Catcher in the Rye: the theme of loss
Central to the narrative is Holden’s unrealistic expectation of people and at the same time his need for company that seems to tear him apart. Most of this seems to stem from the loss of his younger brother Allie who is mentioned often and is a central figure in the narrator’s tale. Allie is never truly introduced as a character by the narrator but rather seems to slip into the narrative at times when Holden is lonely and depressed. It would appear that Holden never truly felt like he had had the opportunity to say goodbye to his brother before death took him and so the sense of being able to close a chapter in his life has become important.
The first moment in the book where we see this evidenced, is when Holden says the following:
“I don’t care if it’s a sad good-by or a bad good-by, but when I leave a place I like to know I’m leaving it. If you don’t, you feel even worse.”
Holden is an astute judge of character, even if it is astute by his own standards. In his mind, the world consists of phonies and fakes although surprisingly, this does not seem to stop him from initiating dialogue and spending time with whoever seems to be around. The judging of and stereotyping of people is like a defense mechanism on his part to keep people at a distance as he has very little expectation of the meeting/relationship going anywhere substantial. This could well be because he lost his little brother and there is a fear of losing someone again. And so he lives behind his self-professed suave mask and makes sure that no matter how incidental the meeting is, there is a sense of finality about it, almost fatalism.
Later on in the book, when Holden goes into detail about Allie, he uses very complimentary language which stands in stark contrast to how he sums up everyone else he mentions. Even Jane, whom he clearly had a crush on, is slightly flawed in his eyes. However Holden uses these words when speaking of his younger...
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