Misinterpreting Robert Burns’ poem isn’t the first time Holden Caulfield misreads the world. Searching for stability and tranquility in a polluted New York City, Holden, the main character of Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger, alienates himself from humanity and searches for an ideal world that can transcend time. From having a date with his old girlfriend to an encounter with a prostitute, Holden must confront his preconceived notions of the world and accept reality. Although women in the book have simple personalities and are rarely illuminated through Holden’s digressive character, J. D. Salinger uses Holden’s interactions with Jane, Sally, Phoebe and the nuns to contrast his ideal world with brutal reality. This in turn shows that Holden matures throughout the book and an adolescent classic is easier for many adolescences to relate to.
The perfection and beauty of Holden’s ideal world illuminate themselves through Jane. Holden reflects on his past relationship with Jane as pure and touching. He fondly remembers that “She wouldn’t move any of her [Chess] kings” (32) and that she “like[d] the way they looked when they were in the back row” (32). Not only does he visualize the tiniest, most unimportant details of Jane’s life, he even remembers her schedule during the summer when they played “tennis together almost every morning and golf almost every afternoon” (76). Holden can recall his time with Jane because it meant a lot to him. When Stradlater mentions going out with Jane, Holden gets very agitated because he cares for Jane and does not want Stradlater to have sex with her and treat her with disrespect. By dating Jane, Stradlater is crushing Holden’s dreams into dissipating shreds.
Although his memorie...
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...den forms his own depressing opinions about society and he prefers to live in a dream. His hopes and ideal world can be seen through Jane and they are cemented when he interacts with Sally. But Phoebe and the nuns show a more diverse view of the world than Holden could see at first. Holden now perceives the world for what it really is and dares the reader to do the same. By contrasting Jane, Sally, Phoebe and the nuns Holden meets at the café, Salinger is able to show that Holden matures by the end of the novel and that adds a whole new level to the book. It is the story of losing childhood fantasies. By making this a story of maturity and therefore adolescence, Salinger helps teenagers more personally relate to Holden. As a touching novel, it is able to inspire children to grow up and see light and happiness in the world, in places they least expect to find it.
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