The style and the concerns of The Catcher in the Rye, written by J. D. Salinger in 1951, continue to interest a present day audience as it draws attention to human problems through the eyes of Holden Caulfield, who rejects the “phony world of adults”, the teenage conflict of staying as a child and “growing up” and rejection of society for the sake of self – protection. J. D. Salinger has shown this through the creation of the unique voice of Holden Caulfield.
Some of the examples of events shown through this voice also teach us lessons about life. The Catcher in the Rye shows that everyone will grow unavoidably into maturity. Even for the period this book is written in, Holden Caulfield is not an average teenager. He has flunked out of four schools. He detests the “phoniness of the adult world” as he believes that adults always lie about themselves and show a false personality.
As he realises that he is no longer in the stage of childhood, Holden decides to try not to grow up and attempt to stop other children from becoming corrupted, like when he describes his idea as a future occupation: “What I have to do I have to catch everybody if they start to go over the cliff- I mean if they’re running and they don’t look where they’re going I have to come out from somewhere and catch them”. The title of the novel and this allusion to the poem by Robert Burns shows that Holden has a strong sense of innocence, which he cannot let go of and sees only one occupation for him in the future.
Holden also learns that not all adults are phonies, like the nuns he met at the train station: “That’s what I like about those nuns. You could tell, for one thing that they never went anywhere swanky for lunch or anything. ” Allie, his younger brother, had been another one who was full of childhood innocence in Holden’s view. When Holden visits the school which he had went to and his sister went to, he tries to rub off some swear words that were written on the walls of the building.
The swear words represent the corruption of the adult world and by rubbing it off, he is trying to save the innocence of childhood: “I thought how Phoebe and all the other little kids would see it... finally some dirty kid would tell them... what it meant, and how they’d all think about it and maybe even worry about it... ” Holden is one who likes everything to stay the same, which is why Holden enjoys the Museum of Natural History so much as everything stays in the same place. After a failed plan to run away from home, Holden takes his sister Phoebe to a carousel and buy rides for her.
He enjoyed watching her because she was still a child full of innocence enjoying the carousel. However Holden is a “phony” himself and admits it indirectly when he says that he is a “terrific liar” and shows this when he tricks the mother of Ernest Morrow (a random student from Pencey) into believing that he was a great person. In the end (mentioned at the beginning of the novel – the events following are just a memory of what had happened), Holden experiences a mental breakdown after his inability to prevent children from becoming phony adults.
This shows that growing up is something that cannot be avoided making this a lesson to every person reaching maturity. The novel provides an example of how people reject themselves from a society. Holden is a loner in the novel as a result of his hatred for everyone. This loneliness is a result of rejecting everyone who he knows and meets. Even though he was trying to seek a companionship throughout his journey, Holden will always find a downside in a person and then exaggerate it. Because of this rebellious nature, he does not have any friends and is unable to make relationships.
He even finds fault on people who talk about their cars and people who mourn for their lost ones: “They worry if they get a little scratch on them... always talking about how many miles they get to a gallon... they start thinking about trading it in for one that's even newer... I hope to hell when I do die somebody has sense enough to just dump me in the river or something. Anything except sticking me in a goddam cemetery. ” Phoebe tells him forcefully about his condition by saying, “You don’t like anything that’s happening... You don’t like any schools.
You don’t like a million things. You don’t. ” Mr Antolini, an ex – teacher of Holden, also points out this: “I have a feeling that you're riding for some kind of a terrible, terrible fall... It may be the kind where, at the age of thirty, you sit in some bar hating everybody who comes in looking as if he might have played football in college. Then again, you may pick up just enough education to hate people who say, 'It's a secret between he and I. '” This statement shows that Mr Antolini believes that Holden will always hate other people if he continues his ways.
The red hunting hat he had always worn at times symbolises how Holden wants to unique and separate as the hat stands out. Since the hat is the same colour as Allie’s hair, it also relates to childhood innocence. After recalling everything from before his mental breakdown, in his final note he says, “Don't ever tell anybody anything. If you do, you start missing everybody” which shows that he realised that he shouldn’t have found faults on the people he has met and should have tried to be more accepting. People in the real world should deal with the people around them so that they don’t reject themselves from the society.
People trying to find a direction in life will tend to try different things, sometimes things they are not good at or never have tried before. Near the beginning of the novel, Holden is shown to be the manager of the Pencey Prep fencing team. This shows his attempt at leadership skills. However, he failed to bring equipment to the fencing match and his team “ostracised” him for this. Next he attempts to get advice and comfort from a teacher named Mr Spencer but instead gets told off for not applying himself in class.
He did give advice though Holden didn’t accept it: “[Mr Spencer] Life is a game, boy. Life is a game, that one plays according to the rules... [Holden]Game, my ass. Some game. ” Later on, he asks advice from Carl Luce about intimate relationships. This fails as Carl feels that Holden is trying to get into his private world. When Holden gets to a hotel, he decides to get a prostitute to his room because it was his only opportunity. He ends up to scared to do anything when the prostitute comes and soon he gets into trouble from the elevator boy.
Near the end of the novel, Holden seeks advice from Mr Antolini, but soon finds him stroking his head. Holden misinterprets this and runs away. Later, Holden have strong intentions of running away to live by himself only to find that his sister wanted to come with him. This had gotten him to face his parents. The Catcher in the Rye continues to interest the present day audience through life lessons by showing that everyone will grow into maturity, rejection can lead to mental breakdowns and trying different ways in life can sometimes go nowhere.