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The Influence Of Women In The Catcher In The Rye By J.D Salinger

933 words - 4 pages

In The Catcher in the Rye, Holden Caulfield feels a compulsion to protect women over anything else. The reason for this is that Holden views women as the last innocent people left in society. J.D. Salinger makes it a point to display the powerful influences that women have had on Holden throughout his life by retelling Holden's experiences with his own mother as a younger man. These trends continue throughout the story, as the events that unfold involving Phoebe and Jane Gallagher become focal points during Holden's time in New York City. Holden's desire to protect women seems to go so far that he begins to feel immediate hostility -- hostility that may or may not be justified -- towards several male characters.
Holden's nervous impulse to protect women seems to have sprung up in his psyche from a very young age. After his brother, Allie, started to experience more severe symptoms of leukemia, Holden notes that his mother seemed "nervous as hell." His own mother's emotional problems (Lombardi) transfer to Holden on a very deep, psychological level because he feels partially responsible for his brother's fate in the first place. Seeing his mother in such a distraught state makes him feel even guiltier. The unintended consequence of this is that Holden grows up with a constant fear that he is going to hurt any woman that he grows close to. This manifests itself many times during his time in New York, with one of the earliest examples being his meeting with Sunny in the hotel room. Holden protects her innocence, but not for any particularly noble reason. He hangs her dress back up and insists that he just wants to talk, but Holden did not do this in an attempt to be some paragon of righteousness. Holden, on a deep, psychological level, was simply afraid of bringing any harm to her. Holden may not even realize that this attitude sprang from his relationship with his mother, but it is difficult to deny that their feelings were always rather unstable after Allie's death. He was moved from prep school to prep school in what must have felt like an attempt by his parents to keep him away from their home.
Holden was affected very deeply by his mother specifically despite the fact that he talks about both of his parents with equal disdain. Even with all of his talk about his father's job, most of Holden's nervous ticks and character traits seem to come from his mother. For instance, Holden mentions "phonies" forty-four separate times throughout the novel (Corbett 68-73). This can be connected to his mother by the way he speaks about her. Her speech always seems to very insincere, and Holden displays that she has very little...

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