English 3 Honors
25 November 2012
Catcher in the Rye A Bildungsroman?
Born on January 1, 1919, in New York City, J.D. Salinger was a literary giant despite his slim body of work and reclusive lifestyle (New York Times 8). A bildungsroman is a coming of age novel. Many critics and readers alike have argued that J.D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye is a superb example of a bildungsroman. In Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye, the main character of Holden Caulfield, a troubled and mentally unstable sixteen year-old that has just been expelled from his fourth prep school (New York Times 8). If the protagonist has not matured since the story began, then the Catcher in the Rye is not a bildungsroman in many ways.
First, Holden never actually grows up but stays at the same maturity level the whole book. Holden delineates things about a person before he even meets them. Holden constantly judges everyone he comes into contact with. He speaks about Mr. Spencer (10), a professor at Pencey Prep, in the same patronizing tone that he describes a particular psychoanalyst with (213). Though the events take place several months apart, Holden’s attitude stays consistent. Holden has no positive outlook or idea of what to do in his life or even what to do with school. Holden says, “I’m supposed to go to school next fall, but I don’t feel like it. That stuff doesn’t interest me too much” (213). Holden does not have any direction in his life or motivation to do much for himself and proves that unequivocally that Holden has not matured at all. Even after everything that Holden experiences throughout Catcher in the Rye, his attitude is unchanged at the conclusion. He believes he can be the Catcher in the Rye, which is a person who will catch kids that unintentionally run off a cliff covered in rye. Metaphorically, he wants to save the kids before they fall into the corruption that the adult world will entrap them in. He does not understand that he needs to mature to...