Jerome David Salinger’s “The Catcher in the Rye”

Pages: 2
Words: 601

In Jerome David Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye, Holden Caulfield’s prominent traits are abnormal and relatively disturbing. Holden’s fixation on innocence and depression are manifestations of the loss of his brother, Allie. Furthermore, through his depressive feelings, Holden grows to dislike the social standards that fuel his non-conformist attitude. His challenge with or inability to connect with others is an equally disturbing reality that leads Holden to feel isolated. The three issues significantly characterize Holden in the book brings to light his inability to live a happy life. Holden feels alienated, and through depression, his perpetual life lacks meaning.

Allie Caulfield’s death at eleven years is a constant source of depression for Holden. It continues to haunt him and greatly hinders his perception of reality. Holden’s personal growth is also impacted, and, in his perspective, Holden writes, “I slept in the garage in the night he died, and I broke all the goddam windows with my fist, just for the hell of it” (Sallinger 39). The writing reflects a state of anger that continues with him throughout his life. Sallinger brings out a tense moment in the novel when a frustrated Phoebe tells Holden that he would not be able to name anything he likes. In his response, Holden tells Phoebe, “I like Allie,” a clear understanding that Holden will never let go of Allie’s ghost and embrace life without him (Sallinger 171). The high state of disconnectedness between accepting the death of his brother and living his life makes Holden anything but happy. Holden’s only source of joy is in the life he shared with Allie, and he is not willing to replace that with anything else.

Holden comes from a presumably well-educated and fairly affluent family. Through expectation, he can succeed in life by accepting social norms and traditional school without any questions. However, like all other practices, expectations are nothing more like phonies. When Holden visits his favorite teacher’s house, his admission best reveals that “I didn’t exactly flunk out or anything. I just quit, sort of” (Sallinger 13). Despite knowing what is expected of him, Holden chooses to defy all expectations making it impossible to contribute to society. Moreover, Holden still believes that someone has to stand in place of and comply with unwritten rules. With this notion, Holden creatively develops a compulsive lying habit. Holden admits to being “the most terrific liar you ever saw in your life” as he uses lies in covering every uncomfortable situation he finds himself in (Sallinger 16­). Holden tells his classmates

Appearances are issues of less concern to Holden and; many people in the social care about how they look instead of their personality. He sees his mother working hard to cultivate her terrific taste, and by encountering several wealthy people in society, Holden categorizes them into two, those who care about their looks and those who don’t. At one point, Holden exclaims, “I don’t give a damn how I looked,” indicating that regardless of how society loses itself to appearance, his connection to it was severed (Sallinger 53). Outwardly, Holden stands out as someone that doesn’t care about his appearance but inwardly, his self-consciousness is secretly concerned with how he looks.

Holden’s fixation on innocence and depression are manifestations of the loss of his brother, Allie. The fixation becomes why Holden grows to dislike the social standards that fuel his non-conformist attitude. As evident in the illustrations, Holden’s connection to society is severed, and he does not try to hide from it. He even admits the only thing he likes in his life is his dead brother Allie.

Work Cited

Salinger, J. D. (1961). The Catcher in the Rye. New York: Grosset & Dunpal.