A boy who wanted to be a catcher in the rye

The Catcher in the Rye by J.D Salinger is a story about a boy named Holden Caulfield. Holden gets kicked out of school and travels to New York. Holden describes his experiences while being there and we get to read what’s going on in the boy’s head.

                            Having read the book from start to finish I look at Holden Caulfield, the protagonist and the narrator of the story, very differently. I chose to do the character analysis about Holden because he’s the only character in the book whose thoughts you can actually read. Besides, Holden is a very fascinating and a multidimensional character. Without anything special really happening in the book, Holden keeps your interest with his somewhat cynical way of telling and his view on people and the everyday stuff happening in the world.

                             Holden hints at both, in the beginning and the end that he is in some kind of mental institution. In the beginning he says, “I’ll just tell you about this madman stuff that happened to me around last Christmas before I got pretty run-down and had to come here and take it easy” and in the end “-this one psychoanalyst guy they have here”. These are both very subtle innuendos but obviously state that Holden doesn’t want directly to talk about his mental issues.

                            Holden has a very complicated personality. He’s a pathological liar, he thinks everyone is phony and he doesn’t really like anything or anybody as it clearly shows in the scene where Phoebe asks Holden to name one thing he really likes but Holden can’t come up with anything. It even depresses Holden himself when he realizes he can’t actually think of anything he likes. Phoebe even suggests things for him but Holden always seems to find something wrong with them – Holden always finds flaws in everything.

However, as the story moves along, we learn a few things that Holden is fond of. He really likes literature and it is probably the only thing he doesn’t badmouth in any point of the story. He also likes his sister Phoebe and his dead brother Allie. Even though everyone seems to disappoint him, towards the end we can see that Holden still has a lot of good to say about people.

                            Holden is far from the typical teenager but he still faces the same problems and thoughts than other adolescents. Holden talks a lot about sex and women. Women “kill him”. There’s a scene in the book, where Holden has an intention of losing his virginity so he invites a prostitute to his room. However, when the girl shows up, Holden backs off and says he “doesn’t feel like it”. Holden never “feels like it” or just “isn’t the mood”. The tone when he says those, signals that he doesn’t care that much but I think that deep down Holden just doesn’t have the guts to do it and saying that he only tries to hide his own insecurities.

                             One important part of Holden’s life is his dead brother Allie. Without even being alive, Allie has a huge impact on Holden. Holden talks about him a lot and misses him but his way of telling about Allie makes it sound like he doesn’t care, but on the inside, I think Allie’s death is the reason why Holden is how he is. In fact, the only thing Holden really wants to be is a catcher in the rye, at one point of the book Holden hears a little boy singing “-if a body catch a body coming through the rye” and pictures a situation in his head where little kids are running in a field of rye and he’s standing on the edge of a cliff catching these little kids so they won’t fall. I see this as a metaphor, the kids falling off the cliff depict Allie. Allie was just a little kid when he died and Holden, he wants to be there to save him.

                             The book is Holden’s own growing up story. He doesn’t in any point think that he should change his ways and he doesn’t, but in the last lines of the book he says: “Don’t ever tell anybody anything. If you do, you start missing everybody.” This points out that Holden in fact has acquired something – he learns to miss people and admits it. Yet the line still has a negative sound in it which is typical for the ‘old Holden’.

Mindmap of Holden Caulfield
10 Challenging words

  1. inferiority complex = alemmuuskompleksi
  2. nonchalant = välinpitämätön
  3. yellowness = pelkuruus
  4. crew cut = eräänläinen hiustyyli
  5. digression = poikkeama
  6. bawling = parkua
  7. bourgeois = porvarillinen
  8. unscrupulous = häikäilemätön
  9. spendthrift = tuhlari
  10. acquainted = perehtynyt

2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Kerli
    Nov 19, 2010 @ 11:09:03

    Hey Tuulia ! 🙂
    I Have read your character analyse and I really like it, the title is very good and intresting, Reading your analyse, I get this feeling that I want to read it.
    The story sounds very intresting and compelling. The main character Holden sounds also intriguing and offbeat. You write very good english and you used difficult words and thats good cause its wonderfull learn to new words. 🙂 The mindmap is uncluttered and pithy, you did very good job ! =)


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