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Essay/Term paper: Holden

Essay, term paper, research paper:  English Composition

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The theme that the world has an outward appearance that seems fair and perfect but really they're

as Holden put it "phonies." This is shown countless amount of times in his journey through New

York and even before he left. The setting is in the 1950's; so I'm pretty sure that he didn't encounter

any transvestites, lesbians, or anything that extreme of phoniest. Or on the other hand he could have

liked them for being as Elmemson said a "none conformist." But I doubt it, he seemed to like kids

more than anything. And his job, as he felt, was to protect them in their innocents; of which I will

talk about in my second theme.

The first example that stands out in my mind is the scene with Stradlater in the "can." If you

remember Stradlater was getting ready for his other date while Holden watched him. "Stradlater

was a secret slob" in public he always looked good and got all the girls but in fact he was a slob. His

razor that made him look so good was "rusty as hell and full on lather and hair and crap." This

proves that he is a slob to "never clean it or anything." If you think about it that's even worst than

Old Ackley. At least Ackley knew that he had a problem, that he need to do something about his

face; but Stradlater thought that he was a great guy. He actually thought that there was nothing

wrong with never washing his razor. I think that what mad, Holden so made Stradlater was

perpetrating in other word being "phony" every time he went out all GQ after using that filthy razor.

Another instance is when he calls that girl in New York, Faith Cavendish, that Eddie Birdsell had

brought to a dance at Princeton. Anyway he called her and she almost went off until Holden

drooped Eddie's name. Then all of a sudden "she was getting friendly as hell." The same person said

"if you think I enjoy bein' woke up in the middle-" was "getting an english accent all of a sudden." I

think Holden caught her with her fa‡ade down. When she first picked up the phone she was mad as

anybody else would be in her shoes. But as soon as she processed "Eddie Birdsell from Princeton"

she became so amicable. She most of thought that a friend of Eddie, from Princeton, most have

been rich or at lest well off. Faith was all ready to hook up with him for a date until she asked

"Where ya callin' from? Where ya at now, anyways?" And "in a phone booth" was the wrong

answer. When he said that she new he had no money and from that point on she had no time to

meet up any more. This is a good example of the phoniest that Holden will talk about all through


Oh and one I almost missed it is a little before the conversation with Faith it is a very important

event. When J.D. Salinger had Holden look about of the window I think it was a big simile, of which

I think about more in theme number 3, of the theme of the book. I'm sure Holden didn't ride all the

way to New York to pick a run down hotel. So I take it when he drove up it probably looked good

on the outside. He even "took it off [referring to the red hunting hat] before I checked inI didn't want

to look like a screwball or something." So we can assume it was nice, or at lest on the outside.

Salinger even throw Holden foreshadowed a little in the line "I didn't know then that the goddam

hotel was full of perverts and morons." The first guy he saw out his room window "took out all these

women's clothes, and put them on." Then he started walking around like a women, smoking a

cigarette, and looking in the mirror. And now I guest I have to take back my sentence about

transvestites in the opening paragraph. Second he saw a couple squiring water and "they were in

hysterics the whole time," a little strange. You see the outside of the hotel represents what society is

or tries to be, all nice and neat. And the people acting silly in the rooms are what we a really like. Im

not saying we are all perverts but we all have two different personalities; one outside and one inside

closed doors.

Since I'm will into the second page and it's past my bed time or at lest it feels like it is this is the last

one for this theme. The one I had in mind is the one the date he had with Sally. From the jump she

was phony. Holden had already talked to her dad and told him how it was, but she still asked how it

was. Holden when call her "quite a little phony," she even sounded phony through the book with

lines like "I'd love to grand." And when they got through with the play on the Lunts it didn't get any

better. They ran into this guy that Sally knew and both of their phoniest began to shine. "You've

though that they hadn't seen each other for twenty years" they probably even hugged and kissed

checks and all. And the funny thing is that "they probably met each other only once." And from that

point on they went on a quest to outname the other. "They both kept thinking of places as fast as

they could" trying to get the upper-hand in a game of illusion. They both were trying to, I guest,

show they are more popular than the other by making it seem like they known all these places and

people, when in actuality they were two big phonies.

The next Theme of this story that I want to talk about is the significance of the novel's title. First of

all I have to say why the book was entitle as it was "The Catcher in the Rye." The title of the book is

a mystery all the way until chapter 21 when he sneaked back home to see Phoebe. When Phoebe

fronted him about getting kicked out of school again saying "you don't like anything" Holden was

forced to come up with something he would enjoy to be or do. After minutes of pondering Holden

said "I'd just be the catcher in the rye and all." He just wanted to save the little innocent kids from

falling. The kids I think represent the innocents of the young just playing and when they fall off the

cliff they discover the world. He wants to protect them and keep them pure will. All through the

story Salinger used Holden as the catcher on the rye to protect or try to protect the innocents of


The biggest and most memorial of this protection is when he went to Phoebe elementary school to

talk to her before he had to leave. Anyway he saw the word fuck you on the hall walls and "it drove

him dam near crazy." He couldn't stand the idea that Phoebe or her friend had seen that on the wall.

If they saw it they would wonder and eventually "some dirty kid would tell them" and they would

know the cruel the world thus falling in the rye. As his duty as the catcher in the rye Holden tried to

erase the first one that was on the walls, but later said "it's hopeless anyway. If you had a million

years to do it in, you couldn't rub out even half the fuck you signs in the world. Its impossible." Now

I think the word tragedy goes right there. If the job that Holden is set out to do is inevitable then it's

a tragedy. Salinger illustrates a full blown tragedy with a 15 year old boy; it sounds a lot like the

classic we read last year Romeo and Juliet. A young boy, even the same age, is placed in a no win


The next one I just thought about is the time Holden got a snow ball off the window cell. This has

nothing to go with protecting but it is about purity. Holden got some show from off the window pan

and he "started to throw it" but after looking out at the scene he decides not to. He said he stared it

throw it at a car and fire hydrogen but they looked "too nice and white." Holden is consumed with

finding and protecting purity, and when he found something pure he didn"t want to disturb it. But it's

strange how he used the words "nice and white," I know that the snow was white but is there

something more there. White is often associated with pure and even holiness. He may be comparing

it to a holy site; because he does ask Ackley about joining later in the book. You never know.

Theme number three is going to be a discussing about Salinger and his symbolism. Salinger is a

master of the subtle symbolism. He lays his symbols so subtle that most of the time they're not even

found or addressed even by a commentary over the book. I really enjoyed reading and rereading

this book to find embedding symbols. I think that's what made it so good.

A very important character that is referred to all throgh the story by Holden is Allie. Allie is Holder's

younger brother who died of leukemia when he was just thirteen. Holden loved his brother more

than anything and when he died he punched out all the windows in the garage. He said that "my

hand still hurts me once in a while." This is symbolic of the love he had and still has for his little

brother; he even quotes latter that "you don't stop loving someone because they die" proving that he

still cares for him. He may even think he had something to do with his death or he caused it.

Sometimes little kids think stuff like that. Holden also says that " I can't make a real fist any

more-not a tight one." If his fist represents his love for his brother or his heart than maybe he can't

love again. When he meet up with Sally he said he felt like marring her than he discards it by saying

"I don't even like her much." Holden is afraid to love again because of the way his heart and fist was

broken by Allie.

Another symbol is his own sister Phoebe. First you must understand that Phoebe came from the

Greek word meaning Sun. Holden is lost in the world and feels that everything is "phony." Phoebe is

his symbol of hope in the world. All Holden needs is hope. Just as the sun comes out and shines it's

beautiful color and truth to the world to nurrshish and feed the plant; so did Phoebe come with her

innocent hands saving Holden from the world. "The first thing I did when I got off at Penn station, I

went into this phone booth." Holden first started to call his brother but then he thought of his sitter

Phoebe, then he whet on about her and how she wouldn't mind being woke up. All through the

book he will think about call and eventually sneak home just to see her. This shows he sees her as

his only light in this world of phonies hint the name Phoebe Greek for sun.

I read a very interesting point in a book review about The Catcher in the Rye that explains the

Holden behavior all through the book. In short it said his activities "describes a developing nervous

breakdown." And if you think of the symptoms you would a agree. Unexplained depression, show

countless time in the story as "I felt depressed as hell." And the why that Salinger keep using the

world depressed, not bad or mellow but depressed he may have been hinting at it. Impulsive

spending, that is obvious through the fact he only had "3 dollars and some change" after just 2 days

in New York. Erratic behavior, example is Holden just jumping up and put Stradlater in a "half

Nelson." All of this is prior to his eventual nervous collapse.

This book has been a joy to read. Holden was very funny at times especially when he called Sally to

ask her about "trim a tree" for Christmas. Salinger is ether a great writer or he just lucked up this

good of a story. Sometimes I wonder if the author of books always think as deep as the reader. I

mean do authors read a commentary over a book they wrote and say, hmm I didn't think of that.

Writers like Edgar Allen are obvious that they have a deeper meaning. But with Salinger it's hard to

tell if this is a simple story of a boy rebelling or is it a great big metaphor for the world and how we

are. Now if you ask him I,m sure he would say "oh that's what meant exactly," and he might as well

have meant that; but who is to say.  

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