In many novels in J.D. Salinger's library of books, there is a recurring theme of the loss of innocence of children, the falling and the confusions of childhood, and many other ideas that apply to the ideas of adolescence and the life of the average teenager growing up. Many of his themes occur in a short period of time in a child's life that affects him/her in a very profound and significannot
way. The idea of love is also a major theme that arises in many of his characters and that indicates the character of the individual. He uses love in the context of being a device that is used to protect and to care for people who need protecting and caring. In the novel, Catcher in the Rye, by J. D. Salinger, love is used by a character, Holden Caulfield, who struggles desperately to find a certain somebody or anyone to allocate his love to, but realizes finally, that this love is not necessarily expressed through saving " the children in the rye" from the time of trial, but actually caring for them and being their friends, during the time of trial.
The quest of finding the true love of people is an ongoing dilemma in the lives of many people all throughout the world. The constant need for love is overwhelming, and the tragedy of this great world is the fact that some people do not find the proper love that they deserve. Holden Caulfield is a perfect example of the striving to acquire a love sought all throughout his life. According to this quote, "He is simply expressing an innocence incapable of genuine hatred. Holden does not suffer from the inability to love, but does despair of finding a place to bestow his love" (Heiserman and Miller 30), Holden Caulfield has the need for allocating his cornucopia of love for people. His quest is very simple. He wants to do good. As compared to tragic heroes in the past,
"Holden seeks Virtue second to Love. He wants to be good. When the little children are playing in the rye-field on the cliff top, Holden wants to be the one who catches them before they fall off the cliff. He is not driven toward honor or courage. He is not driven toward the love of woman. Holden is driven toward love of his fellowman...." (Heiserman and Miller 25).
In other words, he is not a tragic hero, but rather a misfortuned hero that struggles to find a person to give his love to. There is nothing tragic about his life.
Holden also seeks circularity in his life. According to this quote, I felt so damn happy all of a sudden, the way old Phoebe kept going around and around. I was damn near bawling, I felt so damn happy, if you want to know the truth. I don't know why. It was just that she looked so damn nice, the way she kept going around and around, in her blue coat and all. God, I wish you could've been there"
Holden revels in the virtues of softness of the edges, a roundness that can't hurt anyone. He finds a comfort in the circular motions of the carousel.
"All the kids kept trying to grab for the gold ring, and so was old Phoebe, and I was sort of afraid she might fall off the goddam horse, but I didn't 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 it's bad if you say anything to them" (Salinger 211).
This illustrates the pure innocence of children, and the gold rings portray a sort of round goal that children seek and reach for. This quote is later on in the story and the true symbolism is realized toward the end of the novel. Holden also seeks the truth from people in general, reaching for the one theme left in the world, innocence. One kind of bitter truth he does not seek is phoniness....