The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger

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Holden Caulfield, the protagonist of J.D. Salinger’s classic coming of age tale The Catcher in the Rye, entices readers through his hyper-critical scrutinization of the post-war consumer world. The novel itself is acclaimed to be quite autobiographical; the similarities between Salinger and Holden are numerous. Holden is an avid critic of materialistic American ideals, and he aims to preserve innocence in others, and to save himself from falling into the land of adulthood. After failing out of prep school, Holden retires to the streets of New York City, searching for the little purity he has left. Through Holden’s manic and depressive moods, his language, and his relationship with his sister, Holden’s desire to escape the “phoniness” of adulthood and to live in a state permanent childhood is evident.
Throughout the novel, Holden’s mood changes quite frequently. At times he is amiably optimistic, and at others he is melancholically saddened or angered. Although some critics characterize Holden as manic-depressive, thematically, Holden is merely illuminating his identity: in between childhood and adulthood. For example, when Holden radically decides to bid goodbye to his history teacher, Spencer, he runs with excitement all the way to his house. However, after only a few minutes of talking, Holden becomes disgusted with the man, “Boy, I couldn't have sat there for another ten minutes to save my life” (Salinger 15). When Holden initially chooses to go to Spencer’s house, he is confident that Spencer will understand his reasoning for feeling indifferent to failing out of school. However, when Spencer tries to talk to Holden about his future, Holden immediately shuts down the world of adulthood and becomes highly cynical...

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...ivision between adolescence and the adult world. Also, Holden’s relationship with his younger sister, Phoebe, illustrates how he truly wishes to be the “catcher in the rye”, catching children from falling into the artificiality of society. In the end, Holden realizes that his visions are not realistic; he cannot preserve the innocence of youth. Overall, through the characterization of Holden Caulfield, Catcher in the Rye exposes the damaging effects of the artificiality of post-war American culture.

Works Cited

Pinsker, Sanford. The Catcher in the Rye: Innocence Under Pressure. New York: Twayne Publishers ;, 1993. Print.
Salinger, J. D.. The Catcher in the Rye. [1st ed. Boston: Little, Brown, 19511945. Print.
Simonson, Harold Peter, and Philip E. Hager. Salinger's "Catcher in the Rye": Clamor vs. Criticism.. Boston: Heath, 1963. Print.
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