The Catcher in the rye In the novel, The Catcher in the Rye, by J.D. Salinger, Holden attempts, whether he is conscious of it or not, to save certain characters from “falling” into what he sees as the corrupt world of adulthood. He does this in his thoughts as well as in his real actions. An example of this is seen when Holden tries to rescue all children from “falling”. The most important child he attempts to save is his sister Phoebe.
Last and most crucial, Holden tries to save himself. Holden has a natural instinct to protect people he sees as vulnerable. His main focus is to guard children whom he sees as being pure and innocent and whom he would like to shelter from corruption. His “Catcher in the Rye” image, as far fetched as it seems, is the first concrete expression of Holden’s urge to protect the weak. “..What I have to do, I have to catch everybody if they start to go over the cliff-I mean if theyre running and they dont look where theyre going I have to come out from somewhere and catch them.
Thats all Id do all day. Id just be the Catcher in the Rye..” (Salinger p. 173) Holdens dream is to be “The Catcher in the Rye” an adult whose job is to rescue children whenever they begin to fall off a cliff at the end of a rye field. Holdens desire to be “The Catcher in the Rye” symbolizes his urge to “catch” children before they “fall” into adulthood. The field of rye is an open space representing freedom and childhood.
The cliff that Holden speaks of implies the boarder from childhood to adulthood. Holden wants to be the catcher or guardian of these children and make sure that they do not cross over to the corrupt world of adulthood. Holden loves children because they are the only people who are not phony. They are innocent and not yet affected by mankind. Like his love for children, Holdens love and respect for Phoebe, his younger sister, is unsurpassed.
Phoebe exemplifies Holdens view of a perfect childhood, but problem arises when Holden realizes that Phoebe is already showing signs of growing up. Holden attempts to shield Phoebe from the cruelty of the inevitable realities of life. A way in which Holden tries to prevent this from happening is when he gives Phoebe his red hunting hat. This hat expresses protection and security and a way to hide from society. Since Holden has already been removed from the innocence of childhood, he thinks he knows how demoralized society really is.
For example, Holden saw something that drove him crazy. “..Somebodyd written “Fuck you” on the wall. It drove me damn near crazy. I thought how Phoebe and all the other kids would see it, and how theyd wonder what the hell it meant, and finally some dirty kid would tell them-all cockeyed, naturally- what it meant, and how theyd all think about it and maybe even worry about it for a couple of days. I kept wanting to kill whoever had written it..” (Salinger p.
201) Holden is so upset and afraid that Phoebe will see this and be told what it means, exposing her to what Holden refers to as a “corrupt society”. Safeguarding Phoebe from unavoidably crossing the threshold from childhood to adulthood is described once again in the scene at the zoo when Phoebe is riding the carrousel and reaching for the gold ring. Holden saw Phoebe as a little kid again which is all he really wanted. “All the kids kept trying to grab for the gold ring, and so was old Phoebe, and I was sort of afraid shed fall off the goddam horse, but I didnt say anything or do anything. The thing with kids is, if they want to grab for the gold ring, you have to let them do it, and not say anything. If they fall off, they fall off, but its bad if you say anything to them.” (Salinger p.
211) The gold ring on the carousel is symbolic. When Phoebe and the other kids were reaching for the ring on the carousel, they almost fell off heir horses. The gold ring signifies adulthood. Holden should have warned Phoebe about falling, but he knew he couldnt. The fact that she would fall represents the transformation from a child to an adult.
Holden realizes that you cannot stop it from happening. No matter how much you warn them, kids will grow up. Holdens outlook on life and society is generally pessimistic. He thinks that once you reach the adult world, it is horrible and full of phonies. He thinks that children should remain children forever so they dont have to be subjected to a world full of phonies. He wishes he too could stay a child forever.
Holden suffers from the “Peter Pan syndrome,” and wants to live in “Never Never Land” forever. He says that when he grows up, he is going to be a deaf-mute so no one could talk to him. He would marry a deaf-mute woman and they would raise their children in a place far away from society. He and his family would not have to deal with what Holden is trying to escape now, as he is entering adulthood. Holdens hopeless views of society originate from his belief that there is nowhere tranquil in the world.
“Thats the whole trouble. You cant ever find a place thats nice and peaceful, because there isnt any.. I think, even if I ever die, and hey stick me in a cemetery, and I have a tombstone and all, itll say “Holden Caulfield” on it, and then the year I was born and what year I died, and then right under that itll say “Fuck you” Im positive, in fact.” (Salinger p. 204) Holden tries to avoid adulthood in many ways. He wears his red hunting and and tries to protect himself from the outside world, and in doing so rejects anything and anyone that might bring change to his state of being.
Holdens hatred of change is personified in the remembrance of the museum of Natural History. “.. The best thing, though, in that museum was that everything always stayed right where it was. Nobodyd move.. Nobodyd be different. The only thing that would be different would be you..” (Salinger p.
121) “Certain things they should stay the way they are. You ought to be able to stick them in one of those big glass cases and just leave them alone. I know its impossible, but its too bad anyway.” (Salinger p. 122) As previously stated Holdens adversion to change is also indicative of his name. Holden Caulfield holds different meanings. Holden means that he is “holding” on to the past and childhood. His last name is Caulfield.
A Caul is a membrane around an embryo still attached. Holden can not break free and is still attached to his childhood. Field represents childhood and freedom where the children are running around having fun. Holdens attempts to shield himself and his sister, Phoebe, from the world are inescapable. Growing up and lifes cruel realities are not a choice, but instead problems to be dealt with on a day to day basis, but also something Holden wanted to avoid. He later realizes that he cant stop the process of growing up and cannot save every child from “falling”.