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The Complexity Of Holden Caulfield Essay

676 words - 3 pages

J.D Salinger writes from personal experience in his novel, The Catcher in the Rye. The American author lived in New York City and attended a Manhattan public school for most of his adolescence before attending a boarding school that he soon failed out of. His experiences were a major part in not only the plot of his novel, but in building the character of Holden Caulfield. As the male protagonist in this coming of age novel, Holden Caulfield was faced with several obstacles to overcome. During his journey he deals with stress, anxiety, and difficult decisions while he was exposed to prostitutes, thieves, financial difficulty, and other foreign aspects of this unfamiliar reality. During this journey, he disputes himself by attempting to protect the innocence of the youth around him while he makes obvious his ceaseless determination to reach adulthood prematurely. In this contradiction, his bipolar desires lead him to mental instability from an already questionable mental ...view middle of the document...

It has been argued that Holden already had earlier mental problems before his adventure into New York City alone. His younger brother’s death, exile out of New York into many boarding schools, and his older brother and idol abandoning Holden for his own dreams in California could have led to his condition. This repetition of abandonment could have resulted in feelings of loneliness. It could also be the reason for his determination to grow up prematurely. In a way, his being on his own for so long allows him to already portray himself as an adult. In another view, his laziness in school and constant failing out could be his mind subconsciously trying to maintain his own innocence. This contradiction of his conscious and subconscious desires could have resulted in a state of confusion and another possible cause of his mental instability.
In all of Holden’s actions, his “mission” in the novel is evident. His journey begins not at the beginning of the book, but when he first fails out of boarding school. By consciously trying to fail he begins to reveal his defiance towards growing up. Although he ceaselessly attempts to present himself as an adult throughout the novel, his failing out of school can be interpreted by his subconscious holding him back and preserving his own innocence. With every stranger he meets he either lies about his identity or his age or at times, both. This signifies his lying to himself about how mature and ready to grow up he really is. As his subconscious battles mental illness to preserve his own innocence, he openly attempts to preserve the innocence of those around him. When he is walking in the park, at the school, and in the museum it angers him when he sees curse words and inappropriate language written for the children to see. At all these places, children are always present and in every instance Holden reaches out to help or communicate with them. The constant presence of children is symbolic of his own adolescence that he continues to ignore throughout the novel. At one point during the novel, Holden reflects on what he would like to become when he is older with his younger sister. His ideal career is preserving the innocence of children. He leads them away from the cliff, symbolic of adulthood, and encourages them to play among the rye, symbolic of innocence and youth.

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