In the novel The Catcher in the Rye, Holden is both the primary character and one of the characters. He comes from a wealthy family in New York City, so he was admitted to one of the finest boarding schools in the city. However, he was unable to maintain his place in one class, so he was expelled and transferred from one school to another. This is an indication of his deception and disrespect. “ I raced all the way to the main gate, then paused for a second to catch my breath. I have no wind if you want to know the truth. I’m quite a heavy smoker, for one thing—that is, I used to be. They made me cut it out. Another thing, I grew six and a half inches last year. That’s also how I practically got t.b. and came out here for all these goddam checkups and stuff. I’m pretty healthy though. (Salinger, 10). In this quote, he is referring to professionals who are taking care of him as “they” and “here” is used to refer to a place that offers assistance to teens like him. This serves as evidence that he does not respect the older adults because of their financial position which could be way lower than what his family owned. It seems like this disrespect and looks down up other people could be the core reason for him failing to avoid being sent away from school time to time (Bloom, 2014). This raises the question of whether their poor parenting could have resulted in his behavior where the parents could have exposed him to so much money or wealth that Holden could not have any respect for others. Holden’s dirty response could also be because of his parents presented him with so much money and dominance over other people such as employees which could have played a part in eroding the exemplary behavior from Holden.
Secondly, Holden shows some common traits that are expected of any teenager but during his puberty period faults brought about by his age were way too much throughout the novel, which in turn offers insight to his self-destructive nature. Despite all the negative adolescent behavior that Holden was possessing, he was caring as well as loving. This is evident is Holden saying, “I was only thirteen, and they were going to have my psychoanalyzed and all because I broke all the windows in the garage. I don’t blame them. I don’t. I slept in the garage the night he died, and I broke all the goddam windows with my fist, just for the hell of it. I even tried to break all the windows on the station wagon we had that summer, but my hand was already broken and everything by that time, and I couldn’t do it. It was an idiotic thing to do, I’ll admit, but I hardly didn’t even know I was doing it, and you didn’t know Allie” (Salinger, 7). This shows that he loved his brother to the extent that he could destroy the best thing he like just to ease the pain of his brother passing away (Wei, 67). For instance, he claims to have slept in the garage the night he learned of his brother’s demise which also strengthens the claim that he had a high emotional feeling as well as the relationship with his younger brother Allie.
Holden has a psychological, mental disorder that was causing him to do bizarre things at a time when everyone expected him to be changing. For instance, he sees the entire world as evil and corrupt place where he could not get a peace of mind or even innocence. Holden’s view of the world remains the same throughout the movie, but towards the last period of the film he realizes that he had no power to change his perceptions. “I was only thirteen, and they were going to have my psychoanalyzed and all, because I broke all the windows in the garage” (Salinger, 7). Holden gives us a situation that almost saw him being sent to a psychologist to be analyzed because of his erratic behavior that his parents, as well as the other people, believed to be entirely wrong and something needed to be done. It is his disorder that made him perceive everything he saw in the world to be evil resulting in him trying to “punish” the garage for the death of his brother. If he had no disorder, he could have managed his emotions or even seek assistance from the elders who were in the house rather than destroy property just to calm down his feelings. The death of Allie brought a lot of devastations to his life that he could not handle on his own, as he pictured his brother as an exemplary embodiment of a good child as shown in his statement, “but it wasn’t just that he was the most intelligent member in the family. He was also the nicest, in lots of ways. He never got mad at anybody. People with red hair are supposed to get mad very easily, but Allie never did, and he had very red hair.” This makes him lead a sad life despite the fact that his family had enough wealth to make him deal with the problem efficiently.
Holden is the person who embraces change in his life. Despite the fact that the book only offers a short narration about a small part of Holden’s being in the book, Holden is very excellent in passing information about his viewpoint on the world, evil, crazy, and corrupt world. “I don’t even know what I was running for–I guess I just felt like it.” This is just a statement offering the readers more information about his background towards his current life. He is trying all he can to walk away from his past emotions that were destroying his life. He is courageous enough to realize that if he keeps holding on to the past feelings, then he is bound to suffer more harm than the one he has already gone through. In this case, he does not want to be involved in any close or intimate relationship with any person that would, in turn, result in him being hurt massively, like that time when his brother passed away (Priest, 211). However, he does not rationally bring about the change, but it’s only a tactic to help him not suffer emotionally at the expense of having a regular life where he could enjoy excellent and stable relationships.
The change and maturity of Holden begin to be seen after he was leaving Pencey Prep and books a room at the Edmond Hotel. It is from this place that his quandaries start. The night at the hotel saw him being surrounded by morons and a group of perverts. The area had screwballs all over, and the scene deteriorates onwards. This just continues to prove his mental picture of the world being always wrong and evil. It is also from this setting that we learn that he had sexual feeling towards the girls. This is because he was in a date with Sally where he courageously asks her if she always gets bored and if this was going to change or worsen as time goes by, which makes us note that he is very observative and was quick to learn that Sally was fed up and tries to ask her this question so that he can be in a better position to put all that took place in his life behind and start a fresh one (Liu, 2016). This is an indication of the level of maturity that Holden had acquired because it is apparent that he is out to find a solution that will lead him to lead a better life than the last one. Holden’s maturity is also seen in the way he confidently lets Phoebe understand all that happened during their date with Sally so that she can make up her mind of either being with him or find another lover.
Bloom, Harold, ed. JD Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye. Infobase Publishing, 2014.
Priest, Benjamin. “The Catcher in the Rye and the ill member of the group: Holden Caulfield and adolescent development.” Psychodynamic Practice 22.3 (2016): 209-222.
Wei, H. E. “Holden Caulfield: An Outcast of His Society—An Analysis of Caulfield’s Spiritual Dilemma Based on American Character.” Sino-US English Teaching 14.1 (2017): 66-69.
Liu, Fan, and Yong-Zhi Liu. “Creation of Emptiness and Hopelessness: A Close Reading of The Catcher in the Rye.” DEStech Transactions on Social Science, Education and Human Science helmet (2016).