Catcher in the Rye by Jerome David Salinger

 


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“Catcher in the Rye" by Jerome David Salinger is a very bold attempt to give us insight into the inner world of the teenager and shows us the difficulties he meets in his way from childhood to the life of grown ups. Holden Caulfield – the main character- is a teenager who’s expelled from the private school and is afraid to come back home because he is afraid of the reaction of his parents. He leaves the school but doesn’t have the place to go and spends three days of his life in New York looking for the new aims and reasons to live. He sees the adults as phonies and liars and doesn’t want to enter their world.

The word “phony" has a lot of meanings but for Holden it embodies all the lies, hypocrisy and evil of the society. That is the reason he doesn’t see himself as a part of it and wants to save the innocence of a child. The story is told by the main character which helps us to see the world and the event with the eyes of the boy during the difficult and controversial period of his life and to make us sympathetic to his hopes, fears and misfortunes. In addition to his narration the author uses different symbols and metaphors to let us penetrate the inner world of Holden. Every smallest detail has its meaning in the book and helps us to get the author’s message. The passage from childhood to adultness is very difficult for him as he lacks maturity and doesn’t want to change. He is in conflict with adults and the whole world but what is more important and dangerous - he is in conflict with himself.

During all the book Holden asks people about the ducks from the pond. He wants to know what happens to them in winter when the pond freezes. “You know those ducks in that lagoon right near Central Park South? That little lake? By any chance, do you happen to know where they go, the ducks, when it gets all frozen over? Do you happen to know, by any chance?" (Salinger 60). The question about the ducks Holden asks everyone is a question about himself and his future. When he’s interested to know what happens to the ducks when the pond freezes he’s interested in reality what happens to the person when he meets the hardships of life he can’t accept and faces the questions he can’t answer. He receives the different answers but he’s satisfied with none of them as grown ups don’t take the question seriously as they usually do with the most important questions of life.

Holden doesn’t want to enter the world of adults and the only people he believes in and gets pleasure communicating with are kids. He thinks all the time about his younger brother Allie and his tragic death. Allie for him represents the ideal of innocence and purity and the world which he opposes to the false world of grown ups. He wants to protect and to save this innocence of the children. That is the reason he tries so hard to erase the obscenities from the wall. “It drove me damn near crazy. I thought how Phoebe and all the other 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, naturally what it meant, and how they’d think about it even worry about it for a couple of days. I kept wanting to kill whoever’d written it. "(Salinger 201)

He didn’t want to see small kids awaken roughly from their naive sleep by the rude word on the wall. He believes that kids need to be protection from the society and he feels he could be that protector but he fails even in the simplest actions – to erase the word- and it makes him really depressed. Same happens with the record he was buying so caringly for his sisters. The record is broken finally and he understands he failed to bring the small piece of joy to his younger sister he loved so much.

Entering the new phase of life expects changing priorities and looking into the future with interest and hope. But this doesn’t happen to Holden. He is afraid of the future and he’s concentrated on his past. Like the Bible characters expelled from the Eden garden he can not forget the childhood as the best part of his life and the personalization of everything light and meaningful in his life. Such a position of his is characterized very vividly by his behavior and meditations near the Museum of Natural History. He thinks about the glass cases all the exhibits are put in the museum and dreams about putting all his past memories in such cases in order not to let them change and finally disappear. He wants to save his memories as a key to the door of childhood world to be able to hide there from the hardships of life any time he wishes but he doesn’t want to look for new perspective in life and for the new doors to open as he rejects the future and the entering the world of adults.

Holden doesn’t have a defined life position and can not decide on his future but he knows for sure what he doesn’t want to do – he doesn’t want to follow the deceitful and pretending behavior of adults. Two different worlds which contrast in his head are presented very well by two his brothers. Allie represents the innocent world of the children Holden strikes for and wants to protect by any means and phony and false world of the grown ups presented by his older brother who wants to get to Hollywood and to become a writer. There is one very bright episode which shows us Holden’s delight of small kids. After buying a record for his sister Holden notices a family of three people in the street. A mother and a father are holding the hands of their small kid. The boy is walking carelessly and notices nothing around just singing his song. This kid becomes the personification of innocence for Holden and the song kid’s singing makes Holden to realize what he would wish to do.

Listening to the “If a Body Catch a Body Coming Through the Rye" Holden realizes the only thing he would wish to do is to catch the small kinds playing in the field preventing them from falling. “I keep picturing all these little kids playing some game in this big field of rye and all. Thousands of little kids, nobody’s around- nobody big, I mean- except the big bully. And I’m standing on the edge of some crazy pit. What I have to do, I have to catch everybody if they start to go into the pit- I mean if they’re running and they don’t look 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. " That is the first time he thinks about the future and about something he would wish to do in life. It’s just a fantasy but it shows very vividly how caring and sensitive Holden is and how special and deep is his inner world. Falling in the abyss symbolizes for Holden loosing the innocence and entering the phony world of grown ups. Holden hopes to save himself from this world helping children to stay innocent, careless and happy. This episode was so important to the author the novel was named after it.

The “Catcher in the Rye" is a very bright and deep book written in a very unusual way. Metaphors and symbols give us the key to the understanding of the inner world of Holden and all the teens that must make this difficult passage from the innocence of childhood to the life of adults with its problems, doubts and responsibilities. Everybody can find something for himself in the novel and the author lives a lot of keys for the reader. The simplicity of narration is only ostentatious and it uncloses a lot of layers and surprising depth after detailed study.

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