Often times, who one surrounds themselves with, even for a short period of time affect a person’s life for years to come. In Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger captures the story of Holden Caulfield, who throughout his travels to New York, is compelled by his thoughts of characters who are never introduced to readers. The absent characters are as impressed upon him as much as he is affected by those who are among him in the city. The situations in which the characters are introduced are often when Holden is faced with uncomfortable or adult situations.
He reminds himself of those who once surrounded him, while recollecting the memories, Holden is affected by the innocence of the situation. This allows for the theme of innocence and his somewhat childish actions across the events of the novel. While facing the aspect of school, a topic Holden would rather avoid, he was tasked with writing a composition for Stradlater. He relayed the fond memory of his younger brother’s baseball mitt in extreme detail. This began an opening into Holden’s past, beginning with Allie. Allie became an image of innocence to Holden, “But it wasn’t just that he was the most intelligent member of the family.
He was also the nicest, in lots of ways.. People with red hair are supposed to get mad very easily, but Allie never did, and he had very red hair” (43). He put Allie on a pedestal because of his youth and innocence, he was presented as special and different than others. When Stradlater did not appreciate the composition, Holden became enraged for Stradlater was ruining the innocent memories of Allie. As Allie becomes mentioned more frequently, he becomes a prominent part of Holden’s story. Later in the novel, Holden becomes emotionally lost, begging for Allie not to let him disappear (218).
He seems to behold Allie as higher power as if he is looking after him. Allie is forever innocent, he is the one saving Holden, something Holden could not do for Allie and has continued to regret. Allie is more so the “catcher in the rye,” catching Holden before he throws himself over the edge. This aligns with why Allie would have a baseball mitt, to catch those who are lost, specifically Holden. Allie overall, is the main reminder of innocence for Holden and keeps him grounded and secure over he course of the three days written about in the novel.
As shown, the present theme of Holden’s childhood and innocence causes many of his actions, but one figure can equally represent these ideas. Jane Gallagher, though never seen, can be used as a motive for Holden’s choices and represents his childhood. First mentioned when Stradlater mentioned he was taking her on a date, Holden became suspicious and protective, “I kept thinking about Jane, and Stradlater having a date with her and all. It made me so nervous I nearly went crazy’ (39). Stradlater was a ‘player’ and enjoyed taking girls out. The idea of Jane doing this with Stradlater began to ruin the perfect childhood image Holden held of her.
He did not say hello to her out of fear of changing his dear memories of the girl who embodied the best parts of his childhood. As Holden went on his way alone to New York, he began to experience more adult situations, such as sex and having motives for conversing with women. After meeting with the three women in, he revealed more about their relationship. He revealed that they were never intimate, “I don’t mean it was anything physical or anything.. ” (85). This shows ow their relationship was innocent and didn’t escalate for a kiss. Holden held all relationships to this standard, beginning his troubles with intimacy.
He could never have intercourse, because from what he knew from his love to Jane, it did not always mean sex. Holden often is conflicted whether he should call Jane (166). Before he decides to, he more often than not, for he only called her once, decides to back out. Again, after the several years that Holden has held on the innocent childhood memories, Holden does not want to ruin the facade that he has put on by calling Jane. Holden had come to terms with the idea that unlike he, she grew up and did not hold on to those memories the same way she did.
When Caulfield ultimately decided to call her, Jane did not answer, finally confirming his fears that he had been left behind to revel in childhood memories. Jane, in spite of not being present in the novel, still impacted Holden’s actions and his ideas on innocence, which had degraded throughout due to his realizations about Jane. D. B. , although not as prominent as the other absent characters, still have a major impact not only on Holden but also on the etting of the novel, Catcher in the Rye.. D. B. was mentioned by Holden in a way that made him seem like he was an idol to him.
Holden praised his writing abilities and short stories, especially when wrote on his own, away from Hollywood (4). Holden appreciated his innocence and originality when writing his stories. He even Claimed D. B. as his favorite author twice. But, his ideas rapidly changed once he mentioned the idea of Hollywood. “Now he’s out in Hollywood, D. B. , being a prostitute” (4). Caulfield believed that D. B. had become just another sellout and had lost his innocence to the city and his ob, by losing sight of his originality, he eventually became another phony.
The most important mention of D. B. was when Holden revealed he served during the war, “He was in the war, he landed on D-Day and all — but I really think he hated the army worse than the war” (155). Here, evidence is presented about D. B. ‘s time in the war, which supports the major theme of loss of innocence. During the time of the war, many soldiers came back dehumanized, for they had lost their innocence. The war had stolen the childhood and innocence away from the young men who had entered.
This is why D. B. ould keep too himself in isolation when he visited home. These are the same characteristics that Holden possesses, it could be that it impacted and impressed upon his mind so much that he picked up the traits later on in life. D. B. ‘s actions and choice indirectly caused the actions of Holden, whether it was intentional or rather it wasn’t. The absent characters in Catcher in the Rye, are only mentioned by Holden in the novel, but they hold great importance when impacting his decisions and reaffirming themes of innocence and childhood.
The idea of absent haracters impact on Holden shows how he holds onto the memories of the past, and grasps for them, even in a time where he should face adulthood and leave them behind. Adulthood is what reverted him back to these memories of comfort, and when they were threatened, he turned to denial. These characters can sum up Holden’s feeling towards the major events in his life rather it be death, childhood, intimacy, or phonies. All these characters had a purpose to Holden, in his life and in the story. Salinger used Allie, Jane, and D. B. to reflect Holden’s past, and yet, they all contributed to his future.