The Catcher in the Rye
The special moments in life only last a short period of time. In The Catcher in the Rye, Salinger portrays a young fellow that dislikes himself and the world that surrounds him. The protagonist shows the way many teenagers feel about themselves and their relations with their parents, their friends and the opposite sex. Salinger uses secondary characters to remark Holden’s isolation in society, the mood and his immaturity. Holden, the main character in the book, feels isolated in a society where almost nobody cares for him, he acts sometimes in strange ways and tends to react in very peculiar ways.
Along the story, there are many examples of Holden’s isolation but there are three that stand out because of their double meanings. One of them is how he is pretending to be walking through the park and acts as if he was shot. Normally people do not do this. One might think that he is crazy or that he does not really care about life. Both interpretations are correct but the best one in this case is that really he does not care about life, he is just bored and acts as if someone had killed him and he was dead.
This fact allows the reader to get the impression that Holden has a miserable life and does not want to live any more. The second example of Holden’s isolation and a proof that he is a strange character is when he is in a taxi and tries to struck up a conversation with the driver by asking him, ” Where do ducks go? “. This makes him look weird and lonely and it proves that he does not have any one to talk to. His loneliness is increasing in his mind and makes him do really dumb things.
The fact that he is talking to random people asking strange questions tells us how he misses his family, Jane and Sally. His strange behaviour can also be considered as a sign of craziness or some sort of mental problem. The third situation is when he starts screaming at Sally because she does not want to leave school and marry him. That is a very strange behaviour because Holden is very young and does not know Sally that much as to think of marrying her. Sally reacts telling him that he is crazy.
Holden’s idea of leaving the school was a bit surrealist in the sense that neither him nor Sally could just leave their lives and go to another place. This tells us how lonely Holden is in the school, because he wants to escape from school and leave to go somewhere else without even thinking of the consequences of his acts. His idea of loneliness and his mental problems affect the mood of the reader in the book. Holden sees himself as a failure, his family see him as such and that arises a feeling of pity in the reader but at the same time there are other moments were the mood is joyful and funny.
Holden feels that he is a failure because his brother has done well in life and he has done nothing except go to a good schools and get himself kicked out because he failed too many subjects. His family wouldn’t feel proud of him being kicked out of school and living by himself somewhere. An example, is when he wants to talk to Phoebe and says, ” I mean I couldn’t sit there on that desk for the rest of my life, and besides, I was afraid my parents might barge in on me all of the sudden ….. “. (161) He was afraid his parents would catch him out of school and he would have to tell the whole story.
Sometimes the reader feels pity for him for example when he gets drunk and walks until his hair freezes. The feeling is that he is extremely lonely. Another moment in where there is a feeling of pity for him is when he calls a prostitute and instead of having sex with her, he talks to her. When he does not want to pay the whole fee, a big guy comes and threatens him to kill him. It shows that he is just a child although he wants to act like an adult. It shows that he needs his family and his friends and people to talk to.
In another part, the reader feels a joyful mood, for example, when he talks to his little sister Phoebe and tells her his problems. It is described, “She put her arms around my neck and all . She’s very affectionate……. I sort of gave her a kiss. “(161) Although Holden is a very intelligent person he still has to mature and face life in a more responsible way. This shows clearly with the conversation with his History teacher, Mr. Spencer, when he can be really funny in the way he describes the situation and how Mr.
Spencer is dressed and the way in which he has to pick up from the floor every paper that Mr. Spencer throws on top of the bed because he always misses by a few inches. He describes, ” He tried chucking my exam paper on the bed when he was through with it…….. I had to get to get up again and pick it up and put it on top of the Atlantic Monthly. It’s boring to do that every two minutes. “(16) The immaturity of Holden can be described as a childish way to see life and its circumstances. The lack of maturity, responsibility and respect make Holden a 17 year old man with a 12 year old mentality.
His lack of maturity is shown during the whole book. An example is that when he does not like something he just calls it “phony”, using many times the word incorrectly and describing, in a rude way, many things he dislikes from his surroundings. The fact that he does not want to mature makes him a childish character and a troublesome person. Another example of his immaturity is when he keeps persisting in insulting Stratlater even though the latter punches him. He behaves like a small kid fighting over a girl that he knows very little.
The need for psychiatric help is another proof of his lack of maturity and how difficult life seems to him. For this reason Holden tells the Doctor what he thinks and feels to get the help he needs. He is not responsible because he does not want to assume his obligations and study. He does not mind being expel from four schools and does not react as a seventeen year old. Holden has no respect for himself or for most of the things that surround him. He does not feel happy with himself. He does not like himself and feels that most people do not like him or understand him either.
Through his relations with the people around him, Salinger shows us Holden’s personality. His isolation and loneliness. The sympathy that the reader feels for him sometimes and his immature character. His problematic personality shapes the story as a strong one, that has to be read slowly because of its many symbolisms, where many people can recognize themselves in the way Holden reacts and feels in everyday life experiences. It is a great book because Holden is very ironic and combines well serious matters with some very funny scenes, with which all of us can feel identified.