“I swear to God I’m crazy. I admit it. ” It is very easy to automatically assume that Holden Caulfield is crazy. It’s even a logical assumption since Caulfield himself admits to being crazy twice throughout the course of the book. However, calling Holden Caulfield crazy is almost the same as calling the majority of the human race crazy also. Holden Caulfield is just an adolescent trying to prevent himself from turning into what he despises the most, a phony. Most of Caulfield’s actions and thoughts are the same as of many people, the difference being that Holden acts upon those thoughts and has them down in writing.
Holden Caulfield is a teenager growing up in New York in the 1950s. He has been expelled from school for poor achievement and “was flunking four subjects and not applying myself and all. ” He decides to leave school a few days than what he is supposed to in an attempt to deal with his current situation. “Besides, I sort of needed a little vacation. My nerves were shot. They really were. ” Caulfield goes to New York to take a vacation before having to face his parents’ inevitable wrath. During this time, he experiences a nervous breakdown that was characterized by his sudden unexplained depressions.
What I really felt like, though, was committing suicide. ” “I felt so lonesome, all of a sudden. ” Before his eventual nervous collapse he experienced impulsive spending and generally odd, erratic behavior. “All I had was three singles and five quarters and a nickel left – boy, I spent a fortune since I left Pencey. Then what I did, I went down near the lagoon and I sort of skipped the quarters and the nickel across it, where it wasn’t frozen. ” “About halfway to the bathroom, I sort of started pretending I had a bullet in my guts. ” During Caulfield’s psychological battle, life continues around him.
His condition is being ignored which arises the thought whether society chooses to ignore the emptiness that can be shown in humans. “.. but people never notice. People never notice anything. ” As Caulfield’s condition deteriorates, he declares the world is full of phonies and that people are out there for their own gain. He is aware that most people are phonies but is not as critical of them towards the end. One aspect of Holden’s personality is his criticism toward the phony things in society. Holden considers the movies and anything having to do with it phony, including theatrical performances.
I don’t like any shows very much, if you want to know the truth. They’re not as bad as movies, but they’re certainly nothing to rave about. In the first place, I hate actors. They never act like people. They just think they do. Some of the good ones do, in a very slight way, but not in a way that’s fun to watch. And if any actor’s good, you can always tell he knows he’s good, and that spoils itIf an actor acts it out, I hardly listen. I keep worrying about whether he’s going to do something phony every minute. ” He finds the theater phony because instead of demonstrating reality as it is, the emphasis is placed on polishing it theatrically.
Holden feels anger towards his brother because “he’s out in Hollywood, D. B. , being a prostitute. ” He considered that D. B. was selling himself to Hollywood, which is why he called D. B. a prostitute. He considers the movies phony and hates them so much that ” I don’t think I could ever do it with somebody that sits in a stupid movie all day long” when Sunny the prostitute was in his room. When he dances with Bernice Crabs/Krebs, he considers her a moron partially because she was on the lookout for actors at the bar because she had seen an actor the previous night.
Also, it depressed him that they were planning on waking up early the next day to see the first show at Radio City Music Hall. Holden’s criticism towards the phony things in society is the most important part of his personality because it shows that for him it is very important to be real and honest and not phony. Another aspect of Holden’s personality is his perception that laws or rules are child’s play for the strong and a difficult struggle for the weak. His understanding is that rules were meant to serve for the strong and since he considers himself part of the weak people, he ignores them completely.
Holden’s favorite author besides his brother is Ring Lardner. There is one story that “kills” him that shows his understanding of laws. “this one story about a traffic cop that falls in love with this very cute girl that’s always speeding. Only, he’s married, the cop, so he can’t marry her or anything. Then this girl gets killed, because she’s always speeding. That story just about killed me. ” There are two types of laws being broken here. The policeman fell in love with another woman while he was married which is the breaking of a social law. Then the girl was always speeding so she broke traffic laws.
Holden enjoys this story so much because there was no direct punishment for the breaking of the social law. The girl died because of speeding but nothing happened to the policeman who also broke a rule or law. Holden also sees that rules are applied to life depending on who you are and that life really isn’t a game. His history teacher, Mr. Spencer tells him, “Life is a game, boy. Life is a game that one plays according to the rules. ” He tells his teacher that he agrees but his thoughts are really, “Game, my ass. Some game, if you get on the side where all the hotshots 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 hotshots, then what a game about it? Nothing. No game. ” Caulfield considers himself to be on the side without game, rules, and hotshots. But there is a contradiction with this aspect of Holden’s personality. He doesn’t accept the rules set before him by phony adults. He believes that rules are only for the strong, yet he makes rules for himself although he never keeps them. “I’m always setting myself rules about sex and I immediately break them. ” The final aspect of Holden Caulfield’s personality is his respect for others.
He can’t stand people who don’t respect or listen to what others have to say. He also thinks it is important to listen to people and respect their privacy. This is shown when he is willing to stop in the middle of a sexual act at the request of the girl which is something that not a lot of teenagers would do. Holden’s respect for others is also evident in the respect he shows towards the nuns. “They didn’t seem to know what the hell to do with their suitcases, so I gave them a hand. ” Holden has very different attitudes towards groups of people.
His attitude towards teachers is ambivalent because they are a representation of the laws that he chooses to break. Yet, he respects certain teachers, Mr. Antolini and Mr. Spencer for example. Holden’s attitude towards his friends is that they are unfit for him. His friends are negative and selfish people like Stradlater and Ackley. Although those two are opposites, at the core they are the same. They are both selfish, hurt others, and obey laws. His attitude towards his parents is a good one. He wants to please them and doesn’t want to disappoint them. “She’s very nervous.
That’s another reason why I hated like hell for her to know I got the ax again. ” Towards Phoebe, Holden has a special sentiment. To him, she represents purity, childhood, and what he wants to stay as. He ignores that Phoebe like the movies, participates in school plays, and criticizes him. This is probably because to him Phoebe isn’t phony so he is willing to accept criticism and rules from her. Holden has a poor attitude towards life resulting from his low self-esteem. He tries to run away from reality and life. Life is as a game with rules, he breaks the rules and abandons the game.
Holden is trying to hold on to his childhood, which represents the opposite of being phony. He is running away from reality. Holden is respectful towards others, but he doesn’t understand them. This causes him to want to separate himself from what he can’t grasp. The two people who he trusts and respects completely happen to be children. Allie, his deceased brother is someone who he respects very much. A reason for this is probably because Holden knows that Allie won’t change and won’t be affected by society. Through his death, he was able to maintain his purity and childhood. The second person who he trusts is Phoebe.
To him, Phoebe probably symbolizes himself as a younger child, which is why he wants her to maintain her childhood. Holden Caulfield rejects the phonies who he doesn’t understand. Stradlater doesn’t appreciate the memories that are so special to Holden, like the baseball glove and that Jane kept her kings in the back row. “For Chrissake, Holden. This is about a goddam baseball glove. ” When Stradlater returns from the date with Jane, Holden asks him if he asked Jane if she still kept the kings in the back row. Stradlater’s response was, “No, I didn’t ask her. What the hell ya think we did all night – play checkers, for Chrissake?
I didn’t even answer him. God, how I hated him. ” Holden associates skill with arrogance. This is shown when Holden considers Ernie the piano player phony because he plays too well. Towards the end, Holden is left with a cluster of memories. This happens mostly when Mr. Antolini a person who he trusted, turns out to be a phony when he tries to fondle Holden. But this incident with Mr. Antolini also shows that Holden has grown. Instead of immediately condemning Mr. Antolini to being a phony, he tries to avoid making conclusions about what happened. “I mean I wondered if just maybe I was wrong about thinking he was making a flitty pass at me.
I wondered if maybe he just like to pat guys on the head when they’re asleep. I mean how can you tell about that stuff for sure? You can’t. ” Holden sees himself as being a catcher in the rye. Some time in the future he wants to be the only grown-up with “all these little kids playing some game in this big field of rye and all. ” He’ll stand on the edge of a cliff and catch anybody who starts to fall off the edge of the cliff. Which means he will catch any child who will be falling out of his/her childhood and falling into adulthood where he/she will become a phony.
He got this image from his misinterpretation of a line from the Robert Burns poem, “if a body catch a body comin’ through the rye. ” When Holden first heard the little boy singing the song, he no longer felt as depressed as he was. “He was just singing for the hell of it, you could tell. The cars zoomed by, brakes screeched all over the place, his parents paid no attention to him, and he kept on walking next to the curb and singing.. ” Seeing this probably made him feel better because he saw that the boy wasn’t allowing things around him to influence him. He was just happy singing his song and didn’t care about his surroundings.
He was just looking at where he was walking, looking at the straight line that he was walking in. To Holden this also meant he wouldn’t have to worry about the little boy turning into a phony, because when Holden would become the catcher in the rye, he would only to catch the little kids who were running and not looking where they were going. Also, the child is a little like Holden. Holden is doing his own thing, not caring about what may happen to him just as the boy is singing his little song “just for the hell of it” and doesn’t care about the cars and dangers around him that could harm him.
His obsession with becoming the catcher in the rye is shown when he goes to Phoebe’s school. “I saw something that drove me crazy. Somebody’d written fuck you on the wall. It drove me damn near crazy. I thought how Phoebe and all the other little kids would see it, and how they’d wonder what the hell it meant, and then finally some dirty kid would tell them – all cockeyed, naturallywhat it meant, and how they’d all think about it and maybe even worry about it for a couple of days.
He saw that Phoebe’s innocence and purity was being threatened so he wanted to get rid of the threat. But Holden has his own catcher in the rye. While he was walking up Fifth Avenue, “something very spooky started happening. Every time I came to the end of a block and stepped off the goddam curb, I had this feeling that I’d never get to the other side of the street. I thought I’d just go down, down, down, and nobody’d ever see me againThen I started doing something else. Every time I’d get to the end of a block I’d make believe I was talking to my brother Allie.
I’d say to him, “Allie, don’t let me disappear.. ” And then when I’d reach the other side of the street without disappearing, I’d thank him. ” Allie was catching him, not letting Holden fall into the cliff. Allie was able to do this because Allie could not change, there was no way he could become a phony because he never had the chance to lose his childhood. Holden seeing himself as the catcher in the rye is one of the themes of the book. He sees himself as the sufferer and protector of the children so that they won’t fall into adulthood.
Another example that shows Holden being a protector is when he had a snowball and wanted to throw it at something, but everything looked “too nice and white” that he preferred to not disturb it. Another theme of the book is that the world has an outward appearance that makes it seems as if things are perfect when in reality they’re not. Or as Holden would put it, they’re all “phonies. ” There are many examples of this given throughout the book. Stradlater always looked good on the outside, but the process for him to look that way was anything but good.
He used a dirty razor and didn’t see anything wrong with using the same one for so long. Another example of a phony would be the incident with Faith Cavendish. When he first called Faith was hostile towards him but as soon as Holden said he was a friend of someone from Princeton, “she was getting friendly as hell. ” Faith heard Princeton and she automatically assumed that he must have money. The same person who said, “if you think I enjoy bein’ woke up in the middle” was “getting an English accent all of a sudden. ” But then as soon as she found out that Holden was calling from a phone booth, she remembered that it was late.
Then when Holden suggested that he could go over her place, she also remembered her roommate was sick. Faith Cavendish is definitely an example of a phony person. The last example of this theme is the hotel in which Holden stayed in while he was in New York. From the outside, the hotel must have looked nice because he “took it off (the red hat) before I checked in. I didn’t want to look like a screwball or something. ” But when he went into his room and saw what the people in the other rooms were doing he realized that “the goddam hotel was full of perverts and morons.
In the other side of the hotel, Holden saw “one guy, a gray-haired, very distinguished-looking guy with only his shorts on, do something you wouldn’t believe me if I told youThen he started walking up and down the room, taking these very small steps, the way a woman does, and smoking a cigarette and looking at himself in the mirror. ” This man who Holden saw represents society. From the outside, the man seemed normal, Holden would have never thought him capable of doing what he saw him do. But in the privacy of his room, the man changed completely. The outside of the hotel is how society tries to be, nice and neat.
But how the people acted in their rooms, is how society really is. This doesn’t mean that society is all perverts, but that whatever a person does in their private life is how they really are, not how they appear to be to the public eye. An important character that is the reason for another theme is Holden’s younger deceased brother, Allie. Holden loved his brother more than anything and when Allie died, he punched out all the windows in the garage. Holden said that “my hand still hurts me once in a while. ” This represents the immense love he had and still has for his brother.
His fist represents his love for Allie, and he can’t “make a real fist any more – not a tight one” which means that his heart cant love the way it loved Allie ever again. He is afraid of loving the way he did because his heart and fist were broken as a result. Phoebe is another character that provides a theme. Phoebe is the sun in his life. It is too coincidental that Phoebe means sun in Greek. She is the symbol of hope when he has given up on the world full of phonies. The red hunting hat that Holden buys is his way to stand out and a way to attract attention.
The hat is not fashionable, so it is out of place in a city like New York as Holden is out of place in the world. Holden wears it the way a catcher in baseball would wear it, which refers to his fantasy of being the catcher in the rye. The hat is a hunting hat but he says that he “shoots people in this hat. ” This means that since he wants to be the catcher in the rye, he shoots people to prevent their influence from affecting the children. Holden’s fascination with Jane leaving the kings in the back row shows how Holden doesn’t adapt to changes. She always kept the kings in the back, it was a constant.
Another example of this is the museum. Holden enjoys the museum of history so much because the things inside never change. They are a constant in his life. He knew that he would change, but those Eskimos would still be there in the same position. “Nobody’d be different. The only thing that would be different would be you. ” It was comforting for him to know that when he would change in the slightest way, there always be something there that had stayed the same. Another incident that supports the idea that Holden doesn’t adapt to change is that he never makes the call to Jane.
He feels that by calling after such a long time, he would be adding to the relationship that they already had. Also, he is probably afraid that she has changed and she is no longer a constant in his life. Holden uneasiness about where the ducks went in the winter was a symbol of his uneasiness about himself. He was worried what the ducks would do when the lake would change, he wanted to know what happened to them if there was a simple solution, if they had to do things for themselves or if they just died. The ducks represented Holden. The lake where the ducks lived, was the world, where Holden lives.
When everything around him changed, he was worried of what would happen to him since he couldn’t change along with the world. The fish, which stayed in the lake, represented all the phonies. The taxi driver told him that the fish froze and survived by absorbing what was around them. Phony people stay where they are and live off of other people to survive. An important theme arises from the conversation between Holden and Mr. Antolini. Mr. Antolini told Holden, “I have a feeling that you’re riding for some kind of a terrible, terrible fall.
But I don’t honestly know what kind” The fall that Mr. Antolini is warning Holden about is the fall from the cliff of childhood to the empty space of adulthood. It is the fall and change that Holden has been trying to avoid by all means possible. “This fall I think you’re riding for – it’s a special kind of fall, a horrible kind. The man falling isn’t permitted to feel or hear himself hit bottom. He just keeps falling and falling. The whole arrangement is designed for men who, at some time or other in their lives, were looking for something their own environment couldn’t supply them with.
So they gave up looking. They gave it up before they ever really even got started. ” What Mr. Antolini says also supports why Holden is represented by the ducks. The fish were able to survive off of their environment, but the ducks couldn’t. So they had to go in search of what their environment couldn’t supply. But Holden was looking for the easy way to get what he was looking for, so that’s why he’s in for a fall. What Mr. Antolini said also suggests that Holden will not know when he is falling off the cliff into adulthood.
He also tells Holden, “You’re by no means alone. ” This is something that Holden probably thought was not true because even after he was told this, he asked Allie for help when he felt that he was falling off the street. When something is described, the description is greatly influenced by the descriptor. The understandings and experiences of the person will affect how something is described. Through Holden’s language, thoughts and feelings, it is easy to picture a youth that is dealing with life in a very different way.
He is always thinking about relationships, like most adolescents do. But he looks at them expecting the negative to come out and getting himself ready for the negative effects. If the book had been written in any other point of view, it would not have been possible to feel and relate to the character as it was with Holden. I think the major theme of this book was that Holden didn’t want to mature and take on responsibilities. He didn’t want to have to take on all the stress and work that an adult has to deal with daily. That is why he enjoyed children so much.
It is true that they posses a purity and innocence that everyone loses but they also lead carefree, stress free, fun lives. I think that is what he truly trying to hang on to. He saw how people had to act when they became adults. They could no longer be themselves in the public, adults always have to be careful about what they do so as not to earn themselves a bad reputation. Holden didn’t wan to be responsible for his actions. He wanted to continue leading the carefree life he saw children were leading. That is probably a reason why he was doing so poorly in school.
He knew that if he didn’t apply himself he wouldn’t pass the classes. If he didn’t pass the classes he wouldn’t graduate and be able to get a decent job in the modern world. I can relate to some characteristics that Holden had. For example, the not adapting to change I can relate to very well. I don’t like changing, I could live with the same friends, surroundings for years. It provides a sense of security that nothing else gives. I enjoyed reading this book because there was always the question in my mind of what Holden would decide to do next. I truthfully don’t know why this book was ever censored.
It provokes people to think in a different manner and to realize that society is what Holden makes it out to be sometimes. I like how I was able to read his every move and see what his thoughts were from his point of view. I was able to see where he was coming from when he would reach the judgments that he did. Although at times I thought he was immature and stubborn in not wanting to accept the fact that everyone has to grow up eventually. But I would have liked if the ending had said more about his situation when he was writing the journal. The novel is very thought provoking, especially about humans and society.