Mostly every teenager wants to become an adult because they won’t have to live by their
parents rules and they would have control over their own lives. However, teenagers would soon
realize that adulthood has many responsibilities causing the fear associated with growing up. In
J. D. Salinger’s ?The Catcher In The Rye ?the protagonist, Holden Caulfied, is a great example
because he is fearful of growing up and losing his innocence as well as becoming a phony adult
he scorns. ?Holden’s fear of becoming an adult causes him to focus on preserving his youthful
innocence, an example impossible in a dishonest society.
To lessen his fears of adulthood, Holden uses phoniness. For Holden, phoniness relates
the adult world’s treachery and shallowness. He believes that because all adults are phony, not
becoming one would make him not phony. Nevertheless, out of all the private schools Holden
attends, all of the students’ mindset have been manipulated by the phoniness of the adult world.
This mindset change of the students affects Holden a lot, supporting his fear of the adulthood
mindset that regards money, sex, and liquor.
You ought to go to a boys' school sometime. Try it sometime. It's full of phonies, and all
you do is study so that you can learn enough to be smart enough to be able to buy a
goddamn Cadillac someday, and you have to keep making believe you give a damn if the
football team loses, and all you do is talk about girls and liquor and sex all day, and
everybody sticks together in these dirty little goddamn cliques (Salinger 170).
To deal with his fear of adulthood, Holden relies on judging his peers and all adults because of
their phoniness. By criticizing everyone, Holden furthers his almost impossible odds of making
relationships with people. Thus causing him to push himself into isolation.
Holdem uses this isolation to protect him from the phony adult world surrounded by him.
His domineering attitude regarding his phony peers advances him to New York City, as
portrayed by this quote, ” … then I yelled at the top of my goddamn voice, ‘Sleep tight, ya
morons!’ I’ll bet I woke up every bastard on the whole floor” (Salinger 68). Unfortunately,
Holden’s distrustfulness of others performs as a shape of self-protection. “Salinger invests
Holden with a sensitivity that prevents him from finding his place in the world, a feeling to
which many teenagers can relate” (Privitera). Because Holden ran away to New York he feels as
though he can run away from phoniness and maintain his innocence.
The fear of becoming an adult causes Holden to focus on his purity and view his dead
brother Allie for innovation. The night Allie died Holden let out all his anger,”I broke all the
goddamn windows in the garage with my fists, just for the hell of it. I even tried to break all the
windows on the station wagon we had that summer, but my hand was already broken…”
(Salinger 44). This anger impaired his right hand, allowing him to use Allie’s “left-handed
fielder’s mitt” (Salinger 43). Allie’s glove becomes a symbol for Holden to not be phony and
keep his along with Allie’s innocence.
To honor this innocence Allie has, Holden invisions himself as the catcher in the rye. He
recalls an image from a song he heard where he was on a cliff watching kids play in the rye
What I have to do, I have to catch the children 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 (Salinger 225).
This vision is showing his devotion to keeping all kids innocent. He doesn't want them falling
into this phony adult world he is afraid of. Holden embodies the catcher in the rye theme with his
undying passion to save kids from a phony and corrupt society.
The red hunting hat finishes Holden’s role as the Catcher in the Rye. This hat allows
Holden to connect with Allie’s purity because it is red like his hair. When the bill is turned
backward it means that Holden is copying the look of a catcher from a baseball team but the
movement of it going backward could alsop mean he wishes to preserve his youthfulness and
remember the past. “The way I wore it, I swung the old peak way around to the back – very
corny, I’ll admit, but I liked it that way. I looked good in it that way” (Salinger 24). When
Holden is asked by Akley about the hat he responds with, “This is a people shooting hat. I shoot
people in this hat” (Salinger 30). Holden “shoots” all the phony people out of his life. Thus
explaining why both Allie’s mitt and the red hunting hat represent Holden’s aim to preserve
purity in kids.
James Castle was one of the kids who went to school with Holden. While wearing
Holden’s sweater, James jumped out of a window commiting suicide. Holden envisioned his
teacher Mr. Antolini picking up the body. This represents what would have happened if Holden’s
isolation reached the point of going insane.
He was the one that finally picked up that boy that jumped out the window I told you
about, James Castle. Old Mr. Antolini felt his pulse and all, and then he took off his coat
and put it over James Castle and carried him all the way over to the infirmary. He didn't
even give a damn if his coat got all bloody (Salinger 226-27).
Mr. Antolini is Holden’s favorite teacher because he is not phony and he was respectful towards
James. Holden likes to think that if he committed suicide Mr. Antolini would come to him as
well. ?”I felt like jumping out the window. I probably would’ve done it too, if I’d been sure
somebody’d cover me up as soon as I landed. I didn’t want a bunch of stupid rubbernecks
looking at me when I was all gory” (Salinger 136). ? Mr. Antolini shows he cares about Holden
because he warns Holden about all the dangers that could happen and if he kept on his path, all
these dangers would become a reality.
This fall I think you're riding for—it's a special kind of fall, a horrible kind. The man
falling isn't permitted to feel or hear himself hit bottom. He just keeps falling and falling.
The whole arrangement designed for men who, at some time or other in their lives, were
looking for something their own environment couldn't supply them with….So they gave
up looking. They gave it up before they ever really even got started ? (Salinger 243).
The major danger Mr. Antolini brought up was the depression that was affecting Holden. He tells
Holden to stop worrying about the innocence of all children because it is impossible in a corrupt
To transition Holden’s goal to maintain innocence into something easier, Salinger’s use
of the “fuck you” at Phoebe's school makes Holden finally realize that he cannot save kids from
this phony society. But what bothered and angered Holden most was that the little kids would
potentially figure out the true meaning of “fuck you”.
I thought how Phoebe and all the other little kids would see it, and how they’d
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 all ?think ? about it and maybe
even worry about it for a couple days (Salinger 260).
Holden tries to erase the “fuck you” off the wall but comes to realize that if he “had a
million years to do it, he couldn’t rub out ?half ? the ‘fuck you’ signs in the world”
(Salinger 262). He comes to the conclusion that saving innocence of kids won’t help
because the corrupt society will take control of them sooner or later.
When Holden goes to the Museum of Natural History he sees that the exhibits are
untouched and secured around glass. This represents a layer of protection from corruption
he uses for him, Phoebe, and Allie. "Certain things should stay the way they are. You
ought to be able to stick them in one of those big glass cases and just leave them alone"
(Salinger 158). But this layer of protection is broken because Holden finds a “fuck you”
written on the glass of one of the exhibits. “That’s the whole trouble. You can’t even find
a place that’s nice and peaceful, because there isn’t any. You may think there is, but once
you get there, when you’re not looking, somebody’ll sneak up and write “fuck you” right
under your nose” (Salinger 264).