J.D. Salinger's novel The Catcher in the Rye depicts a short span in the life of a
sixteen-year-old boy who has a lot to say about others yet recognizes little about himself,
in the beginning of the book. Holden Caulfield is not your typical bildungsroman
protagonist. From open to close, the story only details a few days of life. This
novel gives a new twist to the typical Bildungsroman story, as many might question if
Holden ever does mature by the end of the book but it's observed that Holden goes
through character development, despite it being in the last moment of the book itself, as
he comes terms with himself and realizes that the fantasy of being the catcher of the rye
the that life is, is a dream he no longer finds desirable.
During the novel, Holden has several fluctuations in emotion and goes through many
trials in which he thinks he's acting mature. Holden's time in the city is impulsive.
However, at the end of the book, he comes to terms with himself and Holden speaks with
some clarity even though he claims that "he doesn't know" what he will do in the future.
With this, there's a tone of acceptance lingering in that statement. He accepts the
ambiguity of life. Holden develops a lot from being the cynical teen who tries to act
mature while actually coming off as the opposite, to the person we see in the end, despite
it being for a few fleeting words. It may not be much, but in the final words of the book,
Holden says, "Don't ever tell anybody anything. If you do, you start missing everybody"
(Salinger 214) This shows some growth in his character. He actually admits to having
feelings. He may not ever have a major epiphany or self-actualization, but Holden
Caulfield will figure things out in his own time and certainly in his own way.
By the time he leaves Pency Prep high and decides to embark on his adventure to New
York, Holden says his farewells " I put my red hunting hat on, and turned the peak
around to the back,the way I liked it, and then I yelled at the top of my goddam voice,
'Sleep tight, ya morons!'" (Salinger 52) and slips his hat on with the cap facing the
opposite side, resembling a baseball catcher's cap. This resemblance connects Holden to
his dream of becoming a catcher of innocent children who come too close to the cliff at
the edge of a field of rye. Which he come to fully realize after seeing the little kid
singing. Furthering the connection between the hat and a catcher, had played
baseball prior to his death and "wrote poems in green ink on his baseball glove" ...