The Catcher in the Rye
The Catcher in the Rye is a story surrounding about three days of the main character’s (Holden Caulfield) life. The story is written from the point of view of Holden Caulfield, but in the past tense, so it seems that Holden is telling the story from past experience. Using that way of describing the events creates a very potent point of view for the story, resulting in what can only be described as an excellent read. In this essay, I will write about a number of passages or episodes from the book, in relation to Holden, his character, and all the other characters featured.
Holden, in his narration reveals a lot of details during conversations, and that is one of many reasons why I have chosen passages to do with conversations (to use in the essay). Possibly the most important part of the essay is the choice of passages. Each section shows individual points about Holden’s character, and it is important to portray as much of him as is possible. Holden seems to be a very curious personality. Throughout the book, he seems to be full of confidence, however, at the same time; he appears to be an introvert with his real personality, and feelings, never showing how he really feels.
In the whole book, he puts on faces for the people he is talking to, almost never showing the real Holden Caulfield. A good example of this ‘policy’ is his conversation to Mrs Morrow on the train to New York (Chpt. 8, Pp 48-52), the mother of another boy he knows at his school, Pencey. When he first meets her, and discovers whose mother she is, he remembers what kind of person her son is. The story depicts Ernest Morrow as, “… the biggest bastard that ever went to Pencey… ” however; Holden chose to ‘… shoot the old crap about… ‘ as he often does throughout the story.
Whether to save the mothers feelings, or (more likely) to have some fun, Holden spends the rest of the train journey talking to Mrs Morrow. At the start, it seems like he is ‘enjoying’ himself, but as the conversation proceeds, he soon finds himself feeling sorry for Mrs Morrow, or at least, bad about himself, due to the fact Mrs Morrow seems to have a very nice, ‘uncomplicated’, personality. This passage shows a side of Holden’s personality that becomes increasingly ‘prevalent’ as the book progresses. This side of his personality shows that he is very sensitive inside, underneath the bravado that he usually shows off.
He has great feelings for some people in the book, and while this is not shown exactly in this section, it shows how he can feel for some people. Another side of Holden’s character is shown in this episode. The tendency to joke about and lie (not in malicious or hurtful way) to people who do not know him properly comes up a lot throughout the book, and this is a good example. A possible reason for why Holden does this is that he is subconsciously trying to escape from his world, due to the fact that he feels that there is no good part of it, apart from perhaps his friends, and family.
The next episode (Chpt. 0, Pp 60-61) I am going to use in my essay is about a member, perhaps more than one, of Holden’s family. The main point of this section is about Holden’s opinion of ‘Phoebe’, his younger sister. It starts off with Holden having a sudden ‘impulse’, wanting to phone phoebe up. He then goes on to describe Phoebe, and other members of his family (in context). This section is very important in the fact that it is a very good description of a major influence and ‘feeling’ in his life, Phoebe. You can tell by the way that Holden talks about her, that her loves her a lot, and, indeed, thinks very highly about her.
In a way, she seems to be the only person that understands Holden. Taking a few people (or groups of people) in his life as examples, to prove that point, his parents: like all parents, they love him, but are not of the same frame of mind. Another group of people are his friends. The book conveys to us very clearly, that he does not often show his true character to most people in his life, and although friends may seem to understand him better than most, that point of view is definitely not perfect. During the whole book, Holden goes on about his little sister, what a great kid she is, and how she always understands everything he tells her.
This is perhaps showing off his softer side. Seeing Holden as his true self does not come about often in the book, but when it does, it is often in connection with Phoebe. In this book, the author, J. D. Salinger, uses a constant form of speech to ‘create’ the main character in the right light and from the right viewpoint. This is shown very well in this episode. Basically, the author writes the passages so Holden goes over everything at least twice, Eg: “… I damn near gave my little sister Phoebe a buzz. I certainly felt like phoning her… ”
The way I describe it doesn’t show it in its proper light, but it still works very well for the type of character Holden is. All through the story he seems very depressed, and the next episode I will be concentrating on is on his encounter with a prostitute (Chpt. 13, Pp 82-88). The main point I seem to be making in this essay is how sensitive Holden can be. At the start of this passage, Holden seems to accept the porter’s offer.
However, as it becomes apparent later, Holden regrets his decision. The book describes his choice of having a prostitute come to his room as one having been made when he was: … So depressed that he couldn’t even think… ” When the prostitute came into his room, he was already nervous and as the book tells us, he was a virgin. When she starts to get undressed, he gets even more nervous, and starts to come up with excuses and ‘sidelines’, to avoid having sex with the girl. As I have said often already, he seems very sensitive, when he is not with friends, or acting bravado, he becomes ‘more his own person’ than when he is with other people. By this I mean that his real character comes out. The prostitute encounter also shows some of his feelings towards other people.
Right in the middle of the event, when she tells him about her new dress, he begins to think about how she could be a normal girl, but wasn’t. “… It made me feel kinda’ sad … the salesman thinking she was a regular girl when she bought it… ” His attitude to other people often shows a lot of insight into what his views on relationships are. Holden seems to be the kind of person that prefers to know, and understand a person before ‘doing the dirty with them’, and that means that he considers other peoples feelings almost above his own. In a way, he could be described as considerate.
In this passage he tells us about how he actually listens to what other people say, even in ‘the heat of passion’ “… The trouble with me is that I listen to what the girls say. They ask me to stop, and I stop, that’s my problem… ” Another point this section makes is how Holden confides in strangers. In the middle of the prostitute ‘event’, he starts talking about other things. Although possible not completely exact in this passage, this ‘policy’ of Holden’s is a mark of his desperation. Throughout the book, he gets steadily more depressed, and people seem to ‘kick him when he’s down’ making the situation worse.
This ‘mark of desperation’ makes him try and make friends out of people he has no connection with, (eg. ) taxi drivers, or prostitutes. Although this is taking content from later in the book, Holden’s conversation with the taxi driver, about the ducks on the lake is an excellent example of how this affects Holden in everyday life. He does not have people that understand him and that he can confide in (at least near to him), so he makes them out of other people. The next section I have chosen to include in this essay is the one where Holden goes to stay at his old teacher’s (Mr. Antolini, whom he liked) home (Chpt. 24 Pp 163-174).
In this section, Holden has nowhere else to stay in New York, so he goes to Mr Antolini’s apartment. This section is mainly devoted to Holden talking with Mr. Antolini; however, near to the end there is an event. Mr. Antolini (seems to) strokes Holden’s head. Whether this is just a show of friendship from Mr. Antolini, or something more, Holden reacts very strongly. He responds by almost running out of the apartment, with the feeble excuse of, “… I have to get my bags from the station… ” This whole passage, and not just the special ‘event’ with Mr. Antolini shows some very important sides of Holden’s character and inner feelings.
For a start, his ability to see things in people which other people might just ‘skirt’ over. That is due to the fact that he has made a good friend of someone whom is classed as senior to him. Befriending a teacher, in any school or culture does not generally happen that often, and that is another point that this passage makes. Holden is different to other people. It seems that he is a friend with most people (by the small section that we saw of his school life), even if he doesn’t like them, and often makes friends with the most unusual or even uncommon (as in not commonly found) people.
There are people like that, that get on with everyone, in real life, but they are few and far between, and discovering or creating one of them, even if only in literature, is an event worthy of praise. Going back to an earlier point, Holden seems to stick out from his surroundings like a sore thumb. While all the other people of his age are interested in the simple things in life, he goes deeper. Although many teenagers are depressed through their adolesant years, Holden questions his world, and asks if there is any way to change how it affects him in its most basic sense.
The main event of this passage was the one concerning Mr. Antolini. However, it is not in question whether Antolini was ‘coming on’ to Holden, but more about how Holden reacted. To be honest, I do not know of any normal, hot-blooded male who would not have reacted in the same way to the same thing. Even so, some would question that part of Holden, he is sensitive, listens to and befriends women, but some would also say that that does not matter. He is a person, that has real feelings and emotions, and that leads me onto another point about this passage.
Holden is, as an American chat show host would say, ‘in touch with his emotions’. He is not afraid to show what he feels, and that effects the way he lives his life to a large extent. People look at him in different ways, and, as with many things in life, his feelings tend to ‘rub’ off, onto other people, which is a sign of a leader. In connection to the point I have just mentioned, and evident throughout the book, Holden is a leader, not a follower. He takes an active role in his surroundings, and effects all those around him by doing that.
Moving on to the final point, as I have said before, a major influence in his life is Phoebe, his younger sister. The passage I have chosen in connection with her is his last influential conversation in the book (Chpt. 25 Pp 189-191). It is near to the end, about when Holden is about to leave to pursue his dream, of living in the woods with his dream girl (although as we later find out, this never happens). The passage starts out with Phoebe wanting a ride on a carousel. She gets her ride, but the most important thing in this passage is the sheer quiet adoration expressed by both parties.
It is just the little things in the passage that show so much love. When it starts to rain, phoebe reaches into Holden’s pocket, takes out his red hunting hat, and places it on his head. As well as this, the way the author describes phoebes movements and actions expresses the feelings being exchanged by both Phoebe and Holden. This is a little off the subject, but the way this book is written, with such quiet, almost silent emotion, suggests to me that the writer may have had a relationship such as the one expressed between Holden and Phoebe.
Finally, to sum this book up, I can say several things. Holden is a very ‘difficult’ character to decipher. He has many outlets of emotion, and these are the only things that can lead us to what drives him, what he holds close, and what he sees in himself, his family, friends, and even people he meets or sees on the street. Holden cannot be summed up in few words, but I hope that I have managed to at least have a good try at the job in the last few pages.