subject = English title = Holden Caulfield-The Thinking Man papers = The Thinking Man The Catcher In The Rye Margaret Atwood once described the thinking man as on who resists, believes survival is a necessity, is isolated and alienated, and who is aware of the elements that make ones psyche and physical being disappear. Atwoods “thinking person” is exhibited in Holden Caulfield through the use of character, plot, & symbolism. To begin with, the “thinking person” is portrayed through Holden Caulfields character. One of the characteristics of Atwoods “thinking person” is one of being isolated and alienated. Holden is a very lonely character.
An example that shows this is his direct reference to David Copperfield in the first paragraph of the novel when he says “..and all that David Copperfield kind of crap.”(pg.1) When David Copperfield was a child he was alienated from his mother, and was very lonely. This points to the fact that Holden had a very lonely childhood and, like David Copperfield, his innocence as well. Like the “thinking person” Holden was aware of the elements that make ones being disappear. This segment of Holdens character is helped by symbolism. For Holden, it was too late to stop himself from entering adulthood, a kingdom he resisted entering, a kingdom he viewed with disgust.
For this reason he wanted to help other children, and save them from “disappearing” over the edge of the rye field too, to preserve their innocence and to save them from the dreaded adulthood. Also, Holden had resisted one of the factors leading towards the loss of his innocence; losing his virginity. He “had quite a few opportunities to lose [his] virginity..[he] came quite close to doing it a couple of times..she keeps telling [him] to stop, and [he] stops.” This not only shows that he doesnt want to lose his purity, but that he cares for the girls innocence too, and does not want her to lose it. Next, “Catcher In The Rye” uses plot to create the “thinking person”. Holden Caulfield has a deep struggle within himself.
He wants to be positive, and her wants to work with and for the positive, and yet he is continually drawn to the negative aspects of life. In one scene he is at a food stop eating, when two nuns approach him. Even though they didnt ask for money, Holden donates $10 from his fast depleting funds. Nevertheless, he is drawn to the negative aspects of life too. He hires prostitutes, he gets into fights, and he become terribly over-intoxicated.
Another example of the positive/negative struggle is one dealing with his “love life”. Holden is always thinking of his legendary Jane Gallagher (mentioned “legendary” because throughout the course of the novel, the reader never meets face-to-face with Jane, but only hears hearsay information about her), and his fingers are always itching to phone her and ask her to get together with him. Conversely he is pulled to the negative: Sally Hayes. Sally is one of the hated phonies who abound in the adult world. Unfortunately for him, Holden in continually caught in this struggle. Another part of the plot that demonstrates Holden as the”thinking man” is his constant role as the anti-hero, where he experiences a downfall. There are several situations, like getting beaten up by Stradlater or Maurice, where Holden is set down. Another situation of his downfall would be where he almost kills himself by falling into the Central Park lagoon.
Yet through it all Holden remains (somewhat) strong, and pulls through. In that way, the plot is make through so that Holden becomes a survivor like an anti-hero; like the “thinking person”. Last but not least is how “Catcher In The Rye” uses symbolism to create the “thinking person”. In the situation of the dreaded “Fuck You”s on the walls of the elementary school, Holden tries to erase the blasphemy, in hopes that he will save the children (and in a way himself), from the horrors and crudeness of the outside world. This shows how, like the “thinking person”, he resists the corrupted “real world.” The symbolism of Holdens “fall” is widely used through out the novel.
In places such as the lagoon, the Pencey staircase, and even the New York Streets, Holden is literally and mentally falling. Especially in the case of the New Yorks Fifth Avenue. Each step Holden makes down the curb he thought he would “just go down, down, down, and nobodyd see [him] again.”(pg.199) The literal fall in this case is very small, but the mental one is quite big. His psyche diminishes, and he even asks for his dead brothers assistance to aid him from disappearing. However, he would always come back up, never forgetting to thank Allie. Thus, Holden displays the survivor role of the “thinking person.
In addition to symbolism in the novel, Holdens red hunting hat (with ear flaps and all!) is used. The almost eccentric piece to Holdens attire symbolizes his views on life. He wears it backwards on his head, to show how obsessed he is with the past, and to display his wanting to return to the innocence and purity of his childhood. Also, he wears it as protection from the cold, or is it really protection from the outside world? These are the reasons for Holdens great value of the hat, and for which he passed it down to Phoebe; that it might be her shield as well. Holden Caulfield, as it appears, is very much like Atwoods “thinking person”.
He resists and rebels against lifes evils, and in consequence, is alone and alienated for much of the time. As is Shown, a thinking person is not always a comforted person, but still the thinker lives on, eking his way through the world, refusing to disappear.