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Catcher in the Rye Loss of Innocence

Example 1

In JD Salingers’ Catcher in the Rye, a troubled teenager named Holden Caufield struggles with the fact that everyone has to grow up. The book gets its title from Holden’s constant concern with the loss of innocence. He did not want children to grow up because he felt that adults are corrupt. This is seen when Holden tries to erase naughty words from the walls of an elementary school where his younger sister Phoebe attended. “While I was sitting down, I saw something that drove me crazy. Somebody’d written ‘Fuck you’ on the wall. It drove me damn near crazy. I thought how Phoebe and all the other little kids would see it, and how they’d wonder what the hell it meant, and then finally some dirty kid would tell them- all cockeyed, naturally- what it meant, and how they’d all think about it and maybe even worry about it for a couple of days. I kept wanting to kill whoever’d written it.

I figured it was some pervert bum that’d sneaked in the school late at night to take a leak or something and then wrote it on the wall. I kept picturing myself catching him at it, and how I’d smash his head on the stone steps till hew as good and goddam dead and bloody.” (201) His deep concern with impeccability caused him to create stereotypes of a hooligan that would try to corrupt the children of an elementary school. Holden believed that children were innocent because they viewed the world and society without any bias. When Phoebe asked him to name something that he would like to be when he grew up, the only thing he would have liked to be was a “catcher in the rye.” He invented an illusion for himself of strange fantasy. He stated that he would like to follow a poem by Robert Burns: “If a body catches a body comin’ through the rye.” He kept “picturing all these little kids playing some game in this big field of rye and all. Thousands of little kids and nobody’s around- nobody big, I mean- except me. 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. I know it’s crazy, but that’s the only thing I’d really like to be.” (173) Holden wants to stop children from “falling” into losing their innocence and becoming an adult, and he takes pleasure in the attempted thwarting of maturation.

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At the beginning of Catcher in the Rye, his initial character is one of a child. Throughout the book, he takes steps and the forces of change take a toll on his childish ways. In the end, he seems to be changed into a man. Holden is definitely extremely immature at the beginning of the book. He characterizes almost every person he meets as a “phony”. He feels that he is surrounded by hypocrites in a school filled with fakery. Principal Thurmer, the principal of Holden’s high school, Pencey, was the leader of the whole charade. During a teacher/parent day, Principal Thurmer would only say hello to the wealthy parents of students. He would not associate himself with those that were not financially stable, because he was a phony.

Holden also maintains a lack of responsibility throughout the whole book. He was the equipment manager of the fencing team at Pencey, but he lost the equipment on the subway. He also failed out of two schools for lack of effort and absences from classes. Holden also had a daydream about two children who never grew up, whore main in a perfect world forever. This daydream is a result of his younger brother Allie’s death. Allie represents the unchangeable youth of which Holden must let go if he ever expects to maintain sanity. Holden has a fixation on childhood, which shows itself in many forms. His glorification of children, inordinate admiration of Phoebe, idealization of his dead younger brother, and the joy he gets from reminiscing about his own childhood all contribute to his obsession with innocence and youth.

Throughout the middle of the book, forces of change unfold on Holden. While waiting for an old friend of his, he had the sudden urge to go into a museum that he had visited while still a child in school in order to bring back memories of his childhood. However, when he finally reached the museum, he decided not to. “Then a funny thing happened. When I got to the museum, all of a sudden I wouldn’t have gone inside for a million bucks. It just didn’t appeal to me…” (122) This shows that Holden is becoming an adult. He did not want to enter the museum because he realized that he was too old to take part in such an activity. When he takes Phoebe to a carousel later in the book, he decided not to ride on it, or even stand on it during a rainstorm, because he felt “too old” to get on. Holden also had another one of his childish fantasies for his future. He wanted to go and be a deaf-mute somewhere in the west, so he wouldn’t have to deal with all the phonies and hypocrites of everyday life. Phoebe told him that she wanted to go along with him, but he denies her of this because of his growing responsibility and metamorphosis as an adult. He told her, “I’m not going away anywhere. I changed my mind.” (207)

At the end of the book, Holden seems to be much more mature. His key step was when he did not ride with Phoebe on the carrousel. Holden only watched his sister ride along. In the center of the carousel, there was a gold ring. The children riding on the carousel would reach for the gold ring in order to win a prize. “All the kids kept trying to grab for the gold ring, and so was old Phoebe, and I was sort of afraid she’d fall off the goddam horse, but I didn’t say anything or do anything. The thing with kids is, if they want to grab for the gold ring, you have to let them do it, and not say anything.

If they fall off, they fall off, but it’s bad if you say anything to them.”(211) This carousel symbolizes life and the constant journey of childhood into adulthood. Children would sometimes fall when striving to reach the gold ring in the center of life, or their complete success or adulthood. Holden would have yelled out to the children that it was dangerous to try to achieve this goal, but he realized in this anagnorisis that the children should go along the path of life by themselves.

Throughout the book, Holden tried to save all children from growing up and losing their innocence. When he realized that he could not achieve this goal, he had a nervous breakdown and could not deal with it. However, it is an inevitable fact that everyone has to grow up.

 

Example 2

Jerome David Salinger, born in New York City on January 1, 1919, may not have written many novels in which he is recognized for. Although, he did write one novel, which brought him fame. In many of Salinger’s short stories and especially his most well-known novel he writes about how the main character falls from his or her own innocence then rises to face their challenges. In J.D. Salinger’s, Catcher in the Rye, Holden Caulfield goes through a fall from his innocence throughout his journey to his safe haven, home.

One example of when Holden fell from his own innocence is when he is in the room with Phoebe and he can’t name anything he likes. Holden reacts to this question by saying, “Boy, she was depressing me”(Salinger 169). The only three things he can name that he liked were Allie, James Castle, and sitting there chewing the fat with Phoebe. The reason this is a time when Holden falls is that he gets really depressed when he can barely think of anything he liked. The reason I think Holden gets so depressed is because two of the people he names are dead. That’s why he is so lonely all the time. Holden finds things in common with Allie and James Castle and since they’re both dead he feels, in the back of his mind, that he should also be dead which makes him depressed.

Another example of a fall for Holden is when he realizes he can’t erase even half the “fuck you’s” in the world. This doesn’t sound very important, but it is symbolic because he realizes that he can not be the catcher in the rye. His dream of shielding all the innocent children from society’s harsh elements has been ruined by this one statement. Now because of this realization, he comes to the conclusion that he can not shield everybody, not even half of everybody. An example of Holden trying to be the catcher in the rye is when Holden first sees the “fuck you” on the wall. Holden said, “It drove me damn near crazy. I thought how Phoebe and all the other kids would see it, and how they’d wonder what the hell it meant, and then finally some dirty kid would tell them- all cockeyed, naturally what it meant, and how they’d think about it even worry about it for a couple of days. I kept wanting to kill whoever’d written it”.(Salinger 201)

Holden’s final fall comes when he is in the Egyptian Tomb in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. When Holden is deep within the Egyptian Tomb he feels he is in a safe and sanitary place free from society’s cruel components until he sees the “fuck you” on the wall. When he sees this he starts to think about committing suicide because he feels like living is just a waste. During this time he spent in the tomb he decides on life or death. After going unconscious for a couple of minutes he decides to live because “Death thus becomes not a gesture of defiance but of surrender”(Miller 17). Once Holden wakes up he feels better and symbolically chooses life. This is when Holden begins to rise. When Phoebe is on the carousel Holden wants to protect her but restrains himself, “The thing is with kids is, if they want to grab for the gold ring, you have to let them do it, and not say anything. If they fall off, they fall off, but it’s bad to say anything to them”(Miller 17-18)When Holden says this his dreams of being a catcher in the rye vanish. He realizes that all children must fall, as he himself did.

In conclusion, The Catcher in the Rye is a story of a boy falling from innocence to enter adulthood. An example of J.D. Salinger using symbolism to show Holden’s Holding on to his childhood is in his name, Holden(Hold On). This is referring to Holden not wanting to enter society and all its phonies. Today, when somebody holds on to their innocence they are often considered outcasts; and in the person’s mind everyone who considers him this, is a phony, like how Holden saw everyone.

After Holden Caulfield returns to his native New York and rents a room in a sleazy hotel, he makes a date with Sally Hayes. Before this date, Holden finds himself wandering the streets of the naked city. He is feeling depressed and finds himself on Broadway trying to purchase a record for his sister.

After making this purchase, Holden notices a poor family walking in front of him. This unit is composed of a father, mother, and “little kid.” Holden notices the child who is walking in a straight line in the street and humming a tune to himself. Holden approaches him to determine the tune he is singing. This tune is “If a Body Catch a Body Coming Through the Rye.”Holden finds it amusing that the child is strutting quite literally on Broadway and is so care-free. He notices cars screeching and honking all over the place, and yet the child proceeds. The child’s happy disposition seems to encourage Holden’s vitality. It gripped Holden that the child was singing with “a pretty little voice…just for the hell of it” and brightened him up. A deeper interpretation of this scene would dictate that the child represents Holden’s own personality and life. Holden is defiantly singing his own tune just for the hell of it and like the child, seems to have no regard for his own well-being. At this point, Holden may see a side in himself that is care-free and this lightens his depression.

 

Example 3

The Catcher in the Rye is a book by J. D. Salinger and the story of a boy named Holden Caufield. He is no longer innocent but exposed to the world. Phoebe, Holden’s sister, is the opposite she is quite the innocent, never really being exposed to the world outside her protective bubble. Holden wants to protect such precious innocence only found in the children as a guardian of the innocent a catcher in the rye.

The Catcher in the Rye is fundamentally a book about innocence. This book shows people of two different parties, the innocent (not tainted by the world) and the experienced (both good and evil), in their daily life and work. These innocents include Sally Hayes and Phoebe. Sally belies the world is a big party (or a social occasion), everyone likes her, and that the fun will never end. Phoebe, Holden’s younger sister, is innocent just not quite as naive as Sally. It is clear that she is young and innocent, because of the odd things she does like constantly changing her middle name or paying for belching lessons, this she states towards the end of their conversation. One who is hardened by and to the world would not take lessons in belching.

A catcher in the rye is a defender or a guardian of the innocent. The idea and the name are purely symbolic. The meaning is as the children are running through the rye they do not see the cliffs ahead and the plummet they will make. When they make this “fall” they lose their child-like innocence. This fall could be related to a moral dilemma like maybe the city in the raw. Where he/she would be exposed to prostitution, drunkenness, and maybe drugs.

Holden Caufield sees himself ruined and tainted by the world. He has failed out of school, drinks, and smokes. His attitude is it is too late for me. But, there is a ray of hope in his life; he feels it is his duty to save other children from the world as a catcher in the rye. He talks to people about his ideas, people like Carl Luce. Carl just blows it off. Holden truly believes his calling in life is to save them from falling and turn them around.

Holden seems destined to be a social worker or a speaker who travels to schools. To the children, he must not seem far from the $5 burial speaker in the beginning of the book. But, Catcher in the Rye is truly a tragic story of innocence lost and will remain controversial and insightful for decades to come.

 

Example 4

In J.D. Salinger’s, Catcher in the Rye, Holden Caulfield goes through a fall from his innocence throughout his journey to his safe haven, home.

One example of when Holden fell from his own innocence is when he is in the room with Phoebe and he can’t name anything he likes. Holden reacts to this question by saying, “Boy, she was depressing me”(Salinger 169). The only three things he can name that he liked were Allie, James Castle, and sitting there chewing the fat with Phoebe. The reason this is a time when Holden falls is that he gets really depressed when he can barely think of anything he liked. The reason I think Holden gets so depressed is that two of the people he names are dead. That’s why he is so lonely all the time. Holden finds things in common with Allie and James Castle and since they’re both dead he feels, in the back of his mind, that he should also be dead which makes him depressed.

Another example of a fall for Holden is when he realizes he can’t erase even half the “fuck you’s” in the world. This doesn’t sound very important, but it is symbolic because he realizes that he can not be the catcher in the rye. His dream of shielding all the innocent children from society’s harsh elements has been ruined by this one statement. Now because of this realization, he comes to the conclusion that he can not shield everybody, not even half of everybody. An example of Holden trying to be the catcher in the rye is when Holden first sees the “fuck you” on the wall. Holden said,

It drove me damn near crazy. I thought how Phoebe and all the other kids would see it, and how they’d wonder what the hell it meant, and then finally some dirty kid would tell them- all cockeyed, naturally what it meant, and how they’d think about it even worry about it for a couple of days. I kept wanting to kill whoever’d written it.(Salinger 201)

Holden’s final fall comes when he is in the Egyptian Tomb in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. When Holden is deep within the Egyptian Tomb he feels he is in a safe and sanitary place free from society’s cruel components until he sees the “fuck you” on the wall. When he sees this he starts to think about committing suicide because he feels like living is just a waste. During this time he spent in the tomb he decides on life or death. After going unconscious for a couple of minutes he decides to live because “Death thus becomes not a gesture of defiance but of surrender”(Miller 17). Once Holden wakes up he feels better and symbolically chooses life. This is when Holden begins to rise. When Phoebe is on the carousel Holden wants to protect her but restrains himself, “The thing is with kids is, if they want to grab for the gold ring, you have to let them do it, and not say anything. If they fall off, they fall off, but it’s bad to say anything to them”(Miller 17-18)When Holden says this his dreams of being a catcher in the rye vanish. He realizes that all children must fall as he himself did.

In conclusion, The Catcher in the Rye is a story of a boy falling from innocence to enter adulthood. An example of J.D. Salinger using symbolism to show Holden’s Holding on to his childhood is in his name, Holden(Hold On). This is referring to Holden not wanting to enter society and all its phonies. Today, when somebody holds on to their innocence they are often considered outcasts; and in the person’s mind everyone who considers him this, is a phony, like how Holden saw everyone.

After Holden Caulfield returns to his native New York and rents a room in a sleazy hotel, he makes a date with Sally Hayes. Before this date, Holden finds himself wandering the streets of the naked city. He is feeling depressed and finds himself on Broadway trying to purchase a record for his sister. After making this purchase, Holden notices a poor family walking in front of him. This unit is composed of a father, mother, and “little kid.” Holden notices the child who is walking in a straight line in the street and humming a tune to himself. Holden approaches him to determine the tune he is singing.

This tune is “If a Body Catch a Body Coming Through the Rye.”Holden finds it amusing that the child is strutting quite literally on Broadway and is so care-free. He notices cars screeching and honking all over the place, and yet the child proceeds. The child’s happy disposition seems to encourage Holden’s vitality. It gripped Holden that the child was singing with “a pretty little voice…just for the hell of it” and brightened him up. A deeper interpretation of this scene would dictate that the child represents Holden’s own personality and life. Holden is defiantly singing his own tune just for the hell of it and like the child, seems to have no regard for his own well-being. At this point, Holden may see a side in himself that is care-free and this lightens his depression.

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Catcher in the Rye Loss of Innocence. (2021, Feb 27). Retrieved April 22, 2021, from https://essayscollector.com/essays/catcher-in-the-rye-loss-of-innocence/