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The Catcher in the Rye

The Catcher in the Rye is the definitive novel of a young mans growing pains, of growing up in pain. Growing up is a ritual more deadly than religion, more complicated than baseball, for there seem to be no rules. Everything is experienced for the first time. To What extent do you agree with this passage? Do you agree that Catcher in the Rye is the definitive novel of a young mans growing pains, of growing up in pain? Do you agree that growing up is a ritual? You need to identify whether or not you agree with this passage, and then you need to justify/support your answer.

I do agree with the statement classing Catcher in the Rye as the definitive novel of a young mans growing pains. I do not agree with the statement growing up is a ritual. Certainly J. D. Salingers novel is focused around the pain of growing up; a novel about a young characters growth into maturity, but this novel explores the process from a different perspective. Holden Caulfield is an unusual protagonist for supporting this theme because his central goal is to resist the process of maturity itself.

According to Websters New World Dictionary, Holdens last name Caulfield literally symbolizes caul, the membrane enveloping the head of a child at birth. Holden fears change and is overwhelmed by complexity. Holden desires everything to be easily understandable and eternally fixed. During a visit to the museum of natural history Holden uses exhibits to explain his resistance to change, The best thing, though, in that museum was that everything always stayed right where it was. Nobodyd move.

You could go there a hundred thousand times, and that Eskimo would still be just finished catching those two fish. Nobodyd be different. The only thing that would be different would be you (Salinger, 121). Holden resists maturity and is a frightened teenager, he is frightened because he is guilty of the sins he criticizes in others and because he cannot understand the world around him. Holden however, refuses to acknowledge this fear, expressing it only on a few occasions for example, when he talks about sex admitting that sex is something I just dont understand. I swear to God I dont (Salinger, 63).

Rather than acknowledging that adulthood scares and mystifies him, Holden invents a fantasy that adulthood is a world of superficiality and hypocrisy, while childhood is a world of innocence, curiosity and honesty. Nothing reveals his image of these two worlds better than his fantasy about the catcher in the rye. Holden imagines childhood as an idyllic field of rye in which children romp and play; adulthood, for the children of this world, is equivalent to death a fatal fall over the edge of a cliff I keep picturing all these little kids playing some kind of game in this big field of rye and all.

Nobodys around nobody big, I mean except me. And Im 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 have to come out of somewhere and catch them (Salinger, 173). Holdens created understandings of childhood and adulthood allow him to cut himself off from the world by covering himself with a protective armor of cynicism. Phoniness for Holden, stands for an emblem of everything that is wrong in the world around him and provides an excuse for him to withdraw into his cynical isolation and avoid adulthood.

Holden expends so much energy throughout the novel searching for phoniness in others, yet he never directly observes his own phoniness. Holden changes personality to suit the situation and is a compulsive liar. For example, on the train to New York, Holden perpetrates a mean-spirited and needless prank on Mrs. Morrow, Old Mrs. Morrow didnt say anything, but boy, you shouldve seen her. I had er glued to her seat. You take somebodys mother, all they want to hear about is what a hot-shot their son is. Then I really started chucking the old crap around (Salinger, 56).

Holden would like the reader to believe that he is a paragon of virtue in a world full of phoniness, but that simply is not the case. Although Holden would like the reader to believe that the world is a simple place, and that virtue and innocence rest on one side of the fence while superficiality and phoniness rest on the other, Holden is his own counterevidence. The world is not as simple as he would like and indeed needs it to be; even Holden cannot adhere to the same black and white standards with which he judges other people.

Holdens inability to adhere to the same standards with which he judges other people is a clear indication of the characters confusion. Holden is much more than a troubled teenager going through a phase. Unlike teenagers today, Holden does not understand and further more, has no desire to understand the world around him. Holden is experiencing his own growing pains, growing pains unique to him alone. Holden does not express normal teenage boy rebellion, he distrusts everyone in his life, only idolizing the image of his dead brother Allie and his sister Phoebe.

He adores Phoebe because he can project his own idealizations of childhood onto her and Allie because the image of his dead brother can be whatever Holden creates. Holden, despite no desire to understand the adult world, expresses genuine, youthful curiosity, when he searches for the ducks in Central Park. The disappearance of the ducks from Central Park also challenges Holdens belief in change. The ducks and their pond are symbolic of his own life. Their mysterious perseverance in the face of an inhospitable environment resonates with Holdens understanding of his own situation.

In addition, the ducks prove that some vanishings and changes are only temporary. Traumatized and made acutely aware of the fragility of life by his brother Allies death, Holden is terrified by the idea of change and disappearance. The ducks vanish every winter, but they return every spring, thus symbolizing change that is not permanent, but cyclical. The pond itself becomes a mirror metaphor for the world as Holden sees it, because it is perfectly frozen and partly not frozen (Salinger, 81).

The pond is a transition between two states, just as Holden is battling a transition between childhood and adulthood. Catcher in the Rye is the definitive story of a young man battling the inevitable transition from childhood to adulthood that every teenage boy faces. Holden is growing up in pain; Salingers novel is the ultimate example of a young mans growing pains. Holden s thoughts and activities lead him down a path of unexplained depression, impulsive spending, erratic behavior, resulting in his eventual nervous breakdown.

Salingers novel is not the definitive story of growing up into a man, it is a perceptive study of one individuals understanding of his own human condition as he makes the transition. Growing up however, is not a ritual itself. Culture and society create a ritualistic air surrounding the process. Growing up is not a ceremony, or custom, it is not a set form or system of rites. Growing up is simply a process created by Mother Nature. The only ritual about growing up, as demonstrated in Catcher in the Rye, is the expectations and influence society and its culture impose onto the process.

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Home » The Catcher in the Rye

The Catcher In The Rye

In 1950 J.D. Salenger captures one of societys tragedies, the breakdown of a teenager, when he wrote The Catcher In The Rye.  Holden Caulfield, a fickle man is not even a man at all.  His unnecessary urge to lie to avoid confrontation defeats manhood.  Holden has not matured and is unable to deal with the responsibility of living on his owe.  He childishly uses a hunters hat to disguise him self from others. The truth of his life is sad and soon leads to his being institutionalized.  He tries to escape the truth with his criticisms.  Knowing he will never meet his parents expectations, his only true friend is his eight-year-old sister Phoebe, to whom Holden tells that he really wants to be the catcher in the rye.  Holden admits his only truth and shows that Phoebe is his only friend.  Another form of escape for Holden is his acting, which he uses to excuse the past.  Holden has tried to lie, hide, and blame his way through life; when he finds that it is not the answer he collapses.
Holden is a pathological liar.  He lies, some times for no reason.  Holden says his name is Rudolf Schmidt, who is acutely the janitor, to Mrs. Morrow on the train. He continues to lie throughout the conversation and avoids getting together by saying he has a tumor in his brain.  This is the type of lies Holden tells.  One reason for this might be
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that he is trying to hide his true identity.  He does not want people to know who he really is or that he was kicked out of his fourth school.  Holden is always using fake names and tries speaking in a tone to persuade someone to think a cretin way.  He does this when he talks to women.  While he is talking to the psychiatrist he explains peoples reactions to his lies like they really believe him, when it is very possible that he is a horrible liar and they are looking at him with a what are you talking a bout? expression.  Holden often lies to the point where he is lying to him self.
To Holden ever one is a phony, and every one has a problem that he feels he needs to exploit.  While Holden is speaking to the psychiatrist, he criticizes each person as he meets them in his story.  When Holden and Sally Hayes went to the Lunts they met with at guy from Andover, Ivy league.  George and Sally talked about people and places.  Holden could not tae there boring conversation and said how phony they were.  Their conversation continued during the next act.  Holden explains how it was the phoniest conversation he ever heard.  In most cases his accusations are actually definitions of his own character and personality.  By criticizing others Holden can protect him self and hide the truth with others faults.
Holden is a child at heart.  He can understand children and enjoys there company.  Knowing this we can come to the conclusion that Holden is childish and may react to a situation as a child might.  At cretin points in the book Holden wonders where the ducks from central park go, who will take care of them.  Like a child Holden needs someone to take care of him and this is one thing that leads to his breakdown.  While Holden is
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staying in the Edmount Hotel he is involved in a situation where he owes Sunny (a whore) and Maurice (the elevator guy) five dollars.  Holden trys to keep it from them but
they force it out of him.  Maurice put Holden up against the wall.  Tears pour form Holdens’ eyes yet he still refuses.  Maurice wails his fist into Holdens’ stomach and Sonny takes the money from his wallet.  They took off and Holden stagers out the door holding his gut like he had been shot. This is not the only example of childish behavior explained.  Holden often resorts to this reaction when there is nothing else he can do.
Holden can only protect him self for a short while.  He soon falls into great depression and has a mental breakdown which leaves him institutionalized.  His lies, his criticism, and his childish behavior got him little peace.  His truth is shown and his only escape failed.  Holden Caulfield, a child needs to be cared for and when they fall they must be caught.  Holden is still a child, suffering from sever depression he does not have the strength to deal with the world as an adult.

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