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The Portrait Of An Ideal Rebel: Holden Caulfield

1867 words - 8 pages

The perception of Holden Caulfield in The Catcher in the Rye has two extremes; many find him likable, others find him irritable. Given Holden’s age and experiences, readers often relate to his thoughts and views of the world around him. On the opposite side of the spectrum, readers also find him to be repetitive and hypocritical of the world around him. This interpretation of Holden is derived from the lack of a climax in the book, but in reality, life is often anti-climatic. The majority of the story is not told by Holden’s actions, rather by Holden’s thoughts. Human minds are complex in nature; in order to understand the human mind, it is important to not only consider one’s actions, but their possible thoughts as well. Holden’s mindset of a teenager born into a privileged life that, due to his traumatic experiences, lead him to act and think a certain way that may not seem realistic; when most teenagers minds are constantly conflicted. Holden Caulfield exemplifies qualities of an ideal teenage rebel given his extreme cynicism and unrealistic perception of the world.
Traumatic experiences at a young age can distort one’s view of the world negatively and is a driving force for rebellion. For Holden, his younger brother’s, Allie, death lead him to become emotionally unstable, “I was only thirteen, and they were going to have me psychoanalyzed and all, because I broke all the windows in the garage….It was a very stupid thing to do, I’ll admit, but I hardly didn’t even know I was doing it, and you didn’t know Allie” (Salinger ). Holden’s violent reaction towards his brother’s death shows his deep, emotional attachment and respect for Allie. Emotional instability is a characteristic commonly found in rebellious teenagers, often times, the cause of emotional instability is an early traumatic experience. Throughout the book, Holden has a generally negative outlook towards life because of the significant shock of pain he went through at an early adolescent age. In addition to lack of emotional stability, rebellious teenagers tend to have a looming lack of closure on the cause of their unbalanced emotional state. Because Holden did not attend his brother’s funeral, the reality of his death never completely settled in, and he relies on his lack of closure to keep him safe, “Every time I’d get to the end of a block I’d make believe I was talking to my brother Allie. I’d say to him, ‘Allie, don’t let me disappear...Please, Allie.’ And then when I’d reach the other side of the street without, I’d thank him. Then it would start all over again as soon as I go to the next corner. But I kept going and all. I was sort of afraid to stop” (Salinger ). Holden has a deep rooted fear of letting go of his brother, as he, along with his sister Phoebe, portray his definition innocence and childhood. Often times, a void of conclusion can evoke rebellious behavior in teenagers, as they fear the unknown. Holden’s actions are not ones of a neurotic misfit, rather they...

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