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'Catcher in the Rye' - To what extent is Holden a likeable character?

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Introduction

TO WHAT EXTENT IS HOLDEN A LIKEABLE CHARACTER? Likeable. When looked up in the dictionary produces synonyms such as 'nice and pleasant', words which would not be associated with Holden Caulfield, the main character in the novel 'Catcher in the Rye'. However, I want to explore a different meaning to the word likeable, a version that brackets Holden's personality and allows us to strip off his layers of self awareness to reveal the real him. Holden Caulfield. The likeable guy. The Bildungsroman 'Catcher in the Rye' was written in the early 20th century, an era more reserved and dissimilar to today's generation. Yet surprisingly, Holden uses a very realistic idiom which reflects the youth of today, with his mixture of expletives and slang; '...lousy childhood' '...David Copperfield kind of crap.' '...crumby place' '...my whole goddam autobiography' Holden begins the book as he means to go on, and does not pretend to be something he is not, by hiding his unconventional idiom. This makes him likeable as readers can relate to him, as he is very genuine, and blend in with the language of today's youth. Another attribute of 'typical Holden idiom' is the theme of sarcasm which recurs throughout this book, normally outlined in italics. The element of derision adds depth to Holden's persona, '...They're nice and all...' as when he uses a sarcastic tone it indicates that he is holding something back about the subject which he is referring to. ...read more.

Middle

Holden has a very quirky memory, his attention to detail is shown throughout the book, as the reader, you have to step back form the book and remember it is a collection of his memories and not him telling a story, as normally memories tend to lot hazier and less detailed. Yet he defies the odds, and constantly remembers niceties which would seem insignificant to use but are symbolic, or important to him. An example of this is when Holden hears that his friend Jane is in town and Stradlater is going to see her, he asks him to deliver a message, '...Ask her if she still keeps all her kings in the back row...' This is a very unusual thing to ask, yet it is very important to Holden. This makes him likeable because as a character he is a strong contrast to everyone else, making the book even more interesting, as Holden is very random and instinctive, 'I figured that I'd give old Jane buzz...' features frequently throughout the book, normally when he feels lonely or emotional. His individuality is both likeable and inspiring as even though he knows his individuality is cutting him out of social acception he still stays true to himself, which is very uncommon as people sometimes adapt themselves for social inclusion. However, he does not, and accepts his position on the peripheral of other social groups. ...read more.

Conclusion

Twenty Two' Yet he reveals his true colours whenever he is angry or emotional, 'Get your dirty stinking moron knees off my chest' 'I'm not tired' Reverting back to a childish idiom. He shows that he maybe that this is where his heart lies. In the purity of his childhood, as many people idealise their childhood memories as the problems encountered then are on a minor scale compared to those of adulthood. Holden tends to do this frequently, and views things differently now as an adult e.g. Central Park is no longer a beautiful scenic place for escapism, but a dirty park. This triggers the question was Central Park like this before? Did the fact that Holden visited Central Park in his childhood, sway him to lionize it. This then brings into question all that he has recalled to us, making the book an even bigger topic for discussion. To conclude I think that Holden is a likeable character because he is a very much 'real' character who is just like us, the readers, for example, he is childish but acts grown up. I find myself admiring Holden because of his superior intelligence that he poses, but also because he is so willing to undermine his aptitude, while he idealizes other characters e.g. his dead brother Allie. The main quality of Holden's which I think cannot be ignored is his quirky memory as I know that without this, the book involving three days in New York would have been extremely tedious. ...read more.

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