Sympathy Lacking in J.D Salinger´s A Catcher in the Rye

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“May peace and comfort find you during this difficult time” (qtd from, a set of sympathetic words that can be uttered to a loved one during their time of need. Some may believe that these are words that should be said to the protagonist of J.D. Salinger's coming of age novel, The Catcher in the Rye. Holden Caulfield is a troubled adolescent who longs for sympathy because he is often regretful, sad, lonely and cannot let go of the past. Instead though, because he puts himself in melancholy moods due to his personality, improper feelings or by running away from his problems, it is also believed that Holden is undeserving of this sympathy. It is difficult to feel sympathy for the distraught protagonist because the reasons for his dreariness are all self-induced.
To elaborate, one of the reasons Holden is unfit for sympathy is his personality. Throughout his coming of age, he often gives up and is lazy, tells lies or makes excuses. To begin with the former, Holden gives up on his schooling. Pencey Prep is “the fourth school [he's] gone to” (9). “[He] was flunking four subjects and not applying himself and all” (4) so “they kicked [him] out” (4). Holden though, does not feel bad about failing school, but for the pain he causes his teacher in doing so. His teacher, Mr. Spencer, “[feels] pretty lousy about flunking him” (12) and when he asks Holden if he opened his textbook once the whole term, Holden lies and replies with “Well, I sort of glanced through it a couple of times” (11). He tells this lie because “[he] didn't want to hurt [Mr. Spencer’s] feelings” (11). Since Holden respects Mr. Spencer, he regrets making his teacher feel bad about failing him. Although he is regretful, he did not even attempt to pass...

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In summary, Holden Caulfield is a troubled adolescent whose personality, improper feelings and habit of running from his problems prevent him from receiving sympathy. Since his personality includes being lazy and insincere, it is difficult to feel sympathy for him when he fails to try or tells lies. His improper feelings depress him over nothing or leave him lonely and isolated. His habit of running away from his problems make it difficult for him to receive sympathy because he chooses not to face his problems. Holden is a character that causes his own sadness. His actions prevent sympathy from being felt for him because most circumstances are all avoidable. Sympathy will be felt for the distraught protagonist when he fixes his personality or makes better decisions. Until then, Holden Caulfield is a character that it will be difficult to feel sympathy for.
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