Character Analysis of Holden Caulfield of Catcher In The Rye

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Character Analysis of Holden Caulfield

Ever since its publication in 1951, J.D. Salinger's The Catcher in the Rye has served as a firestorm for controversy and debate. Salinger's portrayal of Holden, which includes incidents of depression, nervous breakdown, impulsive spending, sexual exploration, crudeness, and other erratic behavior, have all ascribed to the controversial nature of the novel. Holden embarks on a journey and through every turn in the road, he deals with conflicts within himself searching for the truth in a society full of falsity. Holden is by far the most complex character in the book. His role is surrounded by 2 main themes that serve as his inner conflicts: a critic towards society and an adolescent stuck between the world of childhood and adulthood. Both these themes are related to him through the two children in his life he respects most – his brother Allie and his little sister Phoebe. They play the biggest role in Holden's self-realization.

There are two Holden's in this play. One is the character and the other is the narrator. His honesty is entirely internalized. He admits his faults and lies in narration, but can't do the same with other people. I personally like reading stories where the main character is telling the story. In this way, I have noticed some contradictions in Holden's personality. He criticizes everyone in society because they are being phonies when he lies all the time leading him to be a phony himself. Right from the beginning of the story he starts to "shoot the bull" with his history teacher, Mr. Spencer, who had flunked him. In chapter 3, his first line is "I'm the most terrific liar you ever saw in your life." Even as he's leaving Pency Prep, he gives a fake name to the mother of one of his classmates. It seems to me, his criticism of the world first lies within himself. He has shut himself out from the world, which makes him an outcast. And by criticizing everything around him, it seems to be a way for Holden to justify how the world is a bad place and to grow up and leave adolescents behind is just something that no one should do.

Holden's journey takes him though a cross section of American society.
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