The Catcher In The Rye
Margaret Atwood once described the
thinking man as on who resists, believes survival is a necessity, is isolated
and alienated, and who is aware of the elements that make ones psyche and
physical being disappear. Atwoods thinking person is exhibited in Holden
Caulfield through the use of character, plot, & symbolism.
To begin with,
the thinking person is portrayed through Holden Caulfields character. One
of the characteristics of Atwoods thinking person is one of being isolated
and alienated. Holden is a very lonely character. An example that shows this
is his direct reference to David Copperfield in the first paragraph of the
novel when he says …and all that David Copperfield kind of crap.(pg.1)
When David Copperfield was a child he was alienated from his mother, and was
very lonely. This points to the fact that Holden had a very lonely childhood
and, like David Copperfield, his innocence as well.
Like the thinking
person Holden was aware of the elements that make ones being disappear. This
segment of Holdens character is helped by symbolism. For Holden, it was too
late to stop himself from entering adulthood, a kingdom he resisted entering,
a kingdom he viewed with disgust. For this reason he wanted to help other
children, and save them from disappearing over the edge of the rye field
too, to preserve their innocence and to save them from the dreaded adulthood.
Also, Holden had resisted one of the factors leading towards the loss of
his innocence; losing his virginity. He had quite a few opportunities to
lose [his] virginity…[he] came quite close to doing it a couple of times…she
keeps telling [him] to stop, and [he] stops. This not only shows that he
doesnt want to lose his purity, but that he cares for the girls innocence
too, and does not want her to lose it.
Next, Catcher In The Rye uses plot
to create the thinking person. Holden Caulfield has a deep struggle within
himself. He wants to be positive, and her wants to work with and for the positive,
and yet he is continually drawn to the negative aspects of life. In one scene
he is at a food stop eating, when two nuns approach him. Even though they
didnt ask for money, Holden donates $10 from his fast depleting funds. Nevertheless,
he is drawn to the negative aspects of life too. He hires prostitutes, he
gets into fights, and he become terribly over-intoxicated.
of the positive/negative struggle is one dealing with his love life. Holden
is always thinking of his legendary Jane Gallagher (mentioned legendary because
throughout the course of the novel, the reader never meets face-to-face with
Jane, but only hears hearsay information about her), and his fingers are always
itching to phone her and ask her to get together with him. Conversely he is
pulled to the negative: Sally Hayes.
Sally is one of the hated phonies who
abound in the adult world. Unfortunately for him, Holden in continually caught
in this struggle.
Another part of the plot that demonstrates Holden as the
thinking man is his constant role as the anti-hero, where he experiences
a downfall. There are several situations, like getting beaten up by Stradlater
or Maurice, where Holden is set down. Another situation of his downfall would
be where he almost kills himself by falling into the Central Park lagoon.
Yet through it all Holden remains (somewhat) strong, and pulls through. In
that way, the plot is make through so that Holden becomes a survivor like an
anti-hero; like the thinking person.
Last but not least is how Catcher
In The Rye uses symbolism to create the thinking person. In the situation
of the dreaded Fuck Yous on the walls of the elementary school, Holden tries
to erase the blasphemy, in hopes that he will save the children (and in a way
himself), from the horrors and crudeness of the outside world. This shows
how, like the thinking person, he resists the corrupted real world.
The symbolism of Holdens fall is widely used through out the novel. In places
such as the lagoon, the Pencey staircase, and even the New York Streets, Holden
is literally and mentally falling. Especially in the case of the New Yorks
Fifth Avenue. Each step Holden makes down the curb he thought he would just
go down, down, down, and nobodyd see [him] again.(pg.199) The literal fall
in this case is very small, but the mental one is quite big. His psyche diminishes,
and he even asks for his dead brothers assistance to aid him from disappearing.
However, he would always come back up, never forgetting to thank Allie. Thus,
Holden displays the survivor role of the thinking person.
In addition to symbolism in the novel, Holdens red hunting hat (with ear flaps and all!)
is used. The almost eccentric piece to Holdens attire symbolizes his views
on life. He wears it backwards on his head, to show how obsessed he is with
the past, and to display his wanting to return to the innocence and purity
of his childhood. Also, he wears it as protection from the cold, or is it
really protection from the outside world? These are the reasons for Holdens
great value of the hat, and for which he passed it down to Phoebe; that it
might be her shield as well.
Holden Caulfield, as it appears, is very much
like Atwoods thinking person. He resists and rebels against lifes evils,
and in consequence, is alone and alienated for much of the time. As is Shown,
a thinking person is not always a comforted person, but still the thinker lives
on, eking his way through the world, refusing to disappear.