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Essay/Term paper: Holden caulfield-the thinking man

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

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Thinking Man

The Catcher In The Rye

Margaret Atwood once described the

thinking man as on who resists, believes survival is a necessity, is isolated

and alienated, and who is aware of the elements that make one"s psyche and

physical being disappear. Atwood"s "thinking person" is exhibited in Holden

Caulfield through the use of character, plot, & symbolism.

To begin with,

the "thinking person" is portrayed through Holden Caulfield"s character. One

of the characteristic"s of Atwood"s "thinking person" is one of being isolated

and alienated. Holden is a very lonely character. An example that shows this

is his direct reference to David Copperfield in the first paragraph of the

novel when he says "...and all that David Copperfield kind of crap."(pg.1)

When David Copperfield was a child he was alienated from his mother, and was

very lonely. This points to the fact that Holden had a very lonely childhood

and, like David Copperfield, his innocence as well.

Like the "thinking

person" Holden was aware of the elements that make one"s being disappear. This

segment of Holden"s character is helped by symbolism. For Holden, it was too

late to stop himself from entering adulthood, a kingdom he resisted entering,

a kingdom he viewed with disgust. For this reason he wanted to help other

children, and save them from "disappearing" over the edge of the rye field

too, to preserve their innocence and to save them from the dreaded adulthood.

Also, Holden had resisted one of the factors leading towards the loss of

his innocence; losing his virginity. He "had quite a few opportunities to

lose [his] virginity...[he] came quite close to doing it a couple of times...she

keeps telling [him] to stop, and [he] stops." This not only shows that he

doesn"t want to lose his purity, but that he cares for the girl"s innocence

too, and does not want her to lose it.

Next, "Catcher In The Rye" uses plot

to create the "thinking person". Holden Caulfield has a deep struggle within

himself. He wants to be positive, and her wants to work with and for the positive,

and yet he is continually drawn to the negative aspects of life. In one scene

he is at a food stop eating, when two nuns approach him. Even though they

didn"t ask for money, Holden donates $10 from his fast depleting funds. Nevertheless,

he is drawn to the negative aspects of life too. He hires prostitutes, he

gets into fights, and he become terribly over-intoxicated. Another example

of the positive/negative struggle is one dealing with his "love life". Holden

is always thinking of his legendary Jane Gallagher (mentioned "legendary" because

throughout the course of the novel, the reader never meets face-to-face with

Jane, but only hears hearsay information about her), and his fingers are always

itching to phone her and ask her to get together with him. Conversely he is

pulled to the negative: Sally Hayes.

Sally is one of the hated phonies who

abound in the adult world. Unfortunately for him, Holden in continually caught

in this struggle.

Another part of the plot that demonstrates Holden as the

"thinking man" is his constant role as the anti-hero, where he experiences

a downfall. There are several situations, like getting beaten up by Stradlater

or Maurice, where Holden is set down. Another situation of his downfall would

be where he almost kills himself by falling into the Central Park lagoon.

Yet through it all Holden remains (somewhat) strong, and pulls through. In

that way, the plot is make through so that Holden becomes a survivor like an

anti-hero; like the "thinking person".

Last but not least is how "Catcher

In The Rye" uses symbolism to create the "thinking person". In the situation

of the dreaded "Fuck You"s on the walls of the elementary school, Holden tries

to erase the blasphemy, in hopes that he will save the children (and in a way

himself), from the horrors and crudeness of the outside world. This shows

how, like the "thinking person", he resists the corrupted "real world."


symbolism of Holden"s "fall" is widely used through out the novel. In places

such as the lagoon, the Pencey staircase, and even the New York Streets, Holden

is literally and mentally falling. Especially in the case of the New York"s

Fifth Avenue. Each step Holden makes down the curb he thought he would "just

go down, down, down, and nobody"d see [him] again."(pg.199) The literal fall

in this case is very small, but the mental one is quite big. His psyche diminishes,

and he even asks for his dead brothers assistance to aid him from disappearing.

However, he would always come back up, never forgetting to thank Allie. Thus,

Holden displays the survivor role of the "thinking person.

In addition

to symbolism in the novel, Holden"s red hunting hat (with ear flaps and all!)

is used. The almost eccentric piece to Holden"s attire symbolizes his views

on life. He wears it backwards on his head, to show how obsessed he is with

the past, and to display his wanting to return to the innocence and purity

of his childhood. Also, he wears it as protection from the cold, or is it

really protection from the outside world? These are the reasons for Holden"s

great value of the hat, and for which he passed it down to Phoebe; that it

might be her shield as well.

Holden Caulfield, as it appears, is very much

like Atwood"s "thinking person". He resists and rebels against life"s evils,

and in consequence, is alone and alienated for much of the time. As is Shown,

a thinking person is not always a comforted person, but still the thinker lives

on, eking his way through the world, refusing to disappear. 

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