The Catcher in the Rye can be strongly considered as one of the greatest novels of all time and Holden Caufield distinguishes himself as one of the greatest and most diverse characters. His moral system and his sense of justice force him to detect horrifying flaws in the society in which he lives. However, this is not his principle difficulty. His principle difficulty is not that he is a rebel, or a coward, nor that he hates society, it is that he has had many experiences and he remembers everything. Salinger indicates this through Holden's confusion of time throughout the novel. Experiences at Whooten, Pency, and Elkton Hills combine and no levels of time separate them. This causes Holden to end the novel missing everyone and every experience. He remembers all the good and bad, until distinctions between the two disappear. Holden believes throughout the novel that certain things should stay the same. Holden becomes a character portrayed by Salinger that disagrees with things changing. He wants to retain everything, in short he wants everything to always remain the same, and when changes occur; Holden reacts. However the most important aspect of Holden Caufield's character can be attributed to his judgment of people. Holden Caufield, a character who always jumps to conclusions about people and their phoniness, can be labeled as a hypocrite because he exemplifies a phony himself.
Holden Caufield the 16 year old protagonist and main character of The Catcher in the Rye narrates the story and explains all the events throughout three influential days of
his life. A prep school student who has just been kicked out of his second school, Holden struggles to find the right path into adulthood. He does not know what road to follow and he uses others as the scapegoat for his puzzlement in life. Harold Bloom explains,
His central dilemma is that he wants to retain a child's innocence., but because of biology he must move either into adulthood or madness. As a sort of compromise Holden imagines himself as "the catcher in the rye," a protector of childhood innocence exempt from movement into adulthood, which is neither possible nor sane." (Bloom's Notes 22)
Even Gerald Rosen states that, "It is important to note here that Holden's rejection of an adult role is not a case of sour grapes. He believes he will succeed and it is the successful life he fears"(101). Even though Holden tries to act like an adult at times, he is actually extremely afraid of the adult life and as a way to escape life, he creates this character, the catcher in the rye, throughout his thoughts. He feels that by saving the children from falling off the cliff, he saves them from falling into the adult world that he disgusts. He feels that this character can prevent the children from becoming adults and remaining in that childish world. Holden pictured it this way,
Anyway, I keep picturing all these little kids playing some game in this big field of rye and all. Thousands of little kids, and nobody's around-nobody big, I mean except me. And I'm standing on the edge of some crazy cliff.
What I have to do, I have to catch everybody if they start to go over the cliff. I mean if they're running and they don't look we're they're going I have to come out from somewhere and catch them. That's all I have to do all day. I'd just be the Catcher in the Rye and all. I know it's crazy, but that's the only thing I'd really like to be. I know it's crazy(Salinger 173).
Holden exhibits the madness described before at often times throughout the book and in the end it ends up sending him to a sanitarium. He knows he has become mad and he even tells himself this many times in the book; but he never really believes it. One time in the book when he displays this madness is,
But I'm crazy I swear to God I am. About halfway to the bathroom, I started pretending I had a bullet in my guts. Old Maurice had plugged me. Now I was on the way to the bathroom to get a...
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