The Catcher In The Rye By: J.D. Salinger

The Catcher In The Rye By: J.D. Salinger

A title like “The Catcher in the Rye” makes one think twice when reading this book. There is a lot of thought put into the title itself, but its true meaning is not conveyed until the very end of the novel, making one have to think twice in order to really understand the story. “The Catcher in the Rye” is referred to in the book as “a person who catches little children as they are about to fall off of a cliff.” This meaning, while appearing to be quite peculiar, actually helps to explain the Holden’s actions throughout the entire novel. The main character, Holden, can only relate to younger people and has a problem with living as a teenager in a grown-up world. The phrase, “The Catcher in the Rye,” has a very innocent twist to it and Holden portrays this,
along with a very negatve and cynical view, in the novel.

Despite his feelings of indifferences towards society and his peers, Holden has the potential to fit in with his surroundings, but he chooses not to. He feels that he does not belong in the real world, but tries to fill this gap by being the most cynical and judgmental person towards others. An example of this would be in the beginning of the novel when he is talking to his roommate, Stradlater: “It was ironical. It really was. I’m the one that’s flunking out of the goddam place, and you’re asking me to write you a goddam composition.” The way that Holden expresses himself shows that he is incapable of relating to those around him, especially adults and teenagers his own age.

To keep himself “safe” from his peers, he puts up a guard of insults and sarcasm so that no one is able to reach him on a different level. Since Holden is afraid of getting emotionally involved with anyone, he maintains these superficial, phoney relationships. However, this is rather ironic because throughout the novel he constantly mentions how everyone around him is “phoney,” but he is too. Holden has a difficult time relating to older people, but finds that
he relates well to children. It seeems that, in the novel, the only time he has something positive to say or has a smile on his face, is when he is around young children. How Holden relates more to young people than he does to adults and his peers says a lot about his true characteristics. This could be a possible sign that maybe he did not have the best childhood and still does not know how to take the right steps to evolve from a child into a young man. An example of his “better” side would be when he is searching for his younger sister, Phoebe, and asks one of her friends where she is. “She was having a helluva time tightening her skate. She didn’t have gloves on or anything and her hands were all red and cold. I gave her a hand with it…She thanked me and all when I had it tightened for her. She was a very nice, polite little kid. God, I love it when a kid’s nice and polite when you tighten their skate for them or something. Most kids are. They really are. I asked if she’d care to have a hot chocolate or something with me, but she said no, thank you. She said she had to meet her friend. Kids always have to meet their friend. That kills me.” The more Holden shows his true side, the more it becomes
apparent that he cannot accept responsibility and is extremely childlike with his thoughts and actions.

The question that first comes to mind is why such a young boy has these negative views of life? What has triggered these cynical thoughts and comments about others? These questions point to a very pessimistic, insecure little boy who really just needs someone to love and comfort him. After Holden’s younger brother passed away when Holden was twelve, he has never seemed to fully recover from the damage it caused. Since Holden felt that his brother was the best person in the world, it is hard for him to move on and find the same characteristics in someone else. Losing someone who isthat
important can make one feel like there is no chance to ever be happy with anyone ever again. This pain could be the reason why Holden will never open up to anyone and seems to still be living in his childhood, like when his brother was still alive. Throughout the entire novel, he blames everyone else for his faults and for things that bother him, but never blames himself. However, Holden covers this up very well by putting up an invisible wall towards those who try to reach out to him and help him in any way possible. An example of this is when Holden visits his old English teacher in New York, Mr. Antolini, who he has a good talk with and feels very comfortable to be around, but something changes Holden’s mind. “I woke up all of a sudden. I don’t know what time it was or anything, but I woke up. I felt something on my head, some guy’s hand. Boy, it really scared hell out of me. What it was, it was Mr. Antolini’s hand. What he was doing was, he was sitting on the floor right next to the couch, in the dark and all, and he was sort of petting me or patting me on the goddam head. Boy I’ll bet jumped about a thousand feet.” When Holden opens up to someone, he tends to feel anxious and vulnerable because he has just expressed something that he usually keeps to himself. Whenever someone (like Mr. Antolini) responds to Holden’s feelings, Holden finds himself feeling on-the-edge and makes false accusations. This is a protective method that helps him to feel “safe” within himself and from others.

The title of this novel, “The Catcher in the Rye” becomes perfectly clear at the end of the novel. When the little boy hiding inside of Holden cries out, his
feelings are finally revealed that were never thought to exist. The insecurities and negative views expressed by Holden makes one re-evaluate the situation and where one truly stands in this world.