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Holden Caulfield Essay

1650 words - 7 pages

Many authors put their own life as inspiration towards their works and characters. J.D. Salinger’s character development of Holden Caulfield has been affected by Salinger’s complications in his school life, devastating past relationships, and overwhelming traumatic events during his pre-The Catcher in the Rye adulthood.
J.D. Salinger’s school life had many significant events that are shown through Holden Caulfield in The Catcher in the Rye. In the novel, the 17-year-old Holden Caulfield leaves Pencey Prep. In chapter one, Holden states “...I’d just got back from New York with the fencing team. I was the goddam manager of the fencing team. Very big deal. We’d gone in to New York that morning for this fencing meet with McBurney School.” Parts of Salinger’s school life can clearly be seen from this statement because at the age of 13, Salinger attended McBurney School and managed the fencing team there. After McBurney School, at the age of 15, Salinger “was sent to Valley Forge Military Academy in Pennsylvania, which was later the inspiration for Pencey Prep” (as said by www.nndb.com). This reveals how Salinger incorporated his childhood/school life in The Catcher in the Rye. Later on, Holden begins to describe Ackley in chapter three and says, “With a guy like Ackley, if you looked up from your book you were a goner.” In Valley Forge Military Academy, “there actually was a boy named Ackley...though fellow alumni have said that he was a very pleasant person” (as stated by www.shmoop.com). Salinger perhaps had Holden describe him in an unfriendly way because that’s what the young Salinger thought but couldn’t bring himself to say. In chapter 10, Holden is describing Phoebe by saying, “You never saw a little kid so pretty and smart in your whole life. She’s really smart. I mean she’s had all A’s ever since she started school. As a matter of fact, I’m the only dumb one in the family. ...I’m the only really dumb one.” This is Salinger directly representing his academic level through Holden as “Salinger’s Valley Forge 201 file reveals he was a ‘mediocre’ student… his recorded IQ was far from that of a genius” (as stated by www.wikipedia.org). When Salinger attended McBurney School, he tried to conform so he can fit (one way was calling himself Jerry). While at this school, he also acted in plays and wrote the school’s newspaper. This is shown through Holden as he doesn’t try to conform (which could be representing Salinger’s regret to try and conform), hates phoniness (as acting as a character [for example: in a play] is considered being phony), and likes writing (as shown in the beginning of chapter one as he tells the audience his story and how he admires his writer-brother, D.B.). Salinger himself stated, “My boyhood was very much the same as that of the boy in the book, and it was a great relief telling people about it” (interview by Shirlie Blaney).
Salinger’s many failed relationships in his lives, from his parents to love...

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