Innocent and Corrupt Characters in Salinger's The Catcher in the Rye

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The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger is a classical coming of age novel that deals with a youth’s mental adjustment to a modern world. Holden Caulfield, Salinger’s troubled protagonist, has a flawed view of the world where youth and integrity fights maturity and corruption. Salinger explores this dichotomy using a variety of motifs and symbols.

In this novel, Salinger denotes innocence by the way Holden views a variety of characters. First, Jane Gallagher, Holden’s childhood friend, displays innocence through her actions, and Holden’s opinions of them. She shows this trait by the unique way she played checkers with Holden. Holden describes this saying, “What she’d do, when she’d get a king, she wouldn’t move it,” (Salinger 31). This demonstrates her protectiveness and innocence, and additionally can be used to show her irreproachable lifestyle. Another thing that promotes Jane as an innocent character is the way Holden claims to know that she did not let Stradlater get sexual with her, while on their date. By assuming this, Holden shows that Jane is sexually innocent, and will always be seen by Holden as a permanent virgin. Another character that portrays innocence is a young boy Holden hears walking on the curb of the street singing, “If a body catch a body coming through the rye,” (115). This boy displays purity by naively walking next to the curb, while cars are rushing a couple feet away from him. This boy’s actions show being on the line of adolescents, the side walk, and adulthood, the street, while not falling into either side completely. Holden admires this boy’s morality because Holden is at the point in his life in which this is happening. Lastly, Holden’s younger sister, Phoebe, displays innocenc...

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...te to come to his room, which displays Maurice’s corrupt persona. Another instance of when Maurice is acting immoral is when he goes to Holden’s room and hustles him for money. (101) This is unjust, and Holden is shown to be immensely afraid. These three characters help Salinger promote the universal idea of corruption.

The numerous symbols and motifs used in this novel are used to explore many character’s adolescent and adult attributes. Holden wants to protect all pure characters in the novel, and tries to take this job upon himself. Through his challenges, and other individuals helping him overcome them, he learns that this is not possible. However, he learns from his experiences, and finally realizes that adulthood is inevitable, and he must deal with this.

Works Cited

Salinger, J. D. The Catcher in the Rye. Boston: Little, Brown, 2001. Print.
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