My Opinion of Holden Caufield | March 11, 2010

NOTE: This was an english paper I wrote of “Catcher in the Rye”. It is (obviously), my opinion of Holden and an overall analysis of his character. i wrote this my junior year in high school.

        Holden Caufield is a disturbed person, he is a childish person but looks really old for his age, being about 6’2,  he looks old. Holden is a very cynical boy and he is a big phony in many ways. He doesn’t trust anyone, and is mentally incompetent. Holden never likes to get attached to anyone and isolates himself from the world. Holden Caulfield is a very phony person, he lives in his own fantasy world where he likes to live them out, and that in itself shows how phony he is.

       Phoniness is one of the biggest concepts and themes in the book. Holden describes all adults as phony, and they can’t even see how phony they are. He doesn’t like how they adult world works, in their hypocrisy. “But although Holden expends so much energy searching for phoniness in others, he never directly observes his own phoniness.”(Catcher in the Rye study guide “themes, motifs and symbols” In this Holden himself is the very thing he despises, phonies. He puts everyone under the microscope so critically, that he doesn’t ever notice himself.

        Holden has a view of the world in a set stereotype that will never change of people. It is that adults are all phonies and the innocence of children is beautiful. That’s why his fantasy is from that poem which he misread, is to stop the children from falling off the cliff,(chap. 22). Because the children in the rye symbolizes the free and innocent nature of the kids and he is trying to stop them from falling off the cliff, and dying, which symbolizes the children maturing, and losing their innocence, and becoming the “phonies” which holden despises. This stereotype, which Holden critically views adults in order to come to this conclusion, actually isn’t all wrong, The only thing I see that’s wrong with it, is it is too much of a generalization and it’s on too big a group, all adults, and it’s very juvenile how he so believes this and in his brain, it is one of the main problems of the world today(in his world), His world seems to revolve around phoniness, and how he doesn’t like it, His fantasy is about keeping the innocence of children, and saving them from maturity(adulthood/phoniness). He likes the museum so much because of its static behavior, it never changes, it isn’t phony, or hypocritical, or anything like that. The ironic thing is that he himself is a phony and doesn’t even know because he’s too busy being a cynical critic to everyone else.

          Holden subconsciously sabotages any relationship purposely even if he himself does not know it. He doesn’t get attached to people and I think he fears it. That is why he never makes good relationships with people and when he does, he messes them up. “For example, his loneliness propels him into his date with Sally Hayes, but his need for isolation causes him to insult her and drive her away. Similarly, he longs for the meaningful connection he once had with Jane Gallagher, but he is too frightened to make any real effort to contact her. He depends upon his alienation, but it destroys him.”,( Holden longs for human interaction but at the same time isolates himself from a world he doesn’t understand. He fears attachment because he thinks the relationship that he gets attached to will fail, for example, a character mentioned many times (but not in the book) is Jane Gallagher, who is one of the only people who Holden actually respects and likes but is too afraid to tell her, and everyone else, he alienates. It’s ironic, because Holden is the cause of his own problems. He wants that human interaction, but he is the one who alienates the people around him into driving people away and isolating himself. “As readers, we can see that Holden’s alienation is the cause of most of his pain. He never addresses his own emotions directly, nor does he attempt to discover the source of his troubles. He desperately needs human contact and love, but his protective wall of bitterness prevents him from looking for such interaction.”,(sparknotes-studyguide-themes). Holden is a product of his own sad cycle of ignorance. He doesn’t see what he is putting himself through, he is the cause of his problem. this problem is repetitive and futile, only causing himself grief. He puts himself in this cycle which is how someone would put  “an exercise in futility”.

         Holden, seems to live out his fantasy with little gestures like helping little kids. He likes the innocence in the children and wants them to keep it, by “stopping them from falling off the cliff”, so he helps children in the littlest ways, he showed the kids the way to the mummies in the museum,(chap. 24) which symbolizes an unchanging environment that holden likes, because he doesn’t like when children mature and become “phonies”. Also, he bought a record for Phoebe, his younger sister, and he cares for her dearly, I think he partly lives his fantasy through her, also. He always looks at children for comfort and do little gestures like tying their shoe, showing them the way, or something to that extent.

        Holden, is a troubled young man who seems to try to fight the world that he sees wrong. Holden is like a fish swimming against the current, like a bird going north for the winter, trying to fight off natural maturity, because he sees the world as corrupt, how it is so bad, so evil. That is why he lets the children, for their innocence, they don’t know any better. So he dreams of being the catcher in the rye, or how a mother bird teaches the young to go south, he wants to take them north, as a suitable analogy. I wonder if holden ever thinks himself better than others, because he apparent only to himself, has achieved a higher level of thinking and no one else thinks like him, in his opinion, and because of that I would think he would be an egotist. His dream doesn’t seem like a passion, more so than a chore that must be done to preserve the inner-beauty of the world, which is why he does it, like the boatman of the river Styx, he doesn’t have to, it seems like a chore, but he wants to, because this is a cause he truly believes in. I also thinks he envies the children because of their innocence, which is in part because of their ignorance, which I would think he envies greatly.

       This is a great story of the teenage mind, the emotional struggles he faces in the story and uses of symbolism are key to the success of the book, and it is very powerful how Salinger uses it makes it all the more beautiful in the ultimate outcome and morals of the book. This story is beautifully written, and the themes and symbols were clear and its purpose was clear. Beautifully written book truly depicting strong emotions and emotional lives of teenagers.


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