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Holden’s quest in “the catcher in the rye” is a search for his identity.

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Introduction

Holden's quest in "the catcher in the rye" is a search for his identity. From the outset of the novel it is clear to the reader that Holden is unsure of who he is. This gives creates ambiguity in the opening chapter. The fact that the main character doesn't know who he is makes it difficult for the reader to get an accurate picture of his personality. However as the novel progresses we can see Holden's character begin to emerge and develop. Our first impression of Holden's character is that he has maturity and wisdom beyond his years. Furthermore we can see a very adult side to an otherwise childish character who "sometimes act[s] a lot older than [he is]". However whenever Holden tries to act older than he actually is his youthfulness actually shows through. A good example of this is when Holden decides to get a prostitute for "five bucks a throw". He seems confident and mature talking to 'Maurice', however when 'Sunny' enters his hotel suite he seems to lose his confidence and his immaturity emerges. The question "Don't you feel like talking for a while" this seems a very strange thing to say having been so self-confident as to "order" a prostitute to his hotel room. ...read more.

Middle

Holden plays a different role with each of these people. With Sally he always seems to be acting. This may be due to the way Holden tries to be more grown up than he actually is. Holden often lies to make himself look like a better person or mock himself humorously and self consciously. However, this is extremely hypocritical when the reader considers the amount of times Holden complains about people being 'phoney'. Holden seems to be putting a mask on his real nature. When he is with Phoebe he trusts her and obviously cares for her very much. He is also at his most genuine Holden we see throughout the book. Furthermore he is the least lonely. I think that this may be due to the amount of Allie that Holden sees in Phoebe. With the three ladies in the bar Holden acts older but seems much younger. This is the only type of situation where we see Holden's real age begin to show. All of these experiences develop Holden as a character. As the book begins to finish we see that Holden stops pretending to be something that he's not. He stays with the genuine attitude that he had around Phoebe and his identity as an individual remains this way. Conformity was a key element of American attitudes in the 1950's. ...read more.

Conclusion

When the reader thinks Holden is down and out, out comes the hunting hat and Holden begins to see things more happily again. This hat acts as his comfort blanket until he gives it away to Phoebe towards the end of the novel. In my opinion it is this point which signifies a change in Holden. It is this point where he seems to have found a purpose, his own true identity. It shows a decision from Holden that he doesn't need this security anymore. It is as though Holden as realised his guilt is unnecessary and he is in control of his own life and his own happiness. Because of this, his hat isn't needed and this leg of his quest has come to an end. I think that Holden's quest in "the catcher in the rye" is not only a quest for himself to find his identity, but also for him to find his purpose. Holden was a different character at the end of the book to the Holden we saw at the beginning. The reader has been able to watch Holden grow and develop into the Holden in chapter 26. Holden has realised on his voyage that there are some things that he has no control over but mostly he has to be in the driving seat of his own destiny. This is what Holden's quest has been about for both the reader and Holden himself. ...read more.

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