Innocence In Catcher In The Rye

Innocence In Catcher In The Rye

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If there were one word to tell what the theme of the book was it would be innocence. How we are all innocent at some point, how to try to keep our innocence, and how no one can keep their innocence forever. We all fall from our innocence. Adam and Eve fell from grace and innocence and set the tone for all of our lives. Throughout the whole book Holden is trying to make people keep their innocence and he wants to hold onto it himself. What he needs to learn and does learn through the course of the book is that no one can keep his or her innocence. We all fall at some point, but what we have control over is how hard we fall.

In the book there is a plethora of falling images. The very title is about Holden wanting to "catch" little kids from falling off a cliff. "What I have to do, I have to catch everybody if they start to go over the cliff" I mean if they’re running and they don’t look where they’re going I have to come out from somewhere and catch them.” (Pg. 173) Holden wants to save everyone and be a hero, when he needs to focus a lot more attention on his self. To him falling is when you loose your innocence, and when you loose your innocence you are a phony. He sees people that conform as phony, but to stay sane and prosper a person usually has to conform and be “phony.”

Mr. Antolini brings to our attentions another image of falling when he talks with Holden about his behavior. He tells Holden that Holden is due to fall. “This fall I think you’re riding for—it’s a special kind of fall, a horrible kind. The man isn’t permitted to feel or hear himself hit bottom.” (Pg. 187) Mr. Antolini brings to our attention the fact that Holden is going to “fall” or loose his innocence soon if he already hasn’t. During the book when Holden is going mad it sure seems like he keeps falling and falling but he can’t feel himself fall or hit bottom. He drinks constantly to escape the problems he has with his life. He tries to find people and things to make him happy, but he can’t anymore. Allie made him happy, but now Allie is dead.

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Holden actually reaches out to Allie when Holden thinks he is falling off of the curb. “Every time I came to the end of a block, and stepped off the goddam curb, I had the feeling that I’d never get to the other side of the street…‘Allie, don’t let me disappear. Allie, don’t let me disappear.’” (Pg. 198) This was Holden's breaking point. After this it seems that he finally realized that everyone looses his or her innocence and we all fall. No one is perfect and you can’t control or protect kids forever. Phoebe made him happy and he tried to protect her through the whole book; whether it was erasing the “fuck you” marks on the walls of the school or making her not go with him when he was going to leave. His life was miserable the whole time he attempted this. He was trying to protect himself also. The one time in the book he seemed truly happy was at the end when he finally decided that you have to let kids fall. Everyone falls and you can’t protect them all. “I was kinda afraid she’d fall off the goddam horse…The thing with kids is, if they want to grab at the gold ring, you have to let them do it, and not say anything.” (Pg. 211) Most of the time kids don’t even fall, but the pressure of always trying to “catch” them all of the time can make a person go mad.

Holden barley holds onto his sanity while trying to keep his innocence not be phony. The truth is he is phony. Holden admits to us his sexual innocence suddenly when Sunny is coming over. “If you want to know the truth, I’m a virgin.” (Pg. 92) Through the whole book Holden pretended he wasn’t a virgin, but he was and finally blurts it out. Also he lies all of the time and he admits that too. Holden just wants to pretend he isn’t innocent, he tries to act tuff while trying to maintain his innocence. If that isn’t a phony I don’t know what a phony is. Holden was “holding” on to his innocence the whole book. Even when the prostitute came over and was going to sleep with him, he refused her trying to “hold on” to his sexual innocence. Before he went to the door he almost fell over his suitcase, and this symbolized that he was about to fall and loose his innocence to the prostitute. Holden rejects her and he retains his innocence at least for a little while. When Holden decided to leave Pency and go off on his own for some time it seemed to me that Holden was ready to give up some of his innocence. He was finally growing up. He wanted to be on his own, and during the course of his journey, he went on a drinking bend, bought a prostitute, and made a lot of his old friends angry at him.

We all fall and I believe what set Holden up for the ultimate fall was when Allie died. After this Holden went crazy; he broke all of the windows in the garage and his view of the world seemed to completely change. In the book Holden seemed to be angry with life and almost everyone in his, and although we don’t know for sure I believe he wasn’t as pessimistic before his brother died. Allie was to Holden one of the innocent people, and why do the innocent have to die and all of the phony conceited people get to live; like Stratlader. No one was there to catch Allie and he feels that no one is there to catch him either. Holden has all of the responsibility to catch everyone, but who has the responsibility to catch him? No one and that is why he comes to the conclusions he does. We all fall no matter who is there to catch us. He now knows that he can’t catch everyone and that people all need to fall. Every one needs to learn, and you can’t experience good without the bad.

Falling is a part of life and it happens to all of us. Whether a person takes many little falls daily or one big fall, every person falls. I said it before, although we don’t have control over whether we fall or not we do have control over how hard we fall. A person just needs to accept the fact that our innocence only lasts for a short time and loosing it is a sign of maturity. You can’t stay a kid forever and innocence seems to be immaturity. Holden figures out he needs to grow up and let people fall and that is when he finds true happiness. I think the best moral of the story is people all need to come to their own realization of their fading innocence.
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