An Unnecesary Protector Essay

1470 words - 6 pages

As children, the prospect of death for many may seem foreign. A mere twenty years is more like a century to the youngsters in elementary school, and generally little attention is paid to the future because, at the moment, the present is too much fun. Kids worry about recess and tag, not cancer and death; therefore, it is not surprising that many children have unusual and perhaps strange reactions to the passing of family members. In J.D Salinger’s famed “The Catcher in the Rye”, the protagonist, Holden Caulfield, experiences the death of his favorite brother, Allie, when he is very young. However, it is not the fatality itself that is so remarkable in the story, but the way the loss affects Holden as he grows up. Throughout the novel, Holden focuses his energy, time, and concentration on resisting adulthood both for himself and those around him, due specifically to the death of his brother Allie. In a vain attempt to recover from his siblings tragic death, instead of moving forward, Holden decides he, and others, should remain rooted in the present. In doing so, he stunts his own recovery process, and furthermore is unable, for the majority of the novel, to overcome his loss.
In some cases of loss, people use buffers or distractions to further themselves from the issues they may not want to face, and also as a type of personal coping mechanism. In “The Catcher in the Rye”, Holden uses a bright red hunting hat to distance himself from the very idea of maturity and also in an attempt to be perceived younger than he actually is. In the same way that Holden “tap-dance[s]…just for the hell of it,” (Salinger, 38) while his roommate Stradlater shaves, Holden often uses these childish antics to hide from the disturbing notion that he is in the process of growing up. Additionally, Holden repeatedly proves that he is averse to all adult situations, including an event where he hires a prostitute while feeling “suave” (Salinger, 83) and then gets cold feet at the last moment. “Boy was I feeling peculiar…I was a madman…she was depressing and, besides, I don’t think I could ever do it with someone [like that]” (Salinger, 124) While literally, Holden’s refusal to have sex with the prostitute may seem like a mature decision, symbolically, it is Holden subconsciously being uncomfortable with the adult nature of the situation that truly speaks volumes. He begins to associate the green of the prostitutes dress as adulthood: something mature, confusing, and not to be wanted. Conversely, the red of his hunting hat symbolizes the youthfulness and innocence of the child he wishes he could always be. By avoiding the transition from childhood, red, to adulthood, green, throughout the novel, Holden is doing nothing but prolonging the inevitable. Yet he refuses to accept this prospect as the truth. In another adult situation, Holden once again fails to act properly, this time running away from his old teacher after going to see him for help. After spending a night at...

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