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Holden Caulfield: Protector of Innocence In J.D. Salinger's The Catcher in the Rye.

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Introduction

Curtis Scott Miller Honors American Literature 21 April 2003 Holden Caulfield: Protector of Innocence In J.D. Salinger's The Catcher in the Rye the main character, Holden Caulfield, is introduced to the reader as a troubled teenager who desperately wants to hold on to his youthful innocence. Because Holden is constantly faced with the harsh realities of adulthood and the world, he feels compelled to protect innocence. These obligatory feelings stem from the loss of his younger brother Allie who died of leukemia at the age of eleven when Holden was thirteen. Not only Holden, but everyone saw Allie as terrifically intelligent, sensitive, and insightful. Allie is Holden's ideal of innocence personified. Holden encounters loss for the first time in the moment that he loses Allie and not only does Allie's death trigger Holden's devolution, but it also fuels his crusade to protect and preserve innocence, thus realizing the inevitable disillusionment of the innocent. ...read more.

Middle

It is experienced during Holden's trip to Mr. Spencer's house after crossing a road. Holden feels like he is "sort of disappearing (Salinger 5). It is this sensation that drives Holden to begin sprinting to his destination to save himself. He again experiences fear while walking the streets of New York. "Every time I came to the end of a block and stepped off the goddam curb, I had this feeling that I'd never get to the other side of the street" (Salinger197). Holden panics at the possibility and looks to his dead brother for protection: "Allie, don't let me disappear. Allie, don't let me disappear. Please, Allie" (Salinger 198). Though Holden does not realized what fuels his terror, Salinger uses this phobia to show the reader Holden's anxiety when he feels his mortality or innocence threatened. Holden's fear of and fascination with disappearance is also seen in his curiosity of the winter habits of the ducks in the lagoon. Where do the ducks go is an ongoing symbol in the story. ...read more.

Conclusion

The death of his brother proved to be one of the most traumatic events in Holden's life and is the catalyst for his resistance to inevitable disillusionment. Fighting both the phoniness of the world and even his own budding sexuality, Holden attempts to prevent the inevitable. Only through his relationship with Phoebe and the epiphany at the carrousel that Holden finally comprehends that he cannot save the innocent; they must be allowed to take life's risks and reach for the golden ring. In this same way Holden must approach his own changes. Holden's journey comes to a close as he continues to watch the children on the merry-go-round. At the moment in the rain, he experiences inexplicable joy because he is allowed to partake in a moment so pure that it is completely untouched or contaminated by the ugliness of the world. Salinger ends Holden's story on a hopeful note, showing how Holden's odyssey has altered his view on life. Where previously there was scorn for the phoniness of the world, Holden expresses a longing for Stradlater, Maurice and Ackley, its representatives. Scott4 ...read more.

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