The Catcher in the Rye

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Holden Caulfield is a peculiar teenager. He's hypocritical, cynical, dishonest, and most of all...confused. All of these traits add up to an unreliable narrator, to say the least. You can never take what Holden says at face value: you have to read between the lines. In between the lines lies the fact that he is extremely lonely, and that his fear of abandonment causes him to isolate himself in opposition to that. He often tries to cover this up from both himself and outsiders, hence the lying and contradictory nature of his thoughts. The problem is, he doesn't know why he's lonely. He feels cut off from the rest of society; feels as though he is all alone in this world of supposed phonies. Throughout The Catcher in the Rye, Holden's loneliness shines through in the way he frequently reaches out to complete strangers for companionship (strangers he generally dislikes, too, which shows just how desperate he is for company). True to his contradictory nature, he also tries to isolate himself at the same time, for he fears abandonment. Abandonment, as a matter of fact, is at the very root of his issuance with creating connections: he reaches out to people and then immediately proceeds to push them away, for he is terrified of getting hurt by them.

During the 48 hours that Holden spent alone in New York, pity for him can be expected to develop quickly. He’s so desperate to communicate with someone-anyone-that he is reaching out to absolute strangers, oftentimes even considerably older than himself. When Holden was still at Pencey, he was feeling so dejected after fighting with Stradlater that he actually reached out to someone that he had painted a picture of as a poor hygienist, and as a social outcast, because surely ...

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...d to mean the world to him. Both his brother's death and parents desertion have evidently deeply impacted him. Holden pretty well lied to himself, claimed the he had no place in society, all to give him plausible reasons to isolate himself. By calling people phonies, which he frequently did, he was in all reality pushing them away before giving himself the chance to even debate getting to know them. 'Phony people' was like his own private excuse for avoiding making friends. Holden's only hope to attain happiness is to open up to others. If he refuses to, he will forever consider the world to be full of evil, corruption, and phony people. His cynicism, dishonesty and judgemental habits are like a cape that he wears to ward off the elusively hanging threat of abandonment.

Works Cited

Salinger, J. D. The Catcher in the Rye. Boston: Little, Brown, 1951. Print.
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