The Catcher in the Rye Essay

The process of growing may be challenging and painful for some individuals, especially when they experience alienation as a form of protecting their innocence and contempt towards the perceived phoniness of the adult world. The opening extract from J. D Salinger’s ‘The Catcher in the Rye’ (1951) is very significant in relation of the novel.

This novel, renowned for its didactic nature also voices the opinions and struggles of many young American teens in the post – modern World War II period.Salinger utilizes the unique character of Holden and his struggles in the chaotic multifaceted world to portray how alienation can be used as protection, the painfulness of growing up and the phoniness of the adult world. Due to the fear of transitioning into adulthood under the pressure of the multidimensional society, some individuals may protectively alienate themselves. The opening extract significantly defines the distinctive character of Holden; the protagonist whose narrative voice in the novel progressively uncovers the feelings of exclusion in the homogeneous world as he makes a transition from childhood to adulthood.Holden is an exaggerated example of American teen’s mental outlook towards the changing American society. Holden’s desperate desire for human contact and love is sometimes undermined by his strong need to protect himself from rejection.

This is expressed through the juxtaposition of thought and action as he expresses “I felt like giving someone a buzz…. [but] I ended up not calling anybody”. The progression of the novel uncovers that Holden’s isolation is seen as a form of proving that he is above all the ‘fakeness’ of the homogeneous society.This is symbolized through his ‘red hunting hat’, highlighting his individuality and uniqueness. Throughout this seminal novel the audience is exposed to Holden’s emotions and idiosyncrasies that are a reflection of his exclusion from the world around him.

This is indicated through his metaphorical feeling of being “trapped on the ‘other side’ of life…in a world in which he feels he doesn’t belong’. The experience of growing up is laden with fear and uncertainty of maturing and stepping into the homogeneous adult world, which can be painful for some individuals.The novel Is referred to as a bildungsroman, as it is about Holden’s journey of growth and development as he matures into manhood. However Holden isn’t the typical protagonist, as he resists the process of transition due to belief that the adult world is ‘phony’ and fear for change. Holden’s thoughts about the symbolic Museum of National History, conveys his fear of change and complexity in the adult world.

The museum’s displays appeal to him because they are frozen and unchanging; representing the world he wishes to live in, “The best thing…in the museum was everything stayed right where it was.Nobody’d move, Nobody’d be different. The only thing that would be different is you”.

The use of ‘you’ in the final phrase highlights Holden’s attempt to distance himself from the inevitable process of change, wanting the world to be frozen in place, as he is still confused by Ali’s senseless death. The pond from central park lagoon itself becomes a minor metaphor of the world Holden sees. It is “partly frozen and partly not frozen”, representing the transition between two states just as Holden views the change of childhood to adulthood.

Holden’s strive to protect innocence causes him to fantasize about simple world, and his simple role. “What I have to do, I have to catch everyone if they start to go over the cliff…..

i’d just be the catcher in the rye and all”. Holden’s view of the phoniness in the adult world highlights his hypocrisy as he believes that the adult are phonies and cannot see their own phoniness. Holden uses this as an excuse to withdraw into his own cynical isolation. “Guys that always talk….

Guys that gets all sore and childish…Guys that are very mean”. This repetition highlights Holden’s constant search for phoniness in others, yet his lack of introspection doesn’t allow for him to see his own phoniness. His hypocrisy is reinforced when he fails to see his own cruel deceptions and compulsive lying in the needless prank on Mrs Morrows. “I had her glued to her seat…all they want to hear about is what a hot-shot their son is….

Then I really started chucking the old crap around”.

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