The Catcher in the Rye Essay - Reviewing the Holden Complex

The Catcher in the Rye Essay - Reviewing the Holding Complex

"Don't ever tell anybody anything. If you do, you start missing everybody." Chapter 25, page 214 is a quote that leaves me puzzled, even more because it's the last saying in the novel The Catcher in the Rye (1951) written by J. D. Salinger. It may have many interpretation but to me it is an advise that the narrator and may be the author too gives us to enjoy time passed with people because even if we think we don’t appreciate someone we miss him once alone..And this is absolutely what happened to Holden Caulfield, experiencing life in New York. Holden is a complex character in the book that can be assimilated to a kind of anti-hero as he gives himself the difficult task of fighting society's phoniness, and in the end commits that task hypocritically. To what extent the message conveyed by the narrator during his only moment of freedom is merely?

Holden Caulfield is the protagonist and narrator of the novel. He is a sixteen-year-old junior who has just been expelled from a school called Pencey Prep. As his age suggests Holden stands poised on the cliff separating childhood from adulthood. He admires childhood and denigrates adulthood. It’s the story of a nearly-man that comes out of his bubble to discover a world, not so perfect, that he depicts and criticizes. The catcher in the Rye is just a journey of initiation where the hero is looking for reasons to live and tries to consider his future. By seeking himself the hero makes us ask questions that may be has never crossed our mind like: have we lost innocence? Empathy? Or do we simply become “phonies”? The scene where he gets carried away with his young friend Sally and where he proposes her to flee with him to Massachusetts to work on a ranch is its culmination. It shows the madness into which he leans, unable to resign himself to the reality that surrounds him “a path marked out, cramped codes of society, governed by money, corrupt or perversity” (like the scene from the end with his teacher who "fiddles").

Throughout the novel, Holden seems to be excluded from the society. He isolates himself in order to be protected from evil around. In a way he’s an idealist, esteeming childhood. This excess of alienation is probably the main source of his pain as he never confesses to anybody nor interacts with a person who is essential to develop an opinion, to made choices or at least to give & receive love & joy. This lack of human contact results in a stereotype vision, as he explained that adults are necessarily “phonies” & what’s worst they can’t see it. What can’t see Holden is his cynism & sense of superiority. It’s sort of what Salinger, the author, warns us all along the book & chiefly in the last quote: to keep in touch with others for not going insane…And incarceration of Holden in psychiatric hospital at last underscores the danger of loneliness.

The stay of the character in New York shows us how widespread is the phoniness (“Holden’s favorite concept describing the superficiality, hypocrisy, pretension, and shallowness that he encounters in the world around him” Wikipedia). Holden’s journey takes him all around the American society where he discovers a lack of fundamentalism even if it’s in the streets, bars, family; school...Doubtlessly the book is a social criticism, criticizing the alienation of the hero and the social hypocrisy. Even without wanting to give us a moral, the book does not leave us indifferent and we have reaped the need to reconstruct society on new bases namely friendship, sincerity, trust, sharing in order to preserve the innocence that we have since childhood.

To conclude we can say that Holden complexity leads us to a simple observation which is that we can always self-discover ourselves by questioning the present and trying to improve the future…We can see this aim in Holden’s hopes for a better fate for himself than that of a liar and a dropout(chapter 22). Using his imagination and telling lies is a “fine survival technique” for now, but he would like to have a role in making the world a better place for children by preventing them off falling off the cliff, catch the children if they wander close to the brink: to be a "catcher in the rye".