Who Is Holden Caulfield?

Topics: Adolescence, The Catcher in the Rye, Joan Caulfield Pages: 8 (1457 words) Published: January 20, 2013
Amelia Lee
Freeland 1/2

Who is Holden Caulfield?

Many adolescents struggle with finding who they are and how they fit into this world.

According to Lewis Judd's “The Normal Psychological Development of the American Adolescent,”

adolescents develop a sense of self-concept through the means of experimentation, daydreams, and in

actual or physical activities. Holden Caulfield, in The Catcher in the Rye, is one such example.

Troubled by the early death of his brother, Allie, and with no one to guide him through adolescence, he

finds himself lost. Holden struggles the most with his sense of identity, which is displayed through his

interactions with peers and strangers, his thoughts about himself, and his contradictions.

Holden often plays around with his identity while around other people. The article states that,

“Young people cannot be expected to know automatically what kind of person they want to be as

adults, without being able to experimentally function in a number of personality and vocational roles”

(Judd, 467). Holden expresses his experimentations verbally, switching in and out of different

personalities. He does not like to give his real name to strangers, but instead makes one up. He goes by

the alias Rudolph Schmidt when he speaks to a classmate's mother on the train and then becomes Jim

Steele in the Lavender Room and when he is with Sunny, a prostitute Holden hires to keep him

company. He also likes to change his identity around peers. While he and Ackley are in the room, and

everyone else is down at the football game, Holden does an act. “What I did was, I pulled the old peak

of my hunting hat around to the front, then pulled it way down over my eyes. That way, I couldn't see a

goddam thing. 'I think I'm going blind,' I said in this very hoarse voice. 'Mother darling, everything's

getting so dark in here.' … 'Mother darling, why won't you give me your hand?' I was only horsing

around, naturally” (Salinger, 21-22). Although Holden says that he only does these things because

he is bored, or “just for the hell of it,” but his actions give insight to his thoughts and feelings. When

Allie dies, Holden reacts violently and breaks all the windows in the garage. This is the darkness that enters his life. His parents want to get him psychoanalyzed, which shows that they care, yet Holden

feels as if his parents do not notice him and do not care about him. Pretending to be blind and helpless

and calling out for help symbolizes Holden's need to be shown affection from his parents, which he

felt he has never received. Because of this, Holden does not have an adult figure to help him get

through adolescence.

How Holden views himself and what he wants to be changes with the situation. The article

states that, “Day-dreaming is a pleasant, popular pastime and during adolescence it is purposeful in

that it brings relief from outside pressures and allows for the mental rehearsal of the present and future

roles the adolescent may play” (Judd, 468). In one instance, Holden recalls losing his gloves and

imagines himself not being such a yellow, or cowardly, guy. In his fantasy, he would call out the

person who stole them and sock the guy, but in reality, he doesn't have the guts, the strength, or care to

do it. Many of his daydreams are unrealistic. When Phoebe asks him wants to do as a job, Holden

responds by saying, “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 have to come out from somewhere and catch them. That's all I'd do all day. I'd just

be the catcher in the rye. I know it's crazy, but that's the only thing I'd...
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