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What's wrong with Holden Caulfield - Catcher in the Rye

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Introduction

What's Wrong With Holden Caulfield The Catcher in the Rye is the first and only novel written by J. D. Salinger which is told from the point of Holden Caulfield, a 16 year old boy confused about adolescence as he wants to connect to adults on their level but is unable to and just rejects them as phonies and retreats his memories of his childhood. The story has a reflective book-ended structure. Currently he's in an institution because of a breakdown he had a year ago. The narrative covers a weekend which led to this breakdown. He wants us to answer the question, "What's wrong with Holden Caulfield". Holden addresses the reader by saying "you", to make us psychoanalyse him. Holden has been expelled from many schools and has been expelled from his recent school Pencey Prep. Instead of going back home and disappoint his parents, he decides to wander around New York City where he meets interesting characters that either remind him of his unhappiness, phonies or shows him he can't connect to adults. ...read more.

Middle

He never addresses his own emotions directly, nor does he attempt to discover the source of his troubles. He desperately needs feelings with other people and love, but his protectiveness prevents him from this. Alienation is both the source of Holden's strength and the source of his problems, for example his loneliness gets him to go on a date with Sally Hayes, but his need for isolation causes him to insult her and drive her away by asking her to run away with him. This shows how unstable he is. Also he desires for the meaningful connection he once had with Jane Gallagher, but he is too frightened to make any real effort to contact her. Another issue with Holden is betrayal. Holden constantly feels betrayed, and that is another one of the many possible reasons of his problems. Early in the novel, Mr. Spencer betrays him. He was one of the few teachers at Pencey that Holden liked. Stradlater betrays Holden by dating his best friend Jane who Holden had a crush on and was one of the very few women how Holden connects with. ...read more.

Conclusion

The museum represents the world Holden wishes he could live in. The best thing, though, in that museum was that everything always stayed right where it was. Nobody'd move ... Nobody'd be different. The only thing that would be different would be you... you'd just be different that's all." Holden finally shows his other side when he cries at seeing Phoebe on the carousel. At that point, he has retreated into childhood, away from the threats of the adult world. He doesn't go on the carousel, with the children and doesn't stand with the adults, he's alone by himself, soaking in the rain. After reading the book, the reader finds out Holden's main reason of unhappiness is his alienation from society, loneliness, and painfulness of growing up and the phonies of the adult world. Salinger ends the novel by giving no indication that if Holden has learned anything from his journey. The story ends with Holden in the mental institution as it was in the beginning of the story. We are unsure if Holden will recover or will be suicidal. J.D. Salinger himself lives a reclusive life isolated from the world, like Holden. ...read more.

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