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Catcher in the Rye: Loss of Innocence

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The catcher in the rye, by J.D. Salinger, is one of the most taught and studied books in high school. The novel is a flashback about Holden Caulfield's life, who is a sensitive and confused 16-year old that gets expelled from prep school and goes on to struggle to find himself, his future, and happiness. Holden Caulfield, the most well-known anti-hero, is terrified of loss and change because of the death of his brother Allie.

Holden lost his brother Allie from Leukemia and it has changed Holden completely, causing him to fear himself to grow attachments to people, making it terribly difficult for him to make and keep friends and also has a hard time with the thought of growing up. “The best thing, though, in that museum was that everything always stayed right where it was. Nobody’d move. . . . Nobody’d be different. The only thing that would be different would be you.” (Salinger 157). This evidence shows how much hatred he had towards change because of so much change that happened to him in the past. The museum represents Holden's ideal world he would like to be living in, with no change and no loss of innocence in others. One of the only people Holden seems to care about is his sister Phoebe and almost seems to look up to her. “You’d like her. I mean if you tell old Phoebe something, she knows exactly what the hell you’re talking about. I mean you can even take her anywhere with you. If you take her to a lousy movie, for instance, she knows it’s a lousy movie. If you take her to a pretty good movie, she knows it’s a pretty good movie.” (Salinger 88). Holden's words in this quote truly show how much he cares about Phoebe and how much she means to him considering he never talks about anyone like this. Phoebe is one of the people in the novel Holden can truly connect with, and her being able to understand him as a person as she says in chapter 22 “You don’t like anything that’s happening.” (Salinger 220). Although he resents what she says at first, he realizes that she is right, with Phoebe being one of the only people Holden actually listens to.

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Holden has relations to the character, Esther, from The Bell Jar as they go through similar struggles in different novels. The Bell Jar is well known as the female version of The Catcher In The Rye considering they both have gone through similar struggles such as loss, alienation, and failure. The loss they both went through, Esther being her father, and Holden being his brother Allie, had negatively impacted them both greatly, and learning this about both characters really gives the reader a better understanding of both of their mental deterioration and struggle throughout their lives. They relate within alienation because of feeling like they're out of the box from society and rebelling against society as well. The relation between Esther and Holden with failure is a little different. Although they both struggled with failure they were both different types of failure. Esther was a straight-A student and Holden flunked out of Pency Prep, they both received lectures from their mentors but both seemed to tune them out. Esther is from her editor at Ladies Day, Jay Cee, and Holdens being Mr. Antolini.

Mr. Antolini's speech was very important for Holden to listen to as Mr. Antolini speaks to Holden openly as if he were an adult and makes sure to not talk down to him. “This fall I think you're riding for it's a special kind of fall, a horrible kind. The man falling isn't permitted to feel or hear himself hit bottom. He just keeps falling and falling.” (Salinger 243). Mr. Antolini addresses this to Holden because he fears Holden is falling down a path for a sort of psychological breakdown. 

Works cited

  1. Salinger, J. D. (1951). The Catcher in the Rye. Little, Brown, and Company.
  2. Bloom, H. (Ed.). (2010). J.D. Salinger's The Catcher in the Rye (Updated Edition). Infobase Publishing.
  3. Bickmore, B. R. (2008). Holden at Sixteen: The Catcher in the Rye and Adolescent Development. In A Reader's Companion to J.D. Salinger's The Catcher in the Rye (pp. 25-46). Peter Lang.
  4. French, W. (Ed.). (2000). The Catcher in the Rye: New Essays. Peter Lang.
  5. Kallen, S. A. (Ed.). (2008). J.D. Salinger's The Catcher in the Rye. Greenhaven Press.
  6. Wegs, J. R. (Ed.). (2007). The Catcher in the Rye: Innocence under Pressure. Twayne Publishers.
  7. Hamilton, I. (2001). Cults of death and the American novel: The Catcher in the Rye and On the Road. Rodopi.
  8. Baskett, S. (2007). Understanding The Catcher in the Rye: A Student Casebook to Issues, Sources, and Historical Documents. Greenwood Publishing Group.
  9. Barra, A. (2013). Salinger: A Biography. Simon and Schuster.
  10. Martin, R. (2002). The Bell Jar: A Novel of the Fifties. Twayne Publishers.

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