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Holden Caulfield's "Catcher in the Rye" Fantasy

In: English and Literature

Submitted By christinepeng
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Holden Caulfield's “Catcher in the Rye” Fantasy

Growing up, we have all experienced a particular desire to achieve something; an ambitious state of mind that gives us meaning to life. Holden Caulfield in The Catcher in the Rye, by J.D. Salinger, has a primary ambition - to become the Catcher in the Rye – the protector of the young and innocent, as stated in his conversation with Phoebe (Salinger, 191). Completely imaginary and a hopeless fantasy, this passage underscores what is prevalent throughout the novel - the issue of Holden's black and white perspective on the dark, phony world of adulthood juxtaposed with the light, innocent, world of childhood. The important passage contributes to Holden's clinical depression as a result of his beloved brother's death, therefore his cynical view of adulthood, and his anxiety about growing up, resulting in the overall angst and alienation palpable throughout the novel, leading to his eventual catharsis.

Holden's imagery of “catching” children playing in a field of rye before they fall off a cliff is unrealistic, misheard from a little boy, and it serves merely as an escape route from what he fears most about adulthood – the change and overwhelming complexity. Holden wants everything to be easily understandable and eternally fixed, similar to the Eskimos and Indians in the museum. Opposed to acknowledging that adulthood scares and mystifies him, Holden instead invents a fantasy – that childhood is an idyllic field of rye, while adulthood, like death, is a fatal fall over the edge of a cliff. Holden's shallow, one dimension understanding of childhood and adulthood allows him to cut himself off from the world and as one shielded with an armour of cynicism.

Holden's grief upon the death of his dear brother leads him to carry Allie's mitt for comfort, but the mitt also serves as a tool to “catch” children from...

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