The first-person narrative book, “the catcher in the rye” is a fiction novel that was written by J. D. Salinger and published in July 16, 1951 but takes place in the late 1940’s after the Second World War. The book’s publication in 1951 came at the dawn of the age of the teenager; “A new social category, newly economically empowered and hungry for culture, was fed by music, films and novels”.
•Holden Caulfield: He has a crew cut, graying hair and he’s tall for his age (6ft 2″). He’s also skinny and for a sixteen year old, he is a heavy drinker and a smoker. The sixteen year old “wear a crew cut quite frequently and never have to comb it much” and he is always mistaken for being 13. Holden is the hero, the protagonist who suffers from depression, nervous breakdown, impulsive spending, sexual exploration, crudeness and sees many erratic behaviors in the world around him. After he gets removed from Pencey Prep school because of his scholastic disappointment in every one of his subjects aside from English, Holden embarks on a journey and through each turn in the street, he deals with conflict within himself scanning for reality in the general public and human conduct. As the primary storyteller in the novel, Holden takes us through the “cross segment of American culture”, to his hospitalization and psychoanalysis.
•Stradlater: He is Holden’s roommate at Pencey prep. Stradlater is a sixteen year old handsome guy who doesn’t care about anyone but himself. Also Holden calls him a sexy bastard because he is quite sexy for a 16 year old boy and he often walks around without a shirt on. He is popular with the girls. Holden gets into a fight with him for the first time in his life because he thinks that Stradlater used his seductive charm to seduce his a girl who Holden cares very much about and who happens to be his childhood friend ,Jane Gallagher. Stradlater is also not appreciative because he gets angry at Holden when he asks him to write a descriptive essay for him but unfortunately for stradlater, Holden writes about his Brother Allie’s baseball mitt.
•Jane Gallagher – Jane Gallagher is one of the few girls whom Holden respects and finds attractive. He spent a lot of time with her when their families stayed in a summer house in Maine. She can be seen as one of the main characters in the book because when Holden finds out that she is going on a date with the “sexy bastard” Stradlater , he becomes depressed and upset.
•Phoebe Caulfield- Phoebe Caulfield is Holden’s ten year old younger sister, whom he loves and respects completely. She is intelligent,neat and also a wonderful dancer. Despite her age,she is extremely clever and passionate;especially towards Holden. Throughout the book, Holden thinks Phoebe is the only person in the world who understands and loves him completely. Phoebe’s innocence was mainly the source of Holden’s happiness. And unlike many individuals ,she finds herself able to perceive that Holden is the cause all his own problems. Towards the end of the book, he is baffled that Phoebe gets upset about him being removed from school and inquiries what he is going to do with his life. She makes it up to him, on the other hand, when she gathers her bag and feels the need to flee with him. She likewise draws out the best in him and makes him more responsible when he persuades himself that they don’t have to run away. In summary, her life represents what Holden wants his life to be like.
Holden’s story takes place over only three days, from Saturday afternoon to Monday around 1pm but it feels longer because he did a lot of activities.Holden starts his story in Pennsylvania, at his previous school, Pencey Prep then he moves and describes his experiences in New York City.; the land of the phonies during the post- world war 2 era.
•The “catcher in the rye”: The statement “catcher in the rye” first appears in Chapter 16, when a kid Holden admires for walking in the street rather than on the sidewalk is singing the Robert Burns song “Comin’ Thro’ the Rye.” This statement holds a significant meaning to Holden Caulfield. In Chapter 22, when Phoebe asks Holden what he wants to do with his life,he answers with a picture from the song,“catcher in the rye.” First, Holden mixed up Robert Burns’ poem of “If a body meet a body comin through the rye” into “If a body catch a body comin’ thro the rye”Holden envisions a field full of children playing . Then he continues to explain that he would like to protect the children from falling off the edge of the cliff by “catching” them if they were about to fall over,in other words, if they were about to grow up and lose their innocence as an adult. Holden shows that he is determined to protect the innocence of children when he tries to protect Jane Gallagher and his sister. He does not want them to grow up to be the one of the main people he hates;an adult.
•The carousel: Towards the end of the novel, Holden takes Phoebe to the zoo and makes her go on the carousel just as he did when he was little with his siblings. However, Phoebe wanted him to go with her but he fails to do so because he realizes that he is not a little kid anymore just like the parents and adults who were standing around the carousel. Seeing Phoebe going around in circles made Holden happy because he believes that means she is not going anywhere, but staying in that circle.In other words, he is happy because he thinks that she wills always be a child as long as he stays in that circle on the carousel. However he becomes terrified when he notices that the children are “trying to grab for the gold ring” because he knows that Phoebe might fall of the circle while trying to do so and she will no longer be a child and in that case,she would lose all of her innocence, purity and his biggest fear;become a phony. In summary, the carousel symbolizes a circle of life that protects the children’s childhood.
•The museum of natural history: The Museum of Natural History is significant because Holden describes it as frozen and unchanging and he likes it that way. But he states “Nobody’d be different. The only thing that would be different would be you” which shows that he is he is troubled by the fact that the only thing changing whenever he goes to the museum is him.The museum represents Holden’s secret desire, his ideal world where nothing ever changes and no one grows up.He enjoys the world inside those glasses because it doesn’t move and it never changes. He is not prepared to grow up to turn into a fraud. Holden’s optimal world is a spot where nothing changes, everything is straightforward, justifiable, and inside of his control. Holden Is scared of reality which is one the reason why he declines to acknowledge that he is experiencing phase of growing up and turning into an adult
•The red haunting hat : it is a symbol of Holden’s uniqueness and individuality and it plays a significant role of Holden Caulfield because the red haunting hat becomes part of him. He believes that the hat is the one thing that is protecting him from adulthood that is full of phonies and the world in general. When holden takes out his hat out of his coat pocket and gives it to his little sister,Phoebe, it shows that he is worried about her and he knows that one day,she will grow up and become an adult. Giving her the red hat shows that he believes that it will protect her from the adult phonies; she would not have to lose her purity and innocence. He also believes that it can protect her from the world just like it protected him.
Holden also stated that his “hunting hat really gave [him] quite a lot of protection, in a way, but [he] got soaked anyway” Holden became extremely happy once Phoebe puts the hunting hat on his head. But he later realizes that the hat doesn’t help protect him from the rain because he got soaking wet and this connects to his life in general because he realizes that nothing is going to protect him from adulthood forever. In the same way, Holden realizes that he cannot stop children from growing up. This proves that although the red hunting cap is to protect the innocence of the young one’s, the protection will eventually come off and won’t work anymore, which makes Holden realized that he will have to face this problem one day.
•Deception and Lying
•Intimacy and sex
•”Don’t ever tell anybody anything. If you do, you start missing everybody.” Chapter 25, pg. 214
Analysis: At the end of the book,Holden said the statement above when we discovered that he is a mental hospital.This mean Holden believes that once you get close to someone and depend on them for emotional support and you have a real connection, you can really miss that person, because they can leave you. People leave, they die, they are unreliable. This clarifies why he can’t have compassion for others. He is so afraid of losing people and this causes him refuse to truly make a connection with people. The quote also reveals one of the main reason why holden is in so much pain because he is still grieving for Allie.He is hesitant to draw near to someone,to open up to somebody because he can’t stand to lose another individual that means the world to him just like when he loses Allie. In the quote,Holden is advising the readers to not trust people because when you get hurt when they leave you. The quotes also reveal the loneliness and isolation motif because he believes that if you isolate yourself from people,there is a less chance of you getting hurt. Holden believes that trusting someone blindly can lead to destruction especially when they betray you.
•’Anyway, I keep picturing all these little kids playing some game in this big field of rye and all. Thousands of little kids, and nobody’s around – nobody big, I mean – except me. And I’m standing on the edge of some crazy 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. That’s all I’d do all day. I’d just be the catcher in the rye and all.” Chapter 22, pg. 173
Analysis: This quote shows Holden’s determination to save children who might suffer throughout their lives after the fall of the cliff. He wants to save the children in order for them not to lose their innocence and purity. Holden strives with all his might to keep childhood innocence. What he neglects to comprehend is that part of growing up sometimes mean losing one’s innocence and that he’s the one headed for the fall. Unfortunatley,there will nobody there to catch him. It also connects to the loneliness motif because he is still upset about Allie’s death,mainly because there was no one to catch Allie when he was falling or going through the rye and no one could save him. Part of Holden blames himself for not being there for Allie and now, he is determined to help other kids and prevent them from growing up. Holden reveals that pain can cause an individual to become irrational especially when they are lonely.
•”Game, my ass. Some game. If you get on the side where all the hot-shots are, then it’s a game, all right—I’ll admit that. But if you get on the other side, where there aren’t any hot-shots, then what’s a game about it? Nothing. No game” (8).
Analysis:In the quote above, Holden describes life as a game just as Mr antolini does but he comments that the “game of life,” is only a game for the privileged; those who actually have the chance to participate in the game. Though Holden is from a wealthy family, being the son of a very wealthy and well known lawyer, he feels empathetic for those who do not the chance to play the game of life and because of this, he feels isolated and unfortunate when he looks upon the rich kids at his schools as a bunch of “phonies” Despite having access to a great education and immense wealth, Holden does not appreciate it and throughout the book, he did not brag about his wealth but instead he helps the people who needs the money the most. The quote reveals the isolation motif because he hates the upper class people like him and as a corrupted society, he is expected to be with people like him. But due to his hatred towards “phonies”, he fails to meet people and decides to be left alone.
•I know he’s dead! Don’t you think I know that? I can still like him, though, can’t I? Just because somebody’s dead, you don’t just stop liking them, for God’s sake – especially if they were about a thousand times nicer than the people you know that’re alive and all.
Analysis: In this quote, Holden admits that he knows about Allie’s death even though he talks about him like he is still alive. He explains his dissatisfaction with the existing world because he believes that the society thinks that they should forget about someone once they are dead. However, it becomes harder for Holden day by day to forget about Allie because he glorifies him so much. He believes that he can idealize his brothers and instill in him all the values he feels are missing from reality. This, of course,makes him more angry at the world and he feels isolated from everyone. Holden uses Allie’s death to show that death can make an individual experience pain especially when they lose a loved one.
Social,Political, Philosophical agenda
1950 was the start of the fast changes that would be seen in the next 2 decades and historians uses the word “boom” to describe a lot of things in the 1950’s; the booming economy, the booming suburbs and most of all the so-called “baby boom.” “This boom began in 1946, when a record number of babies–3.4 million–were born in the United States. About 4 million babies were born each year during the 1950s. In all, by the time the boom finally tapered off in 1964, there were almost 77 million baby boomers.” This shows that there were lot of children during this time including teenagers who were beginning to find out who they are. This connects to the book because Slinger uses Holden’s concerns about safety and protection of children to show that there were too many children for people to look after;the children were left to roam around with no adult’s supervision.Holden fears that if no one looked after them, they would “fall off a cliff” with no one to save them.
Also, teenagers were expected to go school after the post war because “$200 billions to $500 billions were spent on school” which shows that they wanted to give teenagers the chance to learn instead of being in a factory or being in the military. For social agenda, Rock and roll changed many things in American culture especially in teenagers. “Once rock & roll created a sound and style that was embraced by youngsters and rejected by most adults, teenagers took on a new role in American culture, one that would soon follow around the world. The rise of rock & roll upended the music industry and revealed the economic power of teenagers, and nearly every other aspect of popular culture followed suit, as teens informed fashions and trends while avidly following them at the same time”.
This shows that they during that time, teenagers believed that they had some type of power and that they had a voice people are willing to hear. They created their own culture and started to behave like independent adults. It also connects to the book because throughout the book, Slinger shows teenager’s desires to be like an adult. For example, Stradlater, also known as the “sexy bastard” tries to be like an adult when he goes around trying to have sex with any girl he meets. Holden also tries to be an adult when he goes to clubs and drinks illegally as a minor. The main purpose of the Slinger writing this book is to show the symbol of youth;the way teenagers views it and how they rebel against things in life especially school.
Technical,structural ,literary ,stylistic strategies
Man v Self: The major conflict in the catcher in the rye is man vs. self which is caused by Holden’s inability to deal with things with himself. He has a hard time dealing with his everyday life and he has trust issues because he thinks everyone around him is a phony. He is angry with himself and upset about the fact that he did not have the chance to catch Allie when he was “falling off the rye”and this haunts him whenever he thinks about it . Holden allows his mind to work against him and this makes him feel so depressed and unhappy with his life.
The fact that he talks about Allie throughout the book shows that he is not capable of letting go of the past. He lives constantly trying to tell himself how wonderful things were, but in reality things were not great. Holden’s inability to face his future with confidence creates conflict wherever he goes and causes him to have a mental breakdown because he could not hide those pain and emotions anymore. Holden also has conflict with himself because part of him wants to be an adult because he wants to have sex,get married, go to bars and not be seen as a minor while the other part of him see adulthood as a big “phony” and wants to reject it in order to live in his own memories of childhood.
Man vs. Man: In the beginning of the book, Holden gets into a fist fight with his roommate Stradlater because he was worried that Stradlater would use his seductive charm to seduce his a girl who Holden cares very much about and who happens to be his childhood friend ,Jane Gallagher. Holden allows his internal conflict which was the thought of Stradlater having sex with his friend to affect the people around him.
Man vs. Society: The book is based around Holden’s struggle to find a place in life among schools like Pencey Prep because he thinks everyone is a “phony” and they are all deceitful. He fails to see the good in anyone and he thinks everyone is against him.He makes it so difficult for himself to fit in due to his strong opposition to material wealth, which is a dominating characteristic of the society and he can not accept it. He can’t communicate with anyone because he thinks that are already exposed to the world’s hypocrisy and feels that the only person he can even relate to is his sister Phoebe.
Holden cannot function as a normal part of society because of his hatred towards all “phonies”, which he believes everyone to be including his teachers. He is also upset with society because of it beliefs. Holden is not one of those teenagers that beliefs that education should be one of life’s priority. Holden hates going to school and it is one of the reason why he gets expelled from every school he goes to including pencey prep. He hates the fact that he is forced to go to school just because society believes that it is right.
Reason for the ending
The catcher in the rye is a novel about a troubled teenager that tells a story from a mental institution where he is currently undergoing treatment for his nervous breakdown which he suffered after he gets kicked out of Pencey Prep due to his academic failure in all of his classes except English. One of the main reason of the nervous breakdown is the grief of his brother Allie:who died from Leukemia three years ago. He gets into a fight with his roommate because he feels worried that the roommate would use his seductive charm to seduce a girl whom Holden cares very much about and happens to be a childhood friend.
He becomes anxious after the fight and decides to leave school, days before he is supposed to without letting his parents know about his whereabouts. He gets back to New York and tries to waste time by going to bars and hanging out with some old classmates. However, Holden fails to connect with people because he either fights with them or criticizes them. He then decides to sneak to his family’s house when his parents were not home in order to talk to his sister,Phoebe; the one person he trusts in the entire world and tell her goodbye. He sneaks out of the house when his parents gets back and decides to leave after he visits an old teacher. Throughout the book, he shows that he is afraid to grow up and he sees adulthood as a phony.