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No Innocence in Catcher in the Rye
Probably the greatest irony of the novel is the fact that, despite
his love of "childhood innocence," Holden is and acts far from innocent
himself. In fact, he is its antithesis. He acts that way for many reasons.
First of all, he has so many responsibilities. Second, he never fits in
with the crowd, and finally, he never gets any real help for the problems
that he deals with.
Holden does have a love for "childhood innocence" as seen across
the book. For example, on page two hundred and one "Somebody'd written '
Fuck you' on the wall. It drove me damn near crazy. I thought how Phoebe
and all the other little kids would see it, and how they'd wonder what the
hell it meant, and then finally some dirty kid would tell them-cockeyed
naturally- what it meant, and how they'd all think about it and maybe even
worry about it for a couple of days. I kept wanting to kill whoever'd
written it... But I rubbed it [The 'fuck you' written on the wall] out
anyway." Another example is on page two hundred and eight, "'So shut up.'
It was the first time she [Phoebe] ever told me to shut up. It sounded
terrible. God, it sounded terrible. It sounded worse than swearing." There
is one more outstanding quotation from the novel which is found on page two
hundred and thirteen. "I felt so damn happy all of a sudden, the way old
Phoebe was going around and around [the carousel]." All these examples
clearly show that Holden appreciated "childhood innocence" to a great
extent. Yet Holden acts the opposite.
The irony in this novel is Holden's behavior, which is far from
being innocent. He smokes, drinks, always depressed, thinks about suicide,
thinks about going embarking to a far place, and has people tell and act in
many weird ways. There are three main reasons why he acts this way. Firstly,
Holden being only sixteen years of age already has so much responsibility.
He has to get money for food and travel. When he travels he has to make
sure he doesn't get lost, and actually gets there. He has to make sure that
he doesn't flunk school.
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by itself, but there are still more reasons that his life is so difficult.
Secondly, he never had anyone actually sit down with him, and figure out
the core of his problems. For example, when Allie died his parents didn't
send him to a psychologist so that the he can help Holden deal with the
immense pain, instead his parents sent him to boarding school. When Holden
was kicked out of a schools it didn't seem like the parents tried
understand why he was kicked out, and how they could help, instead they
sent him to another school. When Holden drank and smoked nobody bothered
telling him it was harmful. It seems as if his parents and the people
around him didn't really mind if he failed. Holden can't fix all the
problems by himself. He needs help, but if there is none then there is no
way he can act innocent. Lastly, he never fits in with the crowd. Most
likely because his personality is so different from everybody else's. He
can't stay himself when he talks to different people. For example when he
talked to the nuns in the café, he actually talked seriously without lying.
When Holden talks to Phoebe he lets out his thoughts and feelings. While
with Mrs. Morrow, as Holden says, "Then I started shooting the old crap
around..." Because he can't communicate with people he feels depressed which
makes him do such foolish things as smoke, drink, ordering a prostitute,
and just leaving everything that he has behind to travel to someplace far.
Holden faces three major problems in experiencing "childhood
innocence." He has too much responsibility. He doesn't have anyone to help
him with his problems, and he doesn't fit in with the crowd. A sixteen
year old, whose younger brother died, and parents ignore, and is facing all
those problems can't possibly under any circumstances be innocent.