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

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Curtis Scott


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.

        Three years later, after Allie’s death, Holden stands on the edge of his cherished childhood, his innocence peering down into the darkness of adulthood. Holden scorns phoniness and cynicism and instead clings to the purity of his childlike innocence. “If a body catch a body coming through the rye,” sings a little boy skipping on the street

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(Salinger 115). Upon hearing this Holden is immediately comforted and notices that some of his depression is lifted. To Holden, the song conjures images of children playing happily in a huge field of rye near a dangerous cliff. When one of the children, in his merriment, draws close to the cliff’s edge, someone has to catch him before he falls. When Phoebe, Holden’s younger sister, asks Holden what he wants to be, he responds, “I’d just be the catcher in the rye…” (Salinger 173). Children are few people in the world that are not phony in Holden’s eyes (“Catcher in ...

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