Wed. Jul 24th, 2024

Holden Caulfield: Rejecting Adulthood

The Catcher in the Rye tells a quest for Holden Caulfield, the protagonist, in getting a connection. The story follows him through dozens of small and large encounters. He will meet former classmates, pimps, tourists, and nuns. The book tells the story of the protagonist who tries to get along with other people. Even though it failed, it caused him to fear maturity. Therefore, he strongly adhered to his ideal views from childhood.

He always failed in every attempt. Often, he adopts a self-protective coating of disgust against the world. However, he also has little awareness of his influence on others. Thus, he always refuses to conform to the norms of society. Holden is quick to ignore the world of adults as well as the individual in general. Seeing it as a sham, his meetings with other people are generally not always messy.

It is because he stays away and rejects other people. When they fall apart because he behaves immaturely, they also indulge in odd behavior when Holden makes inappropriate choices. In the end, other people became confused and even angry at him. His refusal to enter the adult world always fails, resulting in a complete breakdown in himself.

From Present Tense to Past Tense

By going through the framing device of Holden’s recovery in what appears to be an asylum, J. D. Salinger raises the tension of how Holden ended up there. The incident that triggers the big event in The Catcher in the Rye occurs when Stradlater is dating Jane. He declined to say whether he had sex with her. Holden switches to a past tense retrospective after a brief introduction to the present tense.

In his last days at Pencey Prep, he had long felt affection for Jane. So Stradlater’s date with Jane sparked some jealousy. While Jane and Stradlater could have had more sex than Holden could take, he would also know them all too well. The idea that Jane could fall in love with Stradlater, whom he saw as a paragon of virtue, Holden corrupted. He was annoyed too because his predatory roommate had “ruined” an important part of his past.

On the other hand, he contradicts their concept, showing that he doesn’t know anyone as well as he thinks. His attempts at intercourse were doomed to failure, unable to do anything about the situation. Consequently, he decides to leave school at night to take a train to New York City.

Sexual Relations

Holden has always believed that sex should be an act of intimacy. He is ashamed of his ability to be sexually attracted to women with whom he does not feel a real connection. When he visits his sister, Phoebe, she involves him in trying to have sexual relations with someone else. She found someone to explain sex to her. However, he invited his mother’s classmate for a drink. As well as hailing a woman he believes to be a stripper, he dances with older female tourists.

The woman also stayed at his hotel while arranging for a prostitute to come to his room. Despite trying to convince the suitor’s assistant to go with him, he proposes to almost every woman he meets. Most are also much older than him. His search for sexual knowledge culminated in his drinking with Carl Luce. According to Holden, it can illuminate the relationship between the spiritual and physical aspects of sexuality.

However, Carl has always been confused about Holden’s sexuality. He undermines his authority in heterosexual relationships, becoming uncomfortable when Holden asks him about the role of intimacy in sex. Therefore, he shows that Holden is not alone in his confusion as he believes.

Illuminating Holden’s Fantasy

In the climax, Holden visits Phoebe. She is angry because the school expelled him. She confronts him about why he doesn’t like anything and immediately says that she likes his sister Allie. However, she points out that Allie is dead, reminiscing about a horrific incident from the prep school. In the incident, a boy named James Castle jumped out of a window to his death. Holden identified with James, borrowing his turtleneck until he put it on when he died.

Holden explains to Phoebe his fantasy of being the “catcher in the rye.” It is a figure that catches children and will plunge from an imaginary cliff to their “death”. The fantasy illuminates a turning point for Holden where in Holden’s need, he only seeks to protect his childhood “fantasy” from the destruction of the adult world. On the other hand, Phoebe questions Holden’s entire belief system.

She implies that Holden was wrong about both the world of adulthood and childhood, correcting his misunderstanding of the words of the poem. When he continues his efforts to delay adulthood, he goes to meet Mr. Antolini. He is an adult who shows compassion and courage after James’ death, depicting a misanthropic future for Holden.

In Limbo

Mr. Antolini is unable to adjust to Holden, continuing the impression that he is in limbo. In short, Holden lived through an unrealistic childhood with the unpleasant realities of adulthood. Indeed, in Holden’s mind, Mr. Antolini is a predator. However, his plans to escape from his life were shattered when Phoebe insisted on going with him. Calmly, he watches Phoebe ride the merry-go-round at the end of the story.

In the innocence of a small child, but when adulthood threatens him, he, in the present tense, offers hope. The hope is truly transformational, being able to enroll himself in further education. Readers could say that The Catcher in the Rye is a bildungsroman. It is a novel about the growth of a young character towards maturity, although it is appropriate to discuss the book in such terms.

In the book, Holden is an unusual protagonist for a bildungsroman story. It is because his main goal is to reject the process of maturity itself. He was afraid of change and the complexity that covered him. In essence, he just wants everything to be easy for him to fix and understand forever. On the other hand, he is afraid of the guilt he has for the sins he criticizes in others.

The Fear of Maturity

It is because Holden cannot understand everything around him. However, he refuses to admit the fear, expressing it when he talks about sex and assumes that he cannot understand it. In short, Holden creates a fantasy about adulthood. For him, maturity is a world of hypocrisy and superficiality. Instead of admitting that adulthood left him confused but scared, for him, childhood was a world of honesty and curiosity.

Vividly, he imagined childhood as a beautiful wheat field where children frolicked. Nothing expresses his image of two worlds better than his fantasy of the catcher in the rye. For children, adulthood is tantamount to death, which is a fatal fall from a cliff. Holden creates an understanding of adulthood and childhood, separating himself from the world by covering himself with cynicism.

As time goes by, he also reveals a shallow conception of his fantasy, especially when he meets Mr. Antolini. Holden becomes a victim of the world around him, throughout the novel, feeling trapped on the other side of life. He kept trying to find his way in a world that he didn’t feel belonged to him. When he begins to understand that Holden’s alienation is his way of protecting himself, much like he wears a hunting hat to show his “uniqueness,” he uses his alienation as proof.

Stigmatizing Comfortability

The bottom line, Holden was better than anyone else around him. Because he doesn’t interact with other people, his interactions always confuse and overwhelm him. His cynical sense of superiority serves as a kind of self-protection. However, his estrangement becomes the source of the little stability he has in his life. When it comes to Holden’s cure, someone else has to give him a fake adult infectious disease.

On the other hand, the expression Stockholm syndrome shows that Holden’s typical defense of the 50s is nothing more than a way of stigmatizing the reader. It is because it is insensitive yet rigid to the extraordinary spirit. It is also not surprising when examples of the familiar or complicated difficulties of youth add up to an implication about the vulgarity or insensitivity of contemporary life.

In another view, Holden is in whatever degree of mental disorder he has. In the atmosphere of popular culture, the feeling that Holden is finally normal coexists comfortably. The idea that he is psychologically afflicted with an illness suggests that most readers are inclined to accept Holden’s evaluation of the world as false. His attitude became a symptom of a serious psychological problem.

Instead of treating the book as a narrative of an innocent young man who rebelled, he tries to show that his rebellion becomes an excuse for his inability to come to terms with his brother’s death.


One of Holden’s favorite concepts is phoniness, a catch in portraying the shallowness, hypocrisy, and affectation he encounters in the world around him. Before he reveals his fantasy about catchers in the rye, he explains that the adults must be fake. According to Holden, they can’t see their fake. Falsehood stands as a symbol of error in the world around him. It gave him reason to withdraw into his cynical isolation.

Despite being overly simplistic, his observations are also not wholly inaccurate, can be a very insightful narrator, and are aware of the superficial behavior of those around him. Holden’s alienation causes most of his pain, never addressing his own emotions directly. He also doesn’t try to find the source of his problems, needing love or human contact. However, a wall of bitterness prevented him from seeking such interaction.

When estrangement becomes both a source of Holden’s strength and a source of problems, the way he drives his loneliness is to date, Sally. However, his need for isolation causes him to both expel and humiliate her. The point is, he just spends so much energy looking for a fake in other people. Apart from never directly observing his duplicity, his deception is pointless.

The Psychological Perspective

Despite Holden wanting to believe that the world is a simple place, he is counter-proof himself. He cannot adhere to the same black-and-white standards by which he criticizes others. Briefly, his self-punishment refers to his guilt over Allie’s death. It caused his real loss in the rejection of his parents. He experienced sorrow and emptiness and became part of all sorrow. He also mourns his childhood, burying Allie before he can transition into adulthood.

By becoming his need in lamenting other elements of his past, it drives Holden toward destruction. However, it always makes him able to recognize his experiences. When mourning is only one of the two main psychological experiences of Holden’s youthful stages, he is unable to move on from grief. He was unable to begin the falling in love part of his growing-up process. In Holden’s arrest, the reader understands that the rye fantasy contains a moratorium idea.

When children fall off a cliff symbolizing their fall into adulthood, Holden imagines himself saving them even as he is about to spare himself. From a psychological point of view, the catcher combines elements from mourning to falling in love. Holden watches as the children trace the tropes of the unconscious that lead to death and love.


In one moment, Holden observes with pleasure and empathy the couple and their playful child. It connects his members with a series of underdogs, keeps him interested, and extends to characters in books and films. When he observes the child, the child is a kind of outcast in the family itself. In Holden’s mind, he categorizes people into two groups. Some don’t care about appearances and those who do.

Those who belong to the category that cares to insult him as phonies have the privilege of seeing personality. Feeling such people surround him, he said that his mother worked hard to develop her extraordinary taste. On the other hand, her aunt loves the splendor of her charity work. Stradlater also, for Holden himself, exemplifies the void of appearances, explaining that while Stradlater is always good on the outside, he is a mess.

Thus, he saw himself as someone who prioritized substance over style. For example, he insists that he doesn’t care about his appearance. At one point, his self-consciousness about putting the flap on his hunting hat reveals that he secretly cares about his appearance. Such confusion about appearance presents a society between wrong and right. When Holden’s extended youth moratorium must be ended, it was wrong to fire him as a confused teenager.

Coping with Alienation

The reason is simple: Holden is undergoing a special combination of types of mourning, whether for his parents, childhood, or Allie. He mourned his sensitivities in a creative way, a normal part of being a teenager. Holden is fallible and right as well, sometimes having great insight into his world but suffering from skewed judgment. In such a turn, they tend to overestimate Holden’s insight.

On the other hand, it treats Holden’s psychological breakdown as more normal than abnormal. However, the extreme thresholds of the juvenile disorder can be an alienation in approaching what adult psychosis diagnoses. By being a phase that can end normally, Holden represents the extreme. However, readers feel that Holden still relates to common experiences. To conclude, when readers judge Holden’s sanity or his status as a social critic, it shows that anyone wants to have an informed view of Holden.


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