Catcher In The Rye The title of the book A Catcher in the Rye is reflected in the mistaken words of a poem by Robert Burns. Holden thought it was “If a body catch a body coming through the rye.” That’s what he wanted to be. The only older individual in a group of kids in the rye, that he would catch them before they fall off the cliff. Many events caused this belief or illusion that he could stop people falling off and eventually he came to many realisations. Holden Caulfield was (believe it or not) an average teenager in an adult world with many conflicting ideas and thoughts.
He was trying to establish his own personality, and was searching for secure values. Yet, he found nearly everyone and everything to be “phoney”. He observed that the principal shook hands with rich parents while discarding the poorer and that most people were hypocrites. It was these (plus many more “phoney) elements that Holden did not want the kids to see – kids like Phoebe. He was protecting them against the adult and materialistic world and was ‘catching’ them before they fell.
He had already seen too many ‘falls’ and in fact it was these people who ‘fell’ who fell into the category of non-phoniness. This was probably because Holden’s memories of them remained pure. Many people fell. James Castle ‘fell’ out of the window and Allie ‘fell’ to death. He thought that these innocent people had gone.
They had been eaten by the phoniness and that they didn’t have a ‘catcher’ to protect them from harm. Holden wanted to prevent any more of this happening by being the ‘catcher’ himself. But being the ‘catcher’ it distanced himself from many characters in the book. He stayed away from everyone who he thought was phony, hypocritical, or had bad habits. In fact, he did not come past many people who were not in the above category. What made him stay away? As mentioned before, it was the adult world.
He rejected them and they rejected him. Only a few people like Phoebe even listened to him. He had told Sally to run away with him to the west, but she thought he was crazy. Both Carl Luce and Robert Ackley had told him to grow up. In the end Holden regards them as phonies.
Hence, staying away from them all. The only people that he approached or admired, were kids or people who were dead. Therefore, it was this idea of being a ‘catcher’ that made him what he thought was the fine line between the world of good and phoniess. At the same time, Holden’s want to be the ‘catcher’ also shows his immaturity. The fact that he believed he could change the world, the way people behaved, and that he could stop all the phoniess in the world.
He attempted to rub out a ‘f*** you’ sign outside of Phoebe’s school. He was successful. He completely removed all the traces of the two words and he was quite satisfied that did so. But it only late that he came to realisation that could not alter everything. He later found another “f*** you’ sign.
This time, scratched with a rock. He found himself hopeless. Holden tried as hard as he could to remove the sign but he started thinking. He thought that there would be a million signs just like that one in the world. There was no way he could rub out all of them At this point, he was helpless. The more the thought about it, the more he realised how impotent he was in the world.
He could not be the ‘catcher in the rye’. Could the reason for Holden’s wanting to be a catcher be because there was no one to catch him? When he went home, his parents were not there. That was a symbol that he lacked his parents’ love. To Holden, no one really cared for him. Even though Mr Spencer tried to encourage him to do better and Mr Antolini gave him warmth and shelter when he needed it, he believed that Spencer was a ‘phony’ and made up a half-witted excuse to ‘get the hell out’, while he thought Mr Antolini had some sort of sexual thing toward guys.
No one was really there for him when he needed them. Surely there were the girls and and his roommates, but he simply treated them as a joke, as if their existence had never really mattered. Probably the only one that came close was Phoebe. With her, Holden talked (to a degree) intimately and openly about his thoughts. Even though she was young and naive (yes, even though she is smart for her age), it gave comfort to Holden that someone was listening to him.
His lack of love brought him the want to be someone that others could love, a lending hand, some sort of security. He wanted to be there for others so that they do not fall into the phoney world. Because Holden saw the world as phoney and pretentious, he wanted to be a ‘catcher’ to stop a few of the innocent, such as Phoebe from going into the materialistic adult world. His wish to be a ‘catcher’ showed his insecurity, immaturity and his illusioned view towards everyone and everything. It resolves in the end when he came to realise that he was incapable of being the catcher.
He was useless in such a big world. The significance of the title revolved around Holden, and because the book did the same, it was one of the most important themes in The Catcher in the Rye.