Death and Catcher in the Rye

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Death is an over-arching theme throughout The Catcher in the Rye. Holden experiences two deaths prior to the events in the novel that impact him profoundly. The most significant death was the death of his younger brother, Allie. Allie died of leukemia three years before the events of the novel. The second death was that of James Castle, Holden’s Classmate at Elkton Hills School. James committed suicide. Holden knew James well enough for the death to leave a mark on him. Holden had never experienced death before these events and has to face them and go through stages of grief to ultimately come to terms with the deaths. These two deaths created a fear of death within Holden.

The first stage Holden goes through is anger. After Allie died, Holden went into his family’s garage and broke all the windows except for one with his bare hands. The result of this was a broken hand and the inability to attend Allie’s funeral. This plays a meaningful role in the novel because funerals represent closure and acceptance that one is dead, because of Holden not attending the funeral, he has not accepted Allie’s death. This is evident through his various “conversations” he has with Allie’s spirit. The second stage that Holden experiences is denial. Holden is unable to accept change in any form or fashion. Holden is not willing to accept the inevitability of change. The world around him is constantly telling him to grow up and act more mature, but he will not. Even his body is telling him that he has to become an adult. Once again, he does his best to reject his own body, so he doesn’t have to change and become subject to the effects of time like his younger brother Allie was. After Allie’s death, Holden equates the loss of innocence to death because of his fear of death, so thus he wishes to protect children’s innocence from the changes of the adult world. The cab ride scene with Horwitz illustrates Holden’s curiosity of where ducks go during the winter to survive the...
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