J. D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye illustrates the story of an adolescent going through a period of perception-changing times in his life. The story is told from the point of view of the main character and protagonist, Holden Caulfield, a junior in high school. Throughout the novel, Holden is going through a phase in which he realizes the “phony” nature of the people in the world. Overall, the story encompasses themes such as loss and confusion ultimately resolved with advice for finding oneself. Clearly, many young adults undergoing a paradigm shift or a maturing from adolescence can relate the book’s protagonist on a personal or even spiritual level. Because of his relatable journey, I view Holden Caulfield as a hero, not in the archetypal sense, but as a champion for those struggling to find a sense of direction in their lives. Holden’s entire character has not been fully established yet as he is still immature and has no definite plans for his future. He had been kicked out of three schools for not applying himself, and he calls people who act “fake” in real life “phonies.” However, what makes Holden Caulfield such an important character is that he is going through what many have experienced or are experiencing: the transition from childhood to manhood.

On the contrary, Holden seems to resist this transition as he was never serious about his schools. In fact, he came to the point where he thought of ending his life in chapter 14. He writes, “What I really felt like doing was committing suicide. I felt like jumping out the window.” Of course, many teenagers have had the same feeling, although I am an exception to this. In chapter 17, he explains to Sally everything he resented about school. “It’s full of phonies, and all you do is study so that you can learn enough to be smart enough to buy a goddam Cadillac some day,” he continues. Eventually, he came up with the idea of running away with Sally up north. With this, Holden shows he has never given thought to his actual future and what he plans to be. At this part of the plot, I did not really identify myself with the character of Holden Caulfield anymore.

I on the other hand do plan on attending college for medicine. Holden in chapter 17 embodied the rebellious nature of some teenagers who, much like the protagonist, choose to run away from his/her problems.The symbolism J. D. Salinger inserts into the story can provide more to the theme. There is a recurring thought that Holden has concerning the ducks inhabiting the lagoon in Central Park in New York City and where they go when the lake freezes up. Holden brings up this train of thought in various locations. The first was in his meeting with Mr. Spencer and again on two different cab rides. The symbolism behind this is that the ducks represent himself and his refusal to adapt to a changing environment. It puzzled him how the ducks would have to move and where. This is where I can relate to Holden. Growing up and moving on is difficult, but it is necessary for life. Holden Caulfield is a hero through what he has endured and who he can emulate. I myself do not relate to him as I have already been through what he has gone through, at a lesser degree, of course, but he can be seen, by some, as an example for a refusal to adapt. He is not a hero that is perfect or super strong, but he is a hero that inspires and relates himself to the common adolescent.

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