Understanding Holden Caulfield In Catcher In The

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Understanding Holden Caulfield In Catcher In The Rye Essay, Research Paper Understanding Holden Caulfield in J.D. Salinger s The Catcher in the Rye J. D. Salinger s The Catcher in the Rye (Salinger 1953), is a novel told in an autobiographical manner which tracks Holden Caulfield on his two day sojourn through 1950 s New York City. This short twentieth century novel delves into the underlying problems that mire Caulfield to the point where it seems he will never enter the adult world. Holden’s misguided morality brings about a dysfunctional personality that begs to be psychoanalyzed, not only in his interactions with the outside world, but also his internal motivation and language. However, his inability to relate to the rest of the world in any manner will leave the boy

forever baffling. Caulfield s apparent virtue helps to mask his true character. It s not difficult to understand why readers have always ignored Holden s grave deficiencies as a person (Branch 42). After all, “he is very appealing, on the surface” (Costello 95). He “genuinely appreciates brief and isolated instances of kindness” (Lee 263) and “accurately pinpoints phoniness in low and high places (Edwards 556). Thus, it is easy to explain reader s acceptance of him. Indeed, these people are like Holden himself – the Holden who can be willful, contrary, often impossible, yet in a manner insistently of his own making and at odds with whatever he deems dull or conformist (Lee 102). Ambivalence is, in fact, characteristic of Holden, the surest evidence of his mental

instability” (Furst 76). He is not what he and many readers assume he is: “an anti-establish figure whose Kennedy 2 disgust is directed at other people (Edwards 557). Holden does not turn his face into the sunrise expressing his determination to overthrow the bourgeois capitalistic society in favor of socialist utopia. Indeed, the whole thrust of the novel seems to suggest there is no social or political or economic structure that could relieve Holden of the tragic implications of his physical, sexual, or emotional nature (Miller 134). Nay, Holden is more than this. He expresses this through his true self (Lee 103) which allows him to editorialize gloriously, fire off opinions” (Costello 96), and even, as it appears, brazenly flaunt his resentment at all the unlooked to

burdens of writing autobiography (Mellard 212). The negative nature of Holden s inner self is shown through his two roommates, Ackley and Stradlater. Ackley is the negative image of self – “ugly, pimply, self absorbed” (Branch 43). Stradlater is the “somewhat – only somewhat – more positive double” (Branch 44) – “handsome, clever, and featured, albeit equally narcissistic” (Mellard 214). Allie is also idolized by Caulfield s mind as an exemplary model. Allie is a figure of Holden s ego ideal, the moi or ideal self that is unknown except through the objects in which it is inscribed (Furst 74). But it is this subconscious which often gets him in trouble. Holden s fantasies, the product of his vivid imagination, are even more varied and characteristically mingle

the comic with the pathetic (Furst 78). However, Holden Caulfield is no clown; nor is he a tragic hero; he is a sixteen year old lad whose vivid encounter with everyday life is tragically humorous or humorously tragic (Miller/Heiserman 134). However, the author clearly suggests that Holden can change (Costello 97). The problems that the author describes “may represent merely one phase of his development (Furst 74). And, on the evidence of the story he tells [at the end of the novel], he no longer has any real need of therapy. He would appear to be as healthy, as whole, as sane as Kennedy 3 anyone might ever be (Mellard 225). Thus it appears that the novel is trying to describe certain passing phases of adolescent behavior (Baumbach 467). But, whether Caulfield is cured at the