J.D. Salinger's Catcher in the Rye
- Length: 1237 words (3.5 double-spaced pages)
- Rating: Excellent
J. D. Salinger's notable and esteemed novel, Catcher in the Rye, reflects the hypercritical views of a troubled teenager, Holden Caulfield, towards everyone around him and society itself. This character has a distinguished vision of a world where morality, principles, intelligence, purity, and naivety should override money, sex, and power, but clearly in the world he inhabits these qualities have been exiled. Holder desperately clings to and regards innocence as one of the most important virtues a person can have. However, he son becomes a misfit since society is corrupted and he yearns for companionship, any kind of connection with another to feel whole and understood again. Ironically, despite his persistent belittling and denouncing of others, he does not apply the same critical and harsh views on himself.
In Holden's eyes, society has influenced people to lose themselves. He is outraged by how easily citizens would bend to the ways of society to fit and prevail in it. He claims his own brother, D.B.--a talented writersold out his potential to Hollywood. In his mind, D.B. could be viewed as a prostitute that would sell himself, or his services, to whoever was the highest bidder. Ernie is too portrayed in such a way as D.B. is, as the accomplished and gifted pianist was depicted as using his talent to gain fame and money. Holden found himself disgusted by Ernie's corniness and the way of showing off his talent when passionately playing the piano to entertain as well as amazing the public. Stradlater also is represented as someone that sold out, not by his talents, but by his appearance. Holden angrily referred to him as a real hot-shot for taking advantage of his looks to get any kind of favors done. Disappointment, anger, and frustration filled Holden's heart as he saw these people giving away their innate abilities for something that would not last forever; fame and money.
Holden's inability to fit into society brought on hatred to it, and instead of admitting he too was at fault, he criticizes all the people in cliques on account of their fakeness and dishonesty. To begin with, he finds himself disliking Pencey as a school since its motto claims that it molds boys into upright, respected members of society. However, Holden soon declares that the school is hypocritical since it does nothing to achieve their motto and as a result, most boys end up remaining the same people as they once came to school and for some it shaped them into crooks (which Holden will not stand for).
Another group he heavily criticizes is Catholics, not because of their religion, on the contrary, he still believes in the doctrine of the bible, Jesus, and so forth; but because he believes most Catholics seem to always want to find out if you also are one of them. If not they exclude those who do not practice their same religion. Holden refers to this as if Catholicism and their followers are similar to a clique, one he cannot join. Finally Holden finds himself all alone, a misfit, as he still refuses to bend to society's way and become a "phony" like everyone else.
Regardless of how much Holden reprimands others for being pretentious and ostentatious, he is not far from receiving criticism as well. He sees people around him selling out their talents such as D.B. using his writing skills to write screen wrights and live of in a life of glamour in Hollywood, as well as Ernie earning admiration and a living by playing the piano at a club, and he condemns them for following what society asks of them. But it is my belief that he is really jealous of them as he lacks their potential and yearns to eventually find that latent and dormant talent that will make him stand out and be admired by others. Holden even scrutinizes Ivy League boys for being snobbish and taking advantage of what they have, and yet again he is a hypocrite since he knows he will never be able to compete in the same level as any one of them. Holden uses criticism as a way to hide how envious he feels towards others as he lacks an essential trait that would make others accept him and let him fit in.
Although Holden claims he cannot stand hypocrisy in others, he still is unable to follow the same criticism on himself which proves that he too is a fraud and phony. He even willingly admits early on that he is one of the most terrific liars you'll ever see in your life, yet this does not deter him from continuing this process of dishonesty towards others. An evident example of this is when he persistently lied to Mrs. Morrow to maintain a conversations, but he was deceitful about himself by using Rudolf Schmidt's named, declaring he had a tumor, and lying about her son's qualitiesqualities he lacked such as being sensitive, adaptable and so on. Another instance he shows his phoniness is whenever he tried to socialize with people he clearly disliked, such as when he tried to buy the girls from Seattle drinks even though he had mentioned that they were ugly and fickle; or when he went out with Sally Hayes although he could barely stand her personality. In the end, we see Holden for who he really is nothing but a hypocrite as he does the same actions that he so passionately disparaged about society and people.
A hint of an unstable, insecure, and anti-social personality is noted all throughout Holden Caulfield's life. He is still an adolescent trying to find a place in life with who he is at the moment and who he soon will be, but he is overwhelmed by an increasing number of emotions that prevent him from growing up entirely. He just recently lost a loved one, his brother Allie, and as this happened he had a violent outburst that lead him to break the windows in the garage in anger. Clearly Holden was tremendously hurt by the loss and dismayed by the grief that overcame him. He found himself talking out loud to Allie in attempts to find comfort, especially when he was completed suicide. Between Holden's hypercritical views on others and his effort to alienate himself, he became lonesome and yearned for companionship but still could not reach for any acceptance. Insecurity prevailed in Holden's mind, he began believing others would not recognize that others would accept him for who he wad and therefore felt he had to keep up appearances by lying to others. But all of this prevented him from getting what he wanted most which was approval and to be understood.
Holden Caulfied has cynical, skeptical, and even misanthropic views of the world around him. He resent the power society had over people, how it can easily transform an innocent child into someone pretentious. He despises how a person's will is not strong enough to stand against society's authority. However, he is just as fault as everyone else he has denounced and reprimanded since he ha let himself be molded to how he is suppose to be and how others are as well. In the end, Holden has not yet acknowledge his ongoing hypocrisy because he still refuses to admit that this is how the cycle of life is and that one cannot question it, but only embrace it.