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Catcher In The Rye Literary Analysis

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Autor:  anton  06 November 2010
Tags:  Catcher,  Literary,  Analysis
Words: 2340   |   Pages: 10
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The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger

The author and his times:

In 1919, Jerome David Salinger was born into this harsh harsh world, which he would criticize in his books to this day. Born to an Irish-Catholic mother and a wealthy Jewish father, young Jerome did not know what he was to be in life. His father pressured him greatly to become great and successful, causing great conflict between the two. His father wanted Jerome to take over the family meat and cheese packing/shipping business, but Jerome hated it, and did not desire to become rich or anything of that nature.

Like Holden Caulfield from his book The Catcher in the Rye, young Jerome found it difficult to concentrate on school and studies and was eventually sent to a military school by his father. This going to military school is reflected in the part of the book in which Holden is back at home explaining to Pheobe that he will not be killed, by his father, and that he would probably just be sent to military school.

After military school, Jerome attended Ursinus College, Columbia University, and New York University. He was soon drafted into the infantry division during WWII. Salinger saw some of the most gruesome battles of the war, including the Battle Normandy and the ultimately useless blood bath, which occurred in HÑŒrtgenwald.

The horrors of war that Salinger witnessed traumatized him to the point where he was sent home because he received a Section 8. The horrors that he witnessed were so great, he never talks about it to anyone, and never wrote about it either. His first mental breakdown, as well as other smaller breakdowns caused by the trauma of war, is similar to the gradual mental breakdown of Holden Caulfield in The Catcher in the Rye, who eventually finds himself in a mental institution.(http://www.kirjasto.sci.fi/salinger.htm).

Main characters:

Holden Caulfield- Holden Caulfield is the protagonist and narrator of the story. Holden's biggest pet peeve is that he hates people who are, or act, "phony." Holden hates all of the lies and, for lack of a better word, bullshit that the world is comprised of.

Though Holden himself lies a lot and tends to be scathingly sarcastic and pessimistic, he actually cares a lot about others and the world. Holden has what seems to be a classic case of the messiah-complex, which we can deduct from his want to be the "catcher in the rye." He wants to save all of the innocent and pure souls from "falling" off the "edge" of the moral "cliff."

In parts of the book we see Holden's mind slowly breaking down, which ultimately sends him to a mental-health clinic. The root cause to this is probably the death of his younger brother Allie. Allie died of leukemia three years before the story begins, and was a harsh blow to Holden and his mental health, permanently scarring him his emotional and mental self.

Phoebe Caulfield- Phoebe is Holden's 10-year-old sister. She is smart, a great dancer, and loves to write in these little journals that she has. Holden believes that she is the only one who really loves him anymore (pinkmonkey.com).

Allie Caulfield- Allie was Holden's beloved younger brother who died of leukemia. Like Jane, we never actually meet him in the story though Holden describes him and his great personality, several times in the book. Allie had red hair, and was supposedly very bright. He had a favorite baseball glove, which he wrote poems on. It was most likely Allie's death that had the most impact on Holden's life, and which caused him to be the pessimistic, sad, lonely, and scared individual that he is today.

Jane Gallagher- Jane Gallagher was Holden Caulfield's friend and girlfriend when he was younger and is still admired very much by Holden. Though we actually never meet Jane in the book, Holden tells us that she is both beautiful, smart, and not phony, a very rare thing in Holden's world. Her stepfather is an alcoholic, and may beat/rape her. Though she is normally cheery, she does get down, such as the time when her stepfather yelled at her for some cigarettes, causing her to cry.

Minor characters:

Sally Hayes- Salley Hayes is Holden Caulfield's old girlfriend and for a short time in the story, his companion. Sally is beautiful but according to Holden, she is a "pain in the ass" and "phony as hell (pinkmonkey.com)."

Ackley- Ackley is Holden's unhygienic, pimple-faced, and Catholic room-neighbor. Ackley hates Stradlater but moderately enjoys Holden's company. Ackley loves to brag about he supposedly had intercourse with this one girl during the summer, but his stories always change, revealing that his story is a lie.

Stradlater- Stradlater is Holden's athletic, strong, and large roommate from Pencey Prep. Stradlater is a playboy of sorts, and has great experience in the ways of seduction and sex. Holden gets mad at Stradlater for taking Jane out and not even remembering her name, and also because Stradlater may have (though probably not) gave Jane Gallagher the "time."

Main settings:

Pencey Prep- Pencey was an expensive and large all-boy's school, which Holden attended. Holden hated the school, because it was actually pretty crappy and there were too many "phony" kids in the school.

New York City- Much of the story occurs in New York City, a hustling and bustling place best suited for the theme of alienation by a large society. While in New York Holden takes the reader to many of New York's famous sites such as the Grand Central Station, Central Park, Greenwich Village, and Radio City (pinkmonkey.com).

California Mental Health Clinic- Holden's mental breakdowns have been so sever, his family felt that it would be best to send Holden off to a psych ward to be treated for a while and to mentally recuperate. The clinic is the frame for the story (pinkmonkey.com).

Plot outline:

It is a story about a young teenager named Holden Caulfield who lives with the trials and tribulations of being a young man in a society demanding more responsibility, taking away childhood and demanding an early adulthood. In his "quest", after he is expelled from a prep school, he encounters all kinds of different people and lies his way through the story. He experiences life as it is in a big town (New York) and finds himself confronted with the notion of growing up and the demands of society. Such is the nature with which he dreams of growing up to be “A catcher in the rye”, a seemingly impossible "job" in today's world. Nonetheless, throughout his bizarre

experiences he retains a bit of a child in himself without knowing what awaits him further on in his life.

Symbolism:

The Catcher in the Rye- "The catcher in the rye," is a symbol for Holden and his dream to save all the innocence that is left in the world from being defiled by the world. Holden wishes to be the "[catcher]" of the children, keeping them away from the cliff. The children symbolize the purity and goodness in the world, the Rye is the world itself, and the cliff is the loss of innocence and the defilement of soul and mind. Holden is trying to catch these innocent souls and prevent them from falling over the cliff and becoming evil and defiled (pinkmonkey.com).

The Museum of Natural History- The Museum in The Catcher in the Rye symbolizes Holden's ideal existence. Holden wishes that, like the museum, nothing would ever change, that everything would be permanent, unchanging, and simple. He is scared of the unpredictable real world with its illogical and complex way of thinking and its illogical people.

Style:

I think Salinger's writing style is unlike any other I have ever seen. He writes in a very open and explicit way. He lets the reader know how the character feels at that time and his or her thoughts. For the first time, I can see a definite connection between the main character in the story and the author. Salinger seems to be almost identical to Holden in the story. They have the same attitude towards other people and they think the same way, too. I am sure Salinger used his teenage years as reference in creating Holden. In other words, I think Holden is a reflection of Salinger's teenage years. This makes his writing even more clear because he knows exactly how Holden feels and he can use his own feelings to write the story.

Theme:

The major theme we see in The Catcher in the Rye is that today's society is giving up its moral values for monetary gain and alienates those who do not conform to its ways (pinkmonkey.com). It is because everyone seeks approval, rewards, and money, that society is becoming "phony" in nature. Everyone sucks up to someone, changing who they are in order to be accepted into the so-called real world.

In the book, we find Holden struggling to find acceptance in a world where if you do not conform, you are smashed. It is because of Holden's honesty and individuality that he fails to truly connect with anyone. Throughout the book he seeks companionship with others, e.g. Sally Hayes, Stradlater, Ackley, and Sunny, but is always disgusted with their phoniness or is rejected by them.

We see his disgust with the fake and "phony" throughout the book. He is disgusted with the fake emotions produced by actors, the fake pastors who try to preach the good word, and perhaps worst of all, the everyday fakeness which most people exhibit.

Quotations:

1. "Don't ever tell anybody anything. If you do, you start missing everybody." - Holden Caulfield, the last two lines of the book.

2. "I sat down for a second, and then I felt better. But while I was sitting down, I saw something that drove me crazy. Somebody'd written "Fuck you" on the wall. It drove me damn near crazy. I though how Phoebe and all the other little kids would see it, and how'd they wonder what the hell it meant, and then finally some dirty kid would tell them-all cockeyed, naturally-what it meant, and how they'd think about and maybe even worry abut it for a couple of days." - Holden Caulfield sitting in the school looking at "fuck you" that was scratched into the wall.

3. "Anyway, I keep picturing all these little kids playing some game in this big field of rye and all. Thousands of little kids, and nobody's around--nobody big, I mean--except me. And I'm standing on the edge of some crazy cliff. What I have to do, I have to catch everybody if they start to go over the cliff--I mean if they're running and they don't look where they're going. I have to come out from somewhere and catch them. That's all I'd do all day. I'd just be the catcher in the rye and all. I know it's crazy, but that's the only thing I'd really like to be." Holden telling Phoebe the basic theme of the novel.

4. “The terrible part though, is that I meant it when I asked her. That's the terrible part. I swear to God I 'm a madman." Holden Caulfield commenting on how felt bad trying to ask Salley Hayes to runaway with him.

Diction analysis:

The diction in the passage conveys tones of disgust and excitement. In the passage, Holden is thinking about the strange sexual playing between a drunk man and women. He feels somewhat sickened by their behavior, but at the same time he is somewhat aroused. Holden disliked and is disgusted by the couple's "crumby" and "[drunken]" behavior. Holden thought that what they were doing "[stank]" and that it was a shame to "spoil" a pretty of the woman by "squirting" water all over it. Such words as "spoil," "crumby," and "drunken" create a tone of disgust and being offended. Despite Holden's disgust of the couple, he is somewhat amused by their silly sexual-antics. Holden himself admits he is a sort of "sex maniac" and he enjoyed watching the two "[horsing] around." He said that it was "fascinating" and even "fun" to watch the couple spit water on each other's faces. Here we see a lighter and naughty side of Holden as he is excited by these two screwballs.

Additional Comments

Being the regular high school teenager that I am, I especially understood the character of Holden Caulfield. I liked him and found him very enjoyable as a narrator. He is funny and depressing at the same time, and he can't stop lying. This only adds to his intrigue. Holden gets kicked out of his school, and travels to New York because he wants to leave his depressing school atmosphere.

All he found in New York, though, was more depressing things. He even was depressed by the hooker that he got. This quote from the book really touched me:

"Anyway, I keep picturing all these little kids playing some game in this big field of rye and all. Thousands of little kids, and nobody's around--nobody big, I mean--except me. And I'm standing on the edge of some crazy cliff. What I have to do, I have to catch everybody if they start to go over the cliff--I mean if they're running and they don't look where they're going. I have to come out from somewhere and catch them. That's all I'd do all day. I'd just be the catcher in the rye and all. I know it's crazy, but that's the only thing I'd really like to be."

This is now one of my favorite quotes. I think it really shows how Holden really wants one thing above all others. He wants to somehow preserve that innocence that children have. He wants to "keep all his kings in the back row." Without giving away too much of the points and happenings that I felt made the book so great, I will say that this book is a must read at least once in everyone's life.



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