Fear of Failure in The Catcher In The Rye
Holden Caulfield, the main character in J.D. Salinger's novel, The Catcher In The Rye, feels that he needs to protect people around him, because he failed to protect his brother Allie from death. Holden feels that he has to care for those close to him. He watches over Jane, Phoebe, and even Mrs. Murrow when he meets her on the train. Holden tries to shield these people from distress. He does not want to fail anyone else.
Returning back home from getting kicked out of Pencey, Holden meets the mother of Ernest Murrow, a classmate of his, on the train. They introduce themselves and start talking about Ernest and how he is like in school. Holden did not tell Mrs. Murrow about Ernest's misbehavior at school because he did not want her to think negatively of her son. Holden feels that he is a failure and that his own parents are ashamed of him. He does not want Mrs.Murrow to feel ashamed of her own son and so he lies to her. He wanted to protect her from the truth about her son: "Her son was doubtless the biggest bastard that ever went to Pencey in the whole crumby history of the school." (54) He starts to lie about Ernest, he wanted Mrs. Murrow to be proud of her son: "You take somebody's mother, all they want to hear about is what a hot-shot their son is." (56) No one tells Mrs. Caulfield how wonderful Holden is; all they tell her is what trouble he has gotten into.
Holden's childhood friend, Jane Gallagher, also needs protection. She is vulnerable because of her childhood. "` Her mother and father were divorced. Her mother was married again to some boozehound... [He would] run around the goddamn house, naked, with Jane around and all.'" (32) Holden was afraid that Jane's stepfather abused her. "I asked her on the way, if Mr. Cudahy- that was the boozehound's name- had ever tried to get wise with her." (79) Even though Holden likes Jane, he does not try to take advantage of her because she needs the safety of their friendship. Holden is angry with Stradlater because he ...