Holden Caulfield’s Struggle In The Catcher In The Rye

2658 words - 11 pages

Aristotle once said, “Young people are in a condition like permanent intoxication, because youth is sweet and they are growing.” This “condition,” as Aristotle says, is adolescence. Adolescence is much like jumping in a lake. One must walk out to the dock and once he or she is at the end, one cannot turn back. If one is to turn back they will be ridiculed as a coward, like a child. The water is ice cold, a freezing ice bath, so one does not want to jump in, but he or she can’t turn back for fear of jeer from friends. Therefore one is in a dilemma of confusion and tension between “chickening out” and braving the polar water of the lake. The land is childhood, safe and comfortable, but gone forever; and the artic water is unknown, unpleasant, and threatening like adulthood. Just like the awkward stage of being in between jumping in and abandonment, adolescence contains the strains and tension between childhood and adulthood. In the novel The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger, the main character Holden Caulfield, experiences these tensions of adolescence. Holden’s quandary is he is deadlocked in adolescence, unable to go return to childhood but unwilling to progress forward to adulthood. Because Holden is consumed with the impossible task of preserving the innocence of childhood, so he delays the inevitability of becoming an adult. This leaves Holden stranded on the dock, stuck in adolescence; the center of Holden’s problems.
Holden madly wants to protect the innocence and purity of childhood, but of course cannot. After the death of Allie, Holden’s brother, he wants to save others from what was painfully taken away from him. Holden desperately tries to protect children from losing their purity, to protect them from the same loss he experienced with losing Allie. From the very start of the book Holden talks of his brother, D.B., and his short story the “Secret Goldfish”. Holden says it is “about this little kid…[.] It killed me”(Salinger 2). Certainly Holden does not mean it actually killed him, he is talking of how happy it makes him. The night Stradlater goes out with Jane Gallagher, Holden has a serious talk with Stradlater. Jane represents purity to Holden, or in other words; a virgin. He tries so hard to preserve that part of Jane that he says“ I sat there for about half hour after he left. I mean I just sat in my chair, not doing anything. I kept thinking about Jane, and Stradlater and all. It made me so nervous I went crazy.”(34). He is so nervous and tormented of the image of Stradlater having sex with Jane that he merely sits thinking for a half an hour. When Stradlater goes out with Jane, Holden and Mal Brossard are getting ready to go to the movies and he opens the window to throw a snowball with all of the fresh snow. However Holden started to throw a snowball at a car across the parking lot, but “changed [his] mind. The car looked so nice and white.”(36). He then proceeds to throw the snowball at the fire hydrant “but that...

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