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Essay/Term paper: Catcher in the rye-holden

Essay, term paper, research paper:  Catcher in the Rye

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Holden Caulfield's Perception and Gradual



Acceptance of the "Real" World.



 



In The Catcher in the Rye, Holden views the world as an evil and



corrupt place where there is no peace. This perception of the world does



not change significantly through the novel. However as the novel



progresses, Holden gradually comes to the realization that he is powerless



to change this.



 



During the short period of Holden's life covered in this book, "Holden



does succeed in making us perceive that the world is crazy".1 Shortly



after Holden leaves Pencey Prep he checks in to the Edmont Hotel. This is



where Holden's turmoil begins. Holden spends the following evening in this



hotel which was "full of perverts and morons. (There were) screwballs all



over the place."2 His situation only deteriorates from this point on as the



more he looks around this world, the more depressing life seems.



 



Around every corner Holden sees evil. He looks out on a world which



appears completely immoral and unscrupulous. The three days we learn of



from the novel place a distressed Holden in the vicinity of Manhattan. The



city is decked with decorations and holiday splendor, yet, much to Holden's



despair "seldom yields any occasions of peace, charity or even genuine



merriment."3 Holden is surrounded by what he views as drunks, perverts,



morons and screwballs. These convictions which Holden holds waver very



momentarily during only one particular scene in the book. The scene is



that with Mr. Antolini. After Mr. Antolini patted Holden on the head while



he was sleeping, Holden jumped up and ran out thinking that Mr. Antolini



was a pervert as well. This is the only time during the novel where Holden



thinks twice about considering someone as a pervert. After reviewing Mr.



Antolini, Holden finally concludes that maybe he wasn't making a "flitty"



pass at him. Maybe he just like patting guys heads as they sleep. This is



really the only time in the novel where Holden actually considers a



positive side. This event does not constitute a significant change. As



Holden himself says, "It's not too bad when the sun's out, but the sun only



comes out when it feels like coming out."4 The sun of course is a reference



to decency through the common association of light and goodness. His



perception of the world remains the same.



 



The one conviction that does change during the novel is Holden's



belief that he can change the world. On his date with Sally, Holden



reveals his feelings. "Did you ever get fed up?... I mean did you ever get



scared that everything was going to go lousy unless you did something..."5



Holden goes through several plans. Holden at one point contemplates



heading out west where he will pretend to be a deaf-mute and live a quiet



life. At another point Holden proposes to Sally to escape this world with



him. It is finally to his younger sister Phoebe that Holden reveals his



ultimate plan. Although Holden describes the situation in a very



picturesque and symbolic manner he essentially tells Phoebe that he wants



to prevent children from growing up. He blames the world's corruption on



adults and believes that when he stops the children from growing up he will



preserve their innocence and save the world.



 



It takes most of the book before Holden begins to realize that he is



helpless to stop this corruption. Finally, he realizes that not only is



there nothing that he can do, but there is nowhere he can go to hide from



it. Holden takes awhile to comprehend these concepts. One good example is



when Holden is delivering the note to his sister. He encounters a



"fuck-you" written on the wall. Holden careful rubs this off with his hand



so as to protect the innocent children from reading it. Later on he finds



"fuck-you" scratched into the surface with a knife. He discovers that he



can't efface this one. Even in the timeless peace of the Egyptian tomb



room at the museum there is an un-erasable "fuck-you." This incident is



the beginning of Holden's realization that his dreams are infeasible.6



 



Ironically enough, it is one of the "innocent" children that he is



trying to protect who helps him come to terms with this realization. It is



Phoebe who challenges his plan to escape out west. As he is telling Phoebe



that she can not run away, he discovers that he too can not run away. "You



can't ever find a place that is nice and peaceful, because there isn't



any."7



 



The final break-down comes near the end of the book when he is



watching Phoebe on the carousel.



 



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.8



 



In the above passage from the novel, Holden hits the final breakdown.



Being "the catcher" becomes obviously unrealistic. The gold rings are



ironically not gold but really brass-plated iron. The gold rings are



symbols of the corrupted world which always "wears" a shiny surface to hide



its evil. It is at this point that Holden sees that he can not stop



children from growing up and therefore losing their innocence. They will



fall if they fall, there is nothing that can be done.



 



Shortly after this point Holden has his nervous breakdown. His



breakdown is due to this depressing realization that the world is corrupt



and filled with evil. He knows now with a sickening certainty that he is



powerless to stop both evil and maturation. As a matter of fact, it is



"bad" to do so.

 

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