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The Catcher in the Rye: Holden

Updated October 13, 2020
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The Catcher in the Rye: Holden essay

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Holden 17-year-old is the main character of the novel “The Catcher in the Rye”. After Allie, his younger brother dies from Leukaemia, Holden gets mentally ill and becomes depressed. Throughout Holden’s life, there are times when he has trouble building friendships. There were times that he simply turned away just before the friendship became solid. Holden’s interactions with each female character has its own meaning and represent the various aspects of Holden.

Phoebe, Holden’s sister represents childhood innocence. In Chapter 22 Holden tells Phoebe he wants to be the “Catcher in the Rye”. He wants to preserve children’s innocence by stopping them from growing up. This is where Phoebe, 10 years old, comes into play. She is very mature, even more than Holden, and intelligent for her age and one of the few people in the book that Holden treats with respect. “Phony is one of the characteristics that Holden dislikes in people and with Phoebe he can feel she is honest with him.

Phoebe is also challenging Holden like the time when Holden tells Phoebe that he did not like any activities in the school and that he has run away Phoebe remarks, “You don’t like anything that’s happening.” With her comment, she challenged him to think of something he liked. He became defensive and tried to persuade her that it was untrue because he does not want to disappoint her, showing that she is incredibly important to him. Holden seems to be relaxed with Phoebe like the time they went to the shoe store, Phoebe tried on all kinds of storm shoes, frustrating the salesman; finally, she bought another type of shoe. Her antics amused Holden. Phoebe is Holden’s emotional anchor because he doesn’t need to pretend or be embarrassed. Phoebe is also the one that played a big part in Holden’s emotional growth when Phoebe rides the carrousel, Holden realizes that there are times when kids want to try to grab the gold ring, symbolically taking a chance in life, and he must allow her the freedom to do that, even though she may fall. That realization is a big step for Holden because he realized she won’t stay 10 years old forever.

Compered to Phoebe is Jane another individual that Holden sees as innocent. Although Jane does not appear in the novel, we can conclude that she means a lot to Holden because she appears quite often in his thoughts. She appears to be the only girl he really liked. In chapter 4 it becomes clear that Jane had a difficult childhood and that makes Holden protective towards her. Holden regards Jane as a close friend, but he knows that she is not faultless because in chapter 18 he remembers that she dated Al Pike. Holden recalls that Al Pike was ‘a terrible guy’, ‘a show-off bastard’, but still Jane stood up for him. Jane is, from Holden’s point of view, into all the things adults say you must have in order to be successful.

For Holden, Jane is genuine, while his other love interest, Sally Hayes, is “phony”. From Holden’s point of view is Sally mature compared to Jane. Holden sees Sally as someone that is just pretending to be intelligent and refined but is actually “stupid”. We can see that he is very arrogant and presumptuous towards women. During his relationship, with Sally he just seems to go through the motions with her and is never upfront and sincere with her. It is the complete opposite with Jane.

Holden’s actions and thinking are always in contradiction. When Holden is approached about the prospect of hiring a prostitute, he thinks that it is “against his pride” but agrees, This is also where he admits that he is a virgin even though he acts as thou he his experiences sex with Sunny is to get “same practice on her; in case I ever get married or anything.”

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