Authors often use death to show a revelation in another person’s life. In the novel, The Catcher in the Rye, by J.D. Salinger, Holden Caulfield is changed by the death of his brother. After the death of Holden Caulfield’s bother, Allie, Holden’s education, personality, and sociological standing change for the worse.
After Allie dies, Holden gives up on his academics. Holden does not apply himself to his academics, even after receiving warnings about his academic performance:
They kicked me out. I wasn’t supposed to come back after Christmas vacation, on account that I was failing four subjects and not applying myself and all. They gave me frequent warning to start applying myself- ...view middle of the document...
Because of Allie’s perfection, Holden preconceives an idea that only children can be innocent. Holden believes that he can help children stay innocent, Holden mentions to Phoebe that he wants to be “The Catcher in the Rye”:
I thought it was 'If a body catch a body’, I said. Anyway, I keep picturing all these little kids playing some game in this big field of rye and all. Thousands of little kids, and nobody's around – nobody big, I mean – except me. And I'm standing on the edge of some crazy cliff. What I have to do, I have to catch everybody if they start to go over the cliff – I mean if they're running and they don't look where they're going I have to come out from somewhere and catch them. That's all I'd do all day. I'd just be the catcher in the rye and all. I know it's crazy, but that's the only thing I'd really like to be. I know it's crazy. (173)
Holden fantasying about being “The Catcher in the Rye” portrays Holden’s sociological decline: “Holden’s misquoting the Burns poem and fancying himself the catcher in the rye, a companion and protector of children in their everlastingly innocent field of rye. As a catcher’s cap it carries us even more intimately into Holden’s rather disturbed psyche” (Vanderbilt)
Holden wanting to be “The Catcher in the Rye” symbolizes the realization that Holden concludes that everyone except for children are phony.
After the death of someone important to a person, the person may change his or her personality. When Allie dies, Holden becomes outraged and does something crazy:
I was only thirteen, and they were going to have my psychoanalyzed and all, because I broke all the windows in the garage. I don't blame them. I really don't. I slept in the garage the night he died, and I broke all the goddam windows with my fist, just for the hell of it. I even tried to break all the windows...