Holden Character Analysis Catcher In The Rye English Literature Essay
Holden is a teen who does not want to grow up because he is in fear of the responsibilities that come with growing up. So, Holden tries his hardest to stay childish. For example, through out the book, Holden does not confront his parents and accept the consequences , gives his parent’s the silent treatment like a child, and also does not talk to people that want to help him. He does not talk to people that are close to him because in his opinion, he thinks they will criticize him. "..she wouldn't've been the ones that answered the phone. My parents would be the ones. So that was out." (pg. 59) Because of his lack of interaction with people he is close with, he interacts with strangers because the conversations won’t be too deep. In chapter 9 for example, Holden asks a cab driver to get a beer with him after he's done driving him to the hotel: "Would you care to stop on the way and join me for a cocktail" (pg. 60) Because the cab driver is a stranger, Holden feels that he won’t criticize him.
However, transition towards adulthood is also shown. In the book Holden is sexually attracted to stuff that he considers perverted. During the stay at Edmont Hotel, he says: "It's really too bad that so much crumby stuff is a lot of fun sometimes." (pg. 12) In some ways, he is showing signs of growing up, but just doesn’t know it yet or doesn’t want to. As we read through, Holden constantly compares the lagoon with the ducks to his life. He always wonders on where the ducks are going to go after the lake freezes: "I was wondering where the ducks went when the lagoon got all icy and frozen over. I wondered if some guy came in a truck and took them away to a zoo or something. Or if they just flew away." (pg. 13) Holden compares himself to the ducks and thinks on where he is going to go later on in the future. He wonders if someone will guide him in the right direction, or if he'll have to guide himself through it. The lake also symbolizes Holdens life, when he goes to the park: "Then, I finally found it. What it was, it was partly frozen and partly not frozen." Frozen or unfrozen those are the two states of the lake, while for Holden his two states are childhood and adulthood and as the lake changes from frozen to unfrozen so does he going from childhood to adulthood. Holden’s choice is to remain frozen staying in the childhood because Holden hates change. We know that when Holden goes to the museum and says the reason he visits:
"The best thing, though, in that museum was that everything always stayed right where it was. Nobody'd move. You could go there a hundred thousand times, and that Eskimo would still be just finished catching those two fish, the birds would still be on their way south, the deer would still be drinking out of that water hole, with their pretty antlers and their pretty, skinny legs, and that squaw with the naked bosom would still be weaving that same blanket." (pg. 121)
It’s seen that Holden wants to live in a world where everything is frozen, nothing changes but stays the same. That way he can’t go up to be an adult.
Holden is attatched to childhood which is the reason he keeps being pulled by the world of innocence of childhood and the world of adulthood. In the novel, Holden sounds like he is an grumpy old man and is mad at everything. However, when he keeps talking about the ducks in the lagoon, we see his accurate, more childlike side: ".. I was thinking about the lagoon in Central Park, down near Central Park South. I was wondering if it would be frozen over when I got home, and if it was, where did the ducks go." (pg. 13) This quote shows that Holden has thoughts and concerns that people might see childish. He is tied between the adult world and the world of innocence.
In Holden’s eyes, the adult world is foul. Several comments in chapter 10 when he is in the lavender room are made. For example, a band that is made up of adults he finds them being putrid. "The band was putrid." (pg. 69) Holden also mentions about the older guys in the lavender room : "They were mostly old and show-offy looking guys" (pg. 69)
The result of Holden strong attraction towards the world of innocence makes him do childish things. At the lavender room, Holden pretends to be older to impress three middle aged women: "I started giving the three witches at the next table the eye again. That is, the blond one... I just gave all three of them this very cool glance and all." (pg. 70) Innocence is shown in Holden’s character when he thinks he knows what is going on around him but ends up knowing nothing. He mentions that the three girls are less intelligent than he is: "You could hardly tell which one is the stupidest of them." (pg. 73) However, at the end of the chapter, they leave him to pay for their drinks, which actually is pretty witty: "I think they should've at least offered to pay their drinks they had before I joined them..." (pg. 75) As a result of his innocence, Holden is left to pill the bill in the end.
It is seen that Holden thinks of himself as the “catcher in the rye.” In chapter twenty-two Holden is asked by Phoebe what he is going to do in life, he answers:
"Anyways, 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. I know it's crazy, but that's the only thing I'd really like to be. I know it's crazy." (pg. 173)
Metaphorically, Holden want’s to be the saviour of innocence by catching the children from entering the “putrid” world we live in.
Throughout the book, Allie and Phoebe are constantly praised by Holden. This shows greatly on why Holden is attracted to childhood. When Holden writes a composition for Stradlater in chapter five, he says many astonishing things about Allie: "He was two years younger than I was, but he was about fifty times as intelligent. He never got mad at anybody." (pg. 38) He over exaggerates that Allie is fifty times smarter than him and that he never got mad at somebody, unless the kid is not human, then he must have been mad at least once at a friend or family member. The time where Holden is in his hotel room, he explains how Phoebe is: "You should see her. You never saw a little kid so pretty and smart in your life. She's really smart." (pg. 67) Just like Allie's description, Holden idolizes his sister like she's a child marvel. Also how intelligent can a ten year old really be? Holden overrates his brother and sister, because of his obsession to childhood.
Throughout the novel, Phoebe is the only person that Holden loves. Phoebe is Holden’s sister, and becomes the motivator for Holden's change to adulthood. By agitating Holden, she pushes him to become a better person: "You don't like any schools. You don't like a million things." (pg. 169) After she says that, Holden is upset: "'I do! That's where you're wrong-that's exactly where you're wrong! Why the hell do you have to say that"' I said. Boy, was she depressing me." Holden is knocked back into reality when his only connection of comfort is lost, and says the he’s going to apply himself better at the end of the book.
."..this one psychoanalyst guy they have here, keeps asking me if I'm going to apply myself with I go back to school next September. It's such a stupid question, in my opinion. I mean how do you know what you're going to do till you do it? The answer is you don't. I think I am, but how do I know"" (pg. 213)
The consequences and responsibilities that come with adulthood, Holden can’t accept them, so Holden remains to stay childish to keep the pain away of maturing. Unknowingly Holden is growing into the world he see’s as disgusting and repulsive. Because he see’s the world that way, he want’s to be the catcher in the rye the person who saves children from falling off a cliff. Metaphorically, he wants to save the children from falling off the cliff towards corruption. The reason Holden worships his two siblings is because of the strong attraction he has for childhood. When he finally talks to the one close person he loves, he is awakened into reality and is ready to advance towards success.
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