If They Fall Off, They Fall Off
J.D. Salinger’s novel, The Catcher in the Rye, follows Holden Caulfield on his coming-of-age journey as he struggles with a fear of adulthood and makes futile attempts to protect children’s innocence. While there are moments of clarity for him, there is one pivotal moment that changes the psychological fabric of Holden’s mind and further illustrates one of the themes of the novel. This moment is shown through the carousel scene near the novel’s end. Before going through the transformative changes, he starts off as an immature young man without a grip on reality and lacking discretion.
Holden Caulfield enters The Catcher in the Rye as an admittedly immature-at-times, aloof sixteen year old who is watching the big football game alone on a hill. Later on, after he returns to his room, he interacts with his roommate and a neighbor, Stradlater and Ackley. Here, these interactions begin to depict how intensely immature and at odds with society Holden is. An instance that highlights Holden’s immaturity is his fight with Stradlater after he returns from a date with Jane. Stradlater will not give up details on the date, so Holden snaps and throws a punch at Stradlater, and we get a full on view of childishness from Holden’s diction and actions: “Get your dirty stinking moron knees off my chest” (Salinger 44). Stradlater has to act like an older brother, holding Holden down and telling him to calm down. However, Caulfield will not calm down and just talk things out, he continues to provoke Stradlater further by calling him a “moron” and other juvenile names. All of this occurs without Holden having any idea of what happened on Jane and Stradlater’s date. Making his case even worse, he hypocritically critic...
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...is shift in Holden, it can be assumed that his motivations and values also take a shift in a better direction.
In the end, Holden Caulfield transformed from an immature boy to a slightly more mature young man. In no way is he a completely different person, but there is evidence of the beginnings of a new man forming in Holden. The new beginnings sprouted from his altered virtues and belief in innocence that were overrun at the carousel scene. Innocence was the greatest thematic element in The Catcher in the Rye, and Holden’s “gold rings” moment carried and developed that theme fully and to the end of the novel. Conclusively, Holden definitely underwent a major change that altered the workings of his mind. Now there is only hope that the changes built Holden up and are steering him towards a better ending than he was heading towards before his jaunt through New York.
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