Salinger: Catcher in the rye
Chapter 1: Salinger’s first chapter introduces the main character and narrator— Holden. The first and second-person narration engages both the psychologist to whom he is speaking as well as the reader. The reader is first struck by the lack of organization which Holden employs to convey his message. The stream-of-consciousness narration seems to have no recognizable pattern; there are many digressions to other subjects making it apparent that Holden himself doesn’t know exactly what he’ll say next.
Holden first mentions his brother, D.B., who is a writer in Hollywood. Yet Holden doesn’t seem to care for his brother’s activities too much, admitting that D.B. is "being a prostitute." Secondly, Holden describes his dissatisfaction with his school, Pencey Prep., where the slogan, "molding boys into splendid, clear-thinking young men," doesn’t seem applicable. Holden thinks that too many of the people at Pencey are "phonies"-- a term he uses to describe anyone who exhibits some sort of human frailty. Often these frailties include conceit, apathy, and ignorance.
The end of the chapter includes Holden’s retreat from the big football game to his dorm room, and a narration of his troubles with the fencing team. The team had to forfeit the match when Holden left all their equipment on the wrong train. Holden is embarrassed by this, but is quick to judge the team, blaming them for the mishap. Later, Holden admits that he’s getting kicked out of Pencey Prep. because of his poor grades. This too, seems to cause embarrassment, but again, Holden blames others by saying, "the more expensive a school is, the more crooks it has."
Chapter 2: Most of the second chapter is dedicated to Holden’s visit with Mr. Spencer. He describes him as always stooped over in class— an old, weak teacher. The two converse for a while before Mr. Spencer tells Holden, "Life is a game, boy. Life is a game that one plays according to the rules." Holden nods his head in agreement but inwardly he says it’s only a game for "hot-shots." Holden can’t truly accept what Mr. Spencer is saying because Holden can’t accept the rules and has never accepted them. He continually sees hypocrisy in positions of authority and thus cannot accept those persons’ rules as legitimate.
Later in the chapter Holden digresses about his age and whether or not he acts like it. He admits that sometimes he doesn’t act his age. This leads the reader to think that Holden, though very tall for his age, is still very immature on the inside. Soon another aspect of Holden’s personality is revealed with Mr. Spencer reads him the essay Holden wrote on the final exam which he failed. After writing only a few brief sentences, Holden inscribed a personal message to Mr. Spencer, apologizing for the essay and saying that he won’t blame Mr. Spencer if he fails him. This uncovers the truly humanitarian side of Holden. Even though he and Mr. Spencer lie on "opposite sides of the pole," Holden still attempts to console the elderly teacher, telling him it’s not his teaching that caused him to fail. It’s as if Holden is trying to preserve Mr. Spencer’s self-dignity, an innocence Holden wants to protect.
To escape the lecture of his teacher, yet not offend him, Holden lies about having to pick up equipment in the gymnasium. This is also consistent with the above assertion made about Holden.
Chapter 3: Holden continues his resentment of authority in chapter three as he describes Mr. Ossenburger, the man after whom his dorm is named. To Holden, Ossenburger is just another phony— someone who shows up to football games once and year to make it look as though he actually still cares about the school. He tells about a speech Ossenburger made to all the Pencey Prep. students in which he tells the boys to speak to God as though he’s one’s best friend. Holden can’t comprehend this because its meaning is clouded in his mind: he sees Ossenburger as just bragging that he talks to God this way, which makes Holden more firmly believe that Ossenburger is a phony. As will be shown later, Holden has a hard time accepting established religion.
After Holden tells about what kinds of books he likes to read, he introduces Ackley to the reader. Ackley is the Pencey student who lives right next to Holden in the dorm. Holden describes Ackley as a dirty fellow who never brushes his teeth and has terrible pimples all over his face. Like the other people he’s encountered, Holden is quick to judge Ackley, saying that he’s an annoying guy who he never really likes to be around.
Toward the end of the chapter, Stradlater, Holden’s roomate, barges into the room and aks to borrow Holden’s jacket for a date. Ackley complains about Sradlater’s superiority complex, and it’s obvious that the two strongly dislike each other.
Chapter 4: Salinger’s fourth chapter is mostly set in the men’s restroom of the dorm, or "the can," as Holden so eloquently names it. Holden describes Stradlater as a phony moron, a good-looking guy with a nice build but someone who can’t carry on an intelligent conversation. Holden resents Stradlater for being so successful without any concern with what’s right or wrong. Soon Stradlater begs Holden to write his English composition paper for him. Holden reluctantly agrees, again showing his selfless concern for others.
Stradlater also mentions his date with Jane Gallagher, a childhood girlfriend of Holden. Holden quickly remembers all the fun the two of them had together as kids. Distinctly, he recalls how they always used to play checkers and how she would always keep her kings in the back row. To Holden, this detail represents more than simply a childhood memory, but actually an inability to separate his past from his present. The reader cannot determine this yet, however; it takes a few pages for Salinger to show Holden’s obsession with the kings.
Lastly, chapter four demonstrates Holden’s lack of personality. Since he changes his attitude when he’s around different people (Ackley to Stradlater), the reader doesn’t observe any clear, consistent moral compass. This supports the idea that Holden is not a normal person, but just a sponge of sorts, absorbing everything around him yet being unable to interpret, rationalize or articulate it.
Chapter 5: The fifth chapter builds on the tendencies and beliefs of Holden initiated in the previous chapters. The first continuation is the commentary about phonies. Holden again knocks the school he is leaving by saying that the only reason they have steak on Saturday nights is because so many parents visit on Sundays, and when the students’ mothers ask their sons what they had for dinner the night before they can answer that they had steak. To the reader, this seems to be a pretty superficial explanation, but Holden is adamant about his conviction. The second continuation of previous themes is when Holden, always thinking of others, invites Ackley along to the movies. Although Holden admits that sitting next to him at the movies is "not at all enjoyable," he doesn’t say anything, viewing the movie as more of a public service than a fun thing to do with friends. Holden comments on the phoniness of the actors, saying they don’t act like real people. He can’t imagine why anyone would actually watch a movie for entertainment alone. Again, this delves into Holden’s inability to separate reality from fiction.
Later, after returning from the movies, Holden decides to write Stradlater’s composition. This is where he introduces Allie to the reader. Not being able to think of anything about a house to describe, Holden decides to use his brother Allie’s baseball mitt. Allie, he says, has died of Leukemia a few years before. Soon he goes into a long narration about what a great brother Allie was, and how he was nice to everyone. He talks about how wonderful Allie was in every aspect of life, and then Holden confesses that he is really the only dumb one in the family. Holden feels guilty that he hasn’t lived up to the family standard. Holden thinks that by possessing Allie’s baseball glove full of love poems, somehow he can recapture some of the love he has missed through the years.
Chapter 6: Chapter six marks a major turning point for Holden. This turning point is found in the physical struggle between Holden and Stradlater. After Stradlater returns from his date with Jane, he asks Holden if he’s written his composition for him. Stradlater reads the paper and quickly shoots it down, saying that a description of a baseball glove isn’t what the teacher wants. Holden is deeply hurt by this, and turns bitter toward Stradlater, feeling not only a rejection of the paper he wrote, but indeed a rejection of his brother, Allie. This encounter serves to further confuse Holden about who his role-models should be and extends his disillusionment with society in general.
The second factor which leads to the fight between the two teens is the "professional secret" comment by Stradlater. When Holden asks Stradlater if he gave Jane, his childhood sweetheart, "the time" (meaning did she lose her virginity to him), Stradlater shrugs it off by saying that it’s a "professional secret." This enrages the already annoyed Holden, yet he can’t articulate the anger he feels. Holden admits that he doesn’t remember the following events too well. He just says that he knows he tries to punch Stradlater in the mouth but misses and soon finds himself on the floor. To further anger Stradlater, Holden calls him names, acknowledging, "I told him he didn’t even care if a girl kept all her kings in the back row or not, and the reason he didn’t care was because he was a goddam stupid moron."
Again, Holden’s mouth gets him in trouble. Although he can’t really explain to the reader why he is so angry, he is quick to judge Stradlater, calling him a "goddam stupid moron." But it’s not the kings in the back row that really concerns Holden, it’s the fact that he can’t protect the virgin innocence of Jane. Yet at this point in the story even Holden doesn’t realize what has enraged him so.
The rest of the chapter deals with Holden’s reaction to his own bloody face. He explains that the sight of so much blood and gore both scared and frightened him. Although he doesn’t understand it himself, the reason he seems to find a morbid fascination in the sight is because subconsciously he sees himself as a martyr for Jane. Deep down he likes the idea of being punished for the sins of Stradlater and Jane.
Chapter 7: Salinger’s seventh chapter serves as a transition from the fight with Stradlater to Holden’s departure from Pencey Prep. After the fight, Holden decides to take refuge in Ackley’s adjoining room next-door. Of course he does this very late at night, so Ackley is already sleeping or at least trying to sleep. Holden wakes him and asks if he can sleep in the bed of Ackley’s roommate. This annoys Ackley, but he doesn’t make Holden leave. Soon Ackley asks Holden about the fight but Holden lies about it, saying that he was defending Ackley’s reputation. Here, as in earlier scenes, Holden seeks the path of least resistance, conforming and adapting his attitude depending on whom he is with.
During the night, Holden asks Ackley, a Catholic, about the requirements to join a monastery. But soon Holden dismisses this notion as silly, since he’d probably join a monastery "with the wrong kind of monks in it." Here, Holden’s lack of self-confidence is again revealed. Soon Holden returns to his dorm to pack his bags when he notices brand-new ice skates that his mother has just sent. This reminds him of home and his parents’ expectations for him, most of which he hasn’t lived up to. He becomes depressed, explaining, "Almost every time somebody gives me a present, it ends up making me sad."
Eventually, Holden leaves the dorm with all his belongings. This is more than a physical departure, but really also psychological one— Holden is attempting to leave his past and embark on his future, hoping to find his place in the world. After exiting the door to the dormitory, he wakes nearly everyone by screaming, "Sleep tight, ya morons!"
Chapter 8: In this chapter, Holden gets on a train to New York city, where he plans to spend a few days in a hotel before going home. During the trip he ends up meeting the mother of one of the "bast***s" he goes to school with at Pencey Prep. In order to protect his identity, Holden lies about his name but decides to "shoot the bull" with her for awhile. One of the ways he shoots the bull is by flattering the woman about her son. Holden tells her how modest and shy her son is, when in fact he thinks of him as one of the most "conceited bast***s" in the whole school. He also lies to her about how sensitive and caring the boy is. Yet Holden admits to the reader, "That guy Morrow was about as sensitive as a toilet seat."
In this way, Morrow’s mother is given an impression of him that is totally contradictory to everything Holden really believes. Yet, like before, Holden is more than willing to sacrifice the truth in exchange for the sense of innocence he tries so hard to preserve. Holden, who sees himself as the catcher in the rye, has made it his number one goal to protect others, even those he doesn’t care for, from the harshness of reality.
Later, in order to escape the invitation of Morrow’s mother to spend a week with them at their summer cottage, Holden says that he’s going on a trip with his grandmother to South America over the summer. This is ironic, he thinks, since his grandmother is the one person in his family who doesn’t go anywhere.
Chapter 9: Salinger’s ninth chapter is uneventful for the most part. It begins as Holden leaves the train station and decides to go to the phone booth to call someone. His only problem is he doesn’t know who to call. He has plenty of people in mind, but in the end he convinces himself that there are too many excuses not to call; for example, Phoebe, his sister, is already in bed. There are many phone calls that never get made in this book. This is not because Holden is shy and doesn’t have the nerve to call anyone; it’s because Holden’s mind is so scrambled with a blur of thoughts and emotions, he has trouble sorting them out and taking decisive action.
In the cab, Holden begins to think about where the ducks from the pond in Central Park go during the winter. He asks the cabdriver but doesn’t get a clear answer. Here, like the kings in the back row, a seemingly insignificant detail still bothers Holden immensely. The reader could even infer that the Central Park ducks mean more to Holden than matters of actual importance, like his future. It’s a stretch, but Salinger could be using the ducks as a metaphor for Holden’s desire to escape, to fly away from the cold winters of his own life.
Once in the hotel, Holden curiously peers through his windows and notices various people in other rooms doing very peculiar things. One man is cross-dressing while another couple nearby is spitting water in each others’ faces. This intrigues Holden but also disgusts him. He shrugs it off, saying the hotel was "full of perverts and morons." Soon Holden gets to thinking about his own social life, and admits, "I’m probably the biggest sex maniac you ever saw." To show this to the reader, Holden calls up a good-looking girl he only vaguely knows and asks her out for a date. She rejects him though, and he acknowledges that he really "fouled it up." Holden, at such a young age, doesn’t yet understand his own sexuality.
Chapter 10: The tenth chapter beings the same way the ninth chapter did: Holden feels like calling Phoebe. Here, Holden begins to talk a little more about Phoebe, his beloved sister. It’s obvious that Holden cares for Phoebe the most out of his family. This makes sense since Allie is dead, D.B. is a phony Hollywood prostitute, and his parents are both phonies. Holden describes Phoebe in his classic second-person dialogue, saying, "You never saw a little kid so pretty and smart in your whole life." Yet Holden is afraid to call Phoebe for fear that his parents may answer the phone and know that he is in New York, kicked out of Pencey Prep.
So, since he’s so bored with nothing to do anyway, Holden decides to go down to the Lavender Room, the hotel nightclub. After being seated, he asks the waiter for a beer, but he questions his age. Acting very annoyed, Holden orders a coca-cola instead. Nearby, he sees three older women sitting by themselves at a table. Holden soon goes over to the table and eventually dances with all three of them, though he seems to despise every minute of his time in their company. All three of the girls, who are tourists from Seattle, are obsessed with movie stars. This especially annoys Holden, since he thinks all movie stars are phonies anyway. When they tell him they have to go back to their room to get some sleep, Holden becomes very "depressed" because they say that in the morning they’re planning to visit Radio City Music Hall— a phony place he despises.
Chapter 16: Salinger’s sixteenth chapter begins with Holden taking a walk. It seems Holden always needs to be engaged in some kind of action in order to think deeply. Holden admits that he can’t stop thinking about the nuns he met. Soon he decides to buy a record for Phoebe called "Little Shirley Beans."
On the walk, Holden passes a small child walking near him and whistling the tune for which the novel is named: "if a body catch a body coming through the rye." At this point in the story Holden isn’t sure of its significance, but subconsciously he likes the song. He admits, "It made me feel better."
Finally, Holden decides to get the play tickets for his date with Sally Hayes, "the queen of phonies." Holden even admits that he doesn’t really care to see the show, but out of boredom, it seems, he reluctantly agrees to it. Soon he gets into his feelings about actors. He says that he hates most of them because they don’t act like real people. Then he says that he even hates the best actors because their egos get in the way of their performances. It seems no one can please Holden.
Holden decides to take a cab up to the park, where he sees a girl roller-skating and asks her if she knows Phoebe. She says yes, and then directs Holden to the Museum of Natural History. But Holden realizes that it’s Sunday and Phoebe wouldn’t be there anyway. Quickly Holden again is captured by a long series of reminisces about how much fun Phoebe and he have had in the museum. He talks about how everything in the museum would be exactly the same each time they went, except he and Phoebe would be different. This concept frightens Holden, who reasons, "Certain things should stay the way they are. You ought to be able to stick them in one of those big glass cases and just leave them alone. I know that’s impossible, but it’s too bad anyway." Here Holden outlines his reluctance and possible inability to accept change.
Chapter 17: This chapter beings with Holden sitting in the lobby, waiting for Sally Hayes to join him for their date. He sees a lot of school girls on a field trip and gets to thinking about who they will eventually marry. He comes to the conclusion that most of them will marry "dopey guys." Holden then proceeds to describe all the kinds of dopey guys— guys who get mad over for the dumbest reasons, guys who never read to their kids, guys who are boring. Once he mentions "boring," he digresses into an instance where a seemingly boring guy he knew actually was kind of cool because he had such a knack for whistling. This strikes the reader as odd, but by this time it’s obvious that Holden is not ‘all there.’
Finally Sally arrives for the date ten minutes late— but Holden doesn’t press the issue. In the cab to the show, Holden tells her he loves her, and he says he really meant it at the time, though not anymore. Holden doesn’t seem to have believed his own daring because he confesses to the reader, "I’m crazy. I swear to God I am."
After the show, the couple goes ice-skating at Radio City. Inside the lounge there, Holden shares his hatred for school with Sally. He does into great detail about how he can’t stand any of the phonies or the cliques there, and soon Sally is overwhelmed. Then Sally is really tipped over the edge when Holden asks her to go into the wilderness out east with him and live in a quaint, log cabin. Soon the two begin arguing and shouting at each other. Sally leaves in a huff when Holden tells her she’s a "royal pain in the ass." Holden dismisses her as being unable to carry on an intelligent conversation and concludes the chapter by admitting he really is "a madman" sometimes.
Chapter 18: As usual, chapter eighteen begins with Holden considering giving Jane a call. Soon he digresses about how unpredictable girls are in general. He cites specific examples from his personal history in which girls thought that the most snobby guys had inferiority complexes and vice-versa. Perhaps all these girls really are hard to understand or perhaps Holden is the one who can’t accurately decipher between a conceited or a humble guy. This is left up to the reader.
Finally Holden really does call Jane but she isn’t home so he calls an old friend from school, Carl Luce, and the two decide to meet at the Wicker Bar for a drink at ten o’clock. Until then, Holden decides to see a movie. As usual, Holden has trouble enjoying the show because he can’t comprehend the idea behind acting. He admits, "It seemed so stupid." Soon Holden is even criticizing the people sitting next to him. He tells about one lady who cried throughout the whole picture. He points out, "The phonier it got, the more she cried." Holden thinks very poorly of this lady when she won’t even take her child to go to the bathroom because she’s so enamored by the show. Holden really can’t stand this (this makes sense since he sees himself as a catcher in the rye— someone who protects small children) and characterizes the woman by saying, "She was about as kindhearted as goddam wolf."
The rest of the chapter is more reminiscing about how D.B. was in the war. Holden says that he could never be in the army because he couldn’t stand to look at the back of a guy’s neck. This makes complete sense, since Holden would rather be looking around at the action, hoping to absorb everything around him. If there’s one thing Holden can’t stand, it’s restraint.
Chapter 19: Salinger’s nineteenth chapter begins with Holden’s first-person description of the Wicker Bar. He characterizes the place as "full of phonies,"-- not an unusual Holden remark. Holden states simply to the reader, "If you sat around there long enough and heard all the phonies applauding and all, you got to hate everybody in the world." Again, Holden can’t stand the arrogance of the performers nor the admiration of the crowd. It seems Holden automatically associates performance with phoniness. Perhaps he’s seen so many phony performers in his lifetime, both at home and school, that he can no longer differentiate between the phony and the authentic.
The rest of the chapter seems unimportant at first glance, but going deeper, there are a few points worth mentioning. First, Holden’s conversation with Luce (a former schoolmate and older graduate student) proves two things. First, it proves that Holden desperately wants to impress Luce with his maturity. He talks about standing up to meet him to show how tall he has grown. Second, it proves that Holden is still unable to find self-confidence due to his lack of maturity. Luce tells this to Holden when explaining why the boy has such a "lousy sex life." Luce, a junior psychoanalyst of sorts, tells Holden that his body is not fully functional because his mind is immature. This, though seemingly accurate, only serves to confuse Holden more about his role in society. Again, the reader sees that Holden is really searching, but can’t find, positive adult role models.
Chapter 20: This chapter begins with Holden’s admission of being "drunk as hell" at the Wicker Bar. It seems that the boy is becoming increasingly desperate and full of despair and self-contempt. Soon Holden begins hallucinating again about being shot in the stomach and having his guts hanging out on the floor. This is similar to what he imagined after being beat up by the pimp from the elevator earlier in the trip. Eventually Holden decides to call Sally, despite it being the middle of the night. He tells her in his drunken gibberish that he is planning on lighting the Christmas Tree with her on Christmas Eve. It seems Holden has hit a new low. He admits, "...I was feeling so damn depressed and lonesome." Walking aimlessly into the street, Holden drops Phoebe’s record and it breaks into pieces. It seems this record is a metaphor for Holden’s life in general now.
Soon Holden starts to daydream about the cemetery in which Allie is buried. He dislikes it, saying that Allie is surrounded by a "bunch of dead guys." To Holden, at least, Allie is very much alive; perhaps this explains his confusion. Holden asserts that it isn’t fair how Allie has to stay in the grave while everyone else has the freedom to leave whenever they please. Holden even dares to consider his own death, and decides that Phoebe would feel sad. Phoebe seems to be the only one who cares for Holden.
Holden: narrator and main character; adolescent young boy, age sixteen, who searches for people and things which aren’t phony; envisions himself as a "catcher in the rye" who saves small children from death; throughout the story Holden attempts to preserve the innocence and genuineness of life, though his mental sickness prevents him from separating good from evil.
Phoebe: Holden’s 10-year-old sister who he loves very much because she represents all that is not phony in the world; she is able to articulate Holden’s beliefs better than he can himself.
Allie: Holden’s beloved brother was died of leukemia before the story began; he also represents all that is genuine and not phony; Holden sees him as the role model of the perfect human because he was nice to everyone he ever met.
D.B.: Holden’s older brother who has sold out to Hollywood as a prostitute; he’s also a phony; Holden admires him in a way but not nearly as much as he admires Allie.
Parents: Holden’s mother and father represent what he considers phony; he never has a conversation with them throughout the book and tries to avoid them as much as possible.
Mr. Spencer: Holden’s history teacher who he admires and then feels sorry for after he visits him at his home; Holden realizes that Mr. Spencer is just a pathetic old man who he can no longer relate to; this begins to show Holden’s lack of positive adult role models.
Mr. Antolini: Holden’s English teacher who respects and believes he can always turn to for help; this illusion is shattered when he suspects that Mr. Antolini is coming on to him; this serves to further confuse Holden.
Ackley: friend from Pencey Prep.; described as a pimply guy who never goes out and has few friends; Holden feels sorry for him even and is nice to him though he really doesn’t like him much.
Stradlater: Holden’s Prencey Prep. roommate; when Holden questions Stradlater about having sex with Jane Gallagher, he punches Holden.
Sally Hayes: a good-looking yet unintelligent girl who Holden goes to a play with; she repesents middle class values about success and happiness.
Jane Galangher: Holden’s childhood friend who always kept here kings in the back row in checkers.
James Castle: student at Holden’s school who commits suicide instead of giving in to the bully he called conceited; Holden admires this boy more being a martyr for justice.
Holden’s hunting hat: represents Holden’s isolation from society; he loves this hat because it symbolizes his independence from others; the hat, like Holden, is out of place in such a big city as New York; Holden sees himself as the catcher in the rye when he wears this hat; he tries to articulate this when he says to Ackley, "I shoot people in this hat." The hat also helps Holden identify himself as a martyr for innocence, since he is often ridiculed for wearing it. As the story progresses, Holden becomes more and more attached to his hat, demonstrating his growing commitment to his fantasy of being the catcher in the rye.
New York City: this setting of the story is very fitting because like Holden, the city is constantly changing and transforming, learning new things and finding new experiences; Holden’s mind is like the city— always absorbing new experiences but never being able to come to any rational conclusion about them.
Kings in the back row: the concept that Jane would always put her kings in the back row is very fascinating to Holden; throughout the story Holden continually references this childhood fascination; the kings show how Holden can’t separate his past from his present; though consumed with many adult ideas, Holden is still captivated with the concept of the kings.
J. D. Salinger presents an image of an atypical adolescent boy in The Catcher in the Rye. Holden is much more than a troubled teen going through "a phase." Indeed Holden is a very special boy with special needs. He doesn’t understand and doesn’t wish to understand the world around him. In fact most of the book details his guilty admissions of all the knowledge he knows but wishes he didn’t. Though his innocence regarding issues of school, money, and sexuality has already been lost, he still hopes to protect others from knowing about these adult subjects.
Holden, unlike the usual fictional teenager, doesn’t express normal rebellion. He distrusts his teachers and parents not because he wants to separate himself from them, but because he can’t understand them. In fact there is little in the world that he does understand. The only people he trusts and respects are Allie, his deceased brother, and Phoebe, his younger sister. Everyone else is a phony of some sort. Holden uses the word phony to identify everything in the world which he rejects. He rejects his roommate Stradlater because Stradlater doesn’t value the memories so dear to Holden (Allie’s baseball glove and Jane’s kings in the back row). Even Ernie, the piano player, is phony because he’s too skillful. Holden automatically associates skill with arrogance (from past experiences no doubt) and thus can’t separate the two. Even Holden’s most trusted teacher, Mr. Antolini, proves to be a phony when he attempts to fondle Holden. Thus the poor boy is left with a cluster of memories, some good but most bad.
Yet because of these memories, Holden has developed the unique ability to speak candidly (though not articulately) about the people he meets. Though he seems very skeptical about the world, he is really just bewildered. His vocabulary often makes him seem hard, but in fact he is a very weak-willed individual. Holden has no concept of pain, and often likes to see himself as a martyr for a worthy cause. This is proven after the fight with Maurice, after which he imagines his guts spilling out on the floor.
The end of the book demonstrates significant growth on the part of Holden. Although at first Holden is quick to condemn those around him as phony (like Stradlater and Ackley), his more recent encounters with others prove that he is becoming more tolerant and less judgmental. This is evidenced after the ordeal with Mr. Antolini, where Holden is determined not to make any conclusions about his teacher. This growth contributes to Holden’s fantasy of being a catcher in the rye. Despite his inability and fear of becoming an adult, he has found his role in keeping the innocence of other children protected. This is shown when he tries to scratch out the obscenities at Phoebe’s elementary school. He imagines himself on a cliff, catching innocent children (like himself at one time) who accidently fall off the cliff, bridging the gap between childhood and adulthood.
Holden, like the typical banana-fish, simply absorbs all experiences, good and bad, adding them to his own knowledge base. Really the poor teenager is so confused about what he should do, he simply regresses socially, hoping to escape the tough choices of adulthood by keeping others from them.
Jerome David Salinger was born in 1919 on New Year’s Day. Growing up in New York City, he soon learned all about the bustle of the city. His parents were Sol Salinger, a wealthy ham importer, and Miriam Salinger. Salinger attended New York public high school and was considered an average student in most subjects. Most of his teachers found him to be a shy, polite, introverted boy. Much like his character Holden who daydreams about returning to Maine’s wilderness, Salinger spent much of his time during the summer in Maine. Also much like Holden, he flunked out of the first private school he attended— McBurney. Later, he enrolled in Valley Forge Military Academy and graduated in 1936. Soon he began to write, despite his father’s efforts to teach him the business of importing. Salinger was drafted by the United States Army in 1942 where he specialized in counter-intelligence. In 1944 he stormed Normandy with the other allies during D-Day. Soon after returning from the war, Salinger began to isolate himself more and more from society. He married in 1955 and has two children. Salinger’s continued withdrawal from society has continued and today he is virtually unknown outside of the world of literature.