With close reference to J.D. Salinger’s Catcher in the Rye (1945), write a report to show how the themes of detachment, despondency and desperation for the unknown are developed in this novel.
Jerome David Salinger (J.D Salinger) was an American writer best known for his novel Catcher in the Rye. Adolescents are featured or appear in all of Salinger’s work. The novel is about detailing 16-year-old Holden’s experiences in New York City following his expulsion and departure from an elite college preparatory school. In a 1953 interview with a high school newspaper, Salinger admitted that the novel was “sort of ” autobiographical, explaining, “My boyhood was very much the same as that of the boy in the book. The novel’s protagonist Holden Caulfield has become an icon for teenage rebellion. The themes such as detachment, despondency and desperation help to develop the character of the protagonist.
Detachment is one of the theme in the novel. Detachment is defined as the feeling that we have of not being personally involved or having emotional interest in it or separated. Once Allie, younger brother of Holden passed away due to leukemia, he went through detachment. He is not close with his parents as the dad is a lawyer whom always busy and the mother depressed with the deceased of the younger sibling. So, Holden felt separated after the death of his brother. For example, “The cars zoomed by, brakes screeched all over the place, his parents paid no attention to him, and he kept on walking next to the curb and singing ‘If a body catch a body coming through the rye.’ It made me feel better. It made me feel not so depressed any more” in page 115. This shows that Holden closes him to the world after the death of his brother and felt separated from his parents.
Also in chapter 5, Holden told that, “I was only thirteen, and they were going to have me psychoanalyzed and all, because I broke all the windows in the garage. I don’t blame them. I really don’t. I slept in the garage the night he died, and I broke all the goddam windows with my fist, just for the hell of it…It was a very stupid thing to do, I’ll admit, but I hardly didn’t even know I was doing it, and you didn’t know Allie”. Holden hardly accepts the absence of his sibling. Then, he also did not want to mingle with others. He dropped out school and kept on changing schools.
However when he goes to the new school, “I thought what I’d do was, I’d pretend I was one of those deaf-mutes. That way I wouldn’t have to have any goddam stupid useless conversations with anybody. If anybody wanted to tell me something, they’d have to write it on a piece of paper and shove it over to me. They’d get bored as hell doing that after a while, and then I’d be through with having conversations for the rest of my life.” in chapter 25 at page198. This shows that, Holden has no interest to find any new friends at his school. All he wants is time for him to be alone.
Besides that, despondency is another theme of this story. Despondency is the state of being despondent or extremely low in spirits, lose of hope and unhappiness. Holden’s brother was his favourite person in the world. Allie was pure, honest, and the most intelligent member of the family. Holden loved that Allie was a child so he became fixed with the idea that children were perfect; thereby, hating the idea of becoming an adult. As for proof, “God, I love it when a kid’s nice and polite when you tighten their skate for them or something. Most kids are. They really are” in page 119. The more he loves the children, the more he hates the adults and totally unhappy about that. This is because Holden loves to judge others.
On his perception, adults are liars and perverts. This is proved when Mr. Antolini advices Holden, “Among other things, you’ll find that you’re not the first person who was ever confused and frightened and even sickened by human behavior. You’re by no means alone on that score…Many, many men have been just as troubled morally and spiritually as you are right now. Happily, some of them kept records of their troubles. You’ll learn from them—if you want to.”. Other than that, when he thought all the adults are perverts, he tried to clarify himself that he is not a pervert to the prostitute, Maurice. For example, “If you want to know the truth, I’m a virgin. I really am. I’ve had quite a few opportunities to lose my virginity and all, but I’ve never got around to it yet. Something always happens…I came quite close to doing it a couple of times, though. One time in particular, I remember. Something went wrong, though—I don’t even remember what any more” in chapter 13. Therefore, it is crystal clear that, Holden admitted that he is not like adults who is pervert and he lose hope on them.
In addition, another theme of the story is desperation. Desperation is the feeling of such in bad situation that you will take any risk to change it, strong feeling of sadness and fear. Holden felt exasperated, hungover and depressed and he really needs some empathy from his old teacher Mr. Antolini. However, what he gets is first a lecture and then a presumably homosexual advance when he stayed at Mr. Antolini’s home. For example, “I woke up all of a sudden. I don’t know what time it was or anything,but I woke up. I felt something on my head, some guy’s hand. Boy, it really scared hell out of me. What it was, it was Mr. Antolini’s hand. What he was doing was, he was sitting on the floor right next to the couch, in the dark and all, and he was sort of petting me or patting me on the goddam head.” Holden decided to leave Mr.Antolini’s house immediately and thought that he is a pervert too.
When Holden was at Edmont Hotel, he said that,“It took me quite a while to get to sleep—I wasn’t even tired—but finally I did. What I really felt like, though, was committing suicide. 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” in chapter 14. This indicates that he is fear of facing the world. On the other hand, Holden saw somebody written, “Fuck you” on the wall at his school. As he loves children very much, he concerned about them and willing to erase those words before they see them. As for proof, “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 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…I hardly even had the guts to rub it off the wall with my hand, if you want to know the truth. I was afraid some teacher would catch me rubbing it off and would think I’d written it. But I rubbed it out anyway” in chapter 25. Holden told this to his sister Phoebe.
In a nutshell, the character of the protagonist well developed throughout the novel. In the novel Holden tries hard to be someone good, however this has not work out because of his lying, judgement, perceptions and tough situations that he drags himself in. He made him a hypocrite and phony himself. As a result, he had mental problems. In my opinion, this is a deep novel with varies of symbolism that I enjoyed reading.
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