidden in an infant's face? The poet says an infant is really innocent as he trusts everyone and does not try to fool others. The poet brings out this fact by contrasting it with the behaviour of adults, who become manipulative and are hypocrites.What was the difference in the reactions between the adults and the children in the face of danger? ›
Solution : There was lot of difference between the way in which the adults and children reacted when they faced danger. The adults lost hope and waited for their end with a heavy heart. At this point, they were motivated by the children. The children offered moral support to the adults.What did the poet Realise about his mind when he lost his childhood? ›
Solution : The poet thinks he had lost his childhood because at the age of eleven he realised that hell and heaven were not places that could be found in Geography and since then he had never been the same person.What's the difference between early adulthood and adulthood? ›
Developmental psychologists usually consider early adulthood to cover approximately age 20 to age 40 and middle adulthood approximately 40 to 65. Early adulthood. In early adulthood, an individual is concerned with developing the ability to share intimacy, seeking to form relationships and find intimate love.What is Holden Caulfield syndrome? ›
Caulfield may be seen as suffering from a variety of mental illnesses including depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). This mental state could be a result of a variety of factors, including the death of his younger brother Allie, as well as witnessing the gruesome scene of a classmate's death.