Portrayal of Holden Caulfield in 2009 Term Paper

Excerpt from Term Paper :

Catcher in the Rye by JD Salinger. Specifically it will portray main character Holden Caulfield in 2009. "Catcher in the Rye" is a coming of age story about a young man on a quest to find himself. By the end of the novel, Holden Caulfield has endured freedom, madness, and death, and yet he finally matures enough to manage as an adult. Ultimately, Holden is a cynic who views the world and the people in it with a negative eye. In 2009, it seems Holden would only have a lot more to be cynical about and view negatively.

Salinger wrote this controversial book in 1951, and Holden was 16 in the book. That would make him 74 today. Throughout the book, he proves that he has a negative, cynical view of life. For example, at the beginning of the book, he is critical of the expensive prep school that has just expelled him. He sarcastically notes while he stands watching a school football game, "The more expensive a school is, the more crooks it has -- I'm not kidding" (Salinger 4). Later, one of his teachers tells him, "Life is a game, boy. Life is a game that one plays according to the rules'" (Salinger 8). This starts Holden's thinking that he cannot win this complicated game of life, because he will not play by the rules. However, in 2009, Holden has realized that to survive in life, you have to play by the rules, and he has, compromising his early principles, but ensuring he fit in and survived the game of life. He has a wife, children, grandchildren, a nice home, and all the trappings of a successful man, but like his younger days, he is still not happy, because he has compromised his beliefs to make it happen.

At the very end of the book, Holden admits that he is "missing everyone," and that indicates that he has given up some of his cynicism and need for alienation, which allows him to move through life more successfully. He ponders, "Don't ever tell anybody anything. If you do, you start missing everybody'" (Salinger 214), and this makes it clear his recovery is almost complete, because he learned the ways of the world and knows how to survive. One of his teachers gives him advice about that. He says, "The mark of the immature man is that he wants to die nobly for a cause, while the mark of the mature man is that he wants to live humbly for one'" (Salinger 188). Holden has to learn to live humbly, and after his experience in the mental hospital, it seems that came about.

Throughout his life, he has had difficultly losing his cynicism, and things happening around him helped him maintain his cynicism. He still sees thing negatively, and thinks most people are "phony," but he still maintains a close relationship with Phoebe and her family, she is one of the few people he trusts. He trusts his own family of course, and his wife, and he is protective of his children, just as he has always been protective of children. He says, "And I'm standing on the edge of some crazy cliff. 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. That's all I'd do all day. I'd just be the catcher in the rye and all" (Salinger 173). He has always been overprotective of his children, and he carries that tradition on with his grandchildren, which amuses and annoys his kids at the same time.

One of the things that mark Holden's early life is loneliness. Two critics write, "Meanwhile Holden keeps plucking the string marked loneliness, observing that an act as presumably simple as looking out a window can make one feel lonesome and even suicidal" (Pinsker, and Pinsker 14). As an old man, Holden is a widower, so even though he has family, he has returned to his state of loneliness. He spends most of his time alone, and he remains aloof from most close relationships. His neighbors tend to stay away from him because they think of him as a cranky old man, and he has not developed enough really close relationships to have truly close friends that care for him.


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