The Character Holden in The Catcher in the Rye Summary

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The Catcher in the Rye is a novel written by Jerome David Salinger. The novel was published in 1951. It is an iconic arguable typical American novel about an existence of coming of age. The novel is a young adult fiction about a 16-year old Holden Caulfield who recently got expelled from Pencey prep school because of his bad performance in his academics. Holden is the narrator of this tale and the main character. Salinger’s novel also focuses on the universal work that accounts the reality of the world through Holden’s views about the phoniness of the world. This essay will discuss varied ways in which the metaphor of “the catcher in rye” functions in the entire novel. Firstly, the essay will explain the significance of the metaphor and furthermore, provide examples to highlight the predicaments of the vulnerable children in relation to the metaphor of “the catcher of the rye”.

The tittle “the catcher in the rye” portrays Holden’s misinterpretations of the coming of age more precisely. In the novel, Holden compares the innocence of children to the “phonies” of adulthood. Holden imagines himself standing at “the edge of some crazy cliff” (Salinger, 1951[2020]:3). This denotes the two worlds that Holden finds it hard to escape them because he feels trapped. He’s trapped between the innocence of children and the “phoniness” of adulthood. This is because Holden refuses to accept the reality and that he cannot possible be a child again. In this passage, he is anxious to “catch them” (Salinger, 1951[2020]:6), this mean that he wants to shield and protect children from the trap of adulthood. Holden contrast the innocence of “little kids”(Salinger, 1951[2020]:2) to the insincerity of growing up as a way of justifying his constant view of adulthood. This is because Holden does not want to accept the real world and this to him is frustrating as he cannot do anything about it nor avert children from growing up. In the novel as a whole, Holden discloses his fears about growing up to show how his society previously judged him, thus illustrating to the reader a vivid image of how his society abandoned its responsibility to shield young children who are defenceless from the “phoniness” of the world that he has been exposed to.

Holden uses this metaphor to refer to what he calls redemptive quality that remains intact in his society. Holden had a chat with his sister Phoebe, who asks him what he wants to become, and he replies: “like scientist. Or a lawyer or something else”(Salinger 155). This indicates the way he sees lawyers- as people who save other people and that they are always right, even though they are now doing it for fame. It is also evident when he says: “Prep school boys were required to learn enough to be smart enough to buy a goddam Cadillac”. Holden views this statement delusional because it shows that his society has instilled a dangerous image to children to value materialistic thing and they put them under immoral values. This also brings up the desires of becoming “the catcher in the rye”, because Holden feels the need to rescue the defenceless innocent children in his society. The metaphor suggests that the society in which Holden lives in, has created a dangerous world for children. This means that “little kids” grow up in a society that threatens their existence because the society no longer cares or groom them in becoming responsible adults. This also outlines the vulnerability of the children because they are defenceless and unable to raise their stakes. This therefore show Holden’s perception to preserve the innocence of children and saving them from trap of being an adult.

Holden goes on about comparing the innocence of children to the museum he used to visit when he was kid. To him the museum represents the life he desires to live and explore his fantasy of becoming “the catcher in the rye”. This is evident when he says: “the best thing, though, in that museum was that everything always stayed right where it was. Nothing’d move… Nobody’d be different. The only thing that would be different would be you”. This portrays an unchanging state of a museum which he believes that it’s the only thing that makes him understand his visions about life. The fact that the museum is still the same is appealing to him because it keeps his desires of protecting the children intact. Holden is also troubled by the fact that he has grown but when he visits the museum it’s still at its right state. The unchanging state of the museum represents the world of fantasy that Holden wishes to occupy where everything stays the same and understandable so he could be “the catcher in the rye”. This also represent Holden’s inability to prevent children from losing their innocence. In Holden’s last sentence, he tries to distance himself from the inevitable process of change. Holden finds himself in a tragic situation because he finds it impossible to accept reality because of he wants life to remain intact like the unchanging displays in the museum.

In wrapping up, the metaphor “the catcher in the rye” plays a significant role in the novel in portraying Holden’s fears about adulthood. Salinger moulded Holden’s behaviour of remorse to save innocent children to show that Holden does not want to grow up. Even though he was eager to save children from falling into the cliff, at the end he realises that he has no power to prevent children from growing up and become adults. Holden’s realization upon his fantasy of an unchanging world made him to accept that everyone is bound to grow old and face the world. It is therefore Holden’ remarkable determination to become his own person and abandon his vision of becoming “the catcher in the rye”.


  1. Salinger, J. D., 1951.The Catcher in the Rye. London: Penguin 1994: Little, Brown and Company.
  2. Labuschagne, D., 2020. The Catcher in the Rye. Auckland Park: University of Johannesburg.

Cite this paper

The Character Holden in The Catcher in the Rye Summary. (2020, Sep 13). Retrieved from https://samploon.com/the-catcher-in-the-rye-essay/



How does Holden characterize himself?
Holden characterizes himself as a sensitive and troubled individual who struggles to connect with others and find his place in the world. He is disillusioned with society and often feels alienated and disconnected from those around him.
What is Holden characterized as?
Holden is characterized as a rebel without a cause. He is a teenager who is trying to find his way in the world and does not conform to society's rules.
What kind of character was Holden from Catcher in the Rye?
Holden is a teenage boy who is struggling to find his place in the world. He is angry and frustrated with the people around him and has difficulty connecting with others.
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