A coming-of-age novel is when a protagonist undergoes adventures and/or inner turmoil in his growth and development as a human being. Keeping that in mind, Holden was dealing with the realities of growing up, and becoming "phony". He was slowly realizing that he could never censor the world from profanities, and that he could never rub off all the "****-Yous" on the walls. At the end when Phoebe is on the Merry-Go-Round, he says that he has to let her grab the ring, which his way of letting her grow up, and have her own experiences. He knows that he cant protect her anymore. When one is dismayed by some cold facet of society, the verbal exclamations are directed at the incorporeal "they". Who are "they"? Just because a tangible object to direct such anger at may be elusive, does not dismiss the existence of a reasonable target. Holden makes attempts to interact with society and is consistently let down. When he asks Stradlater to give his regards to Jane, he sums up the exchange with "They never give your regards to people" (Salinger 33). When a bus driver assumed Holden was going to cause trouble, he concluded the moment with "People never believe you" (Salinger 37). When he asked a waiter to pass a message, he didn't even bother to give the waiter a voice, but rather concluded, "People never give your message to anybody" (Salinger 149). When these events happen once, it is clearly meant to represent a recurrence. In Holden's words, "they" are "people" and not just the people he directly encounters, but the collective notion of people known as society. Simply put, they are the people who are part of society.
Holden encounters a steady stream of bit players throughout the book. One critic weighed their importance to the story by sheer volume: "Salinger is a master at the minor (or flat) character, and The Catcher in the Rye is full-to-bursting with these folk. There are over fifty-five such characters in the novel – over fifty-five! – many of whom never appear more than once, many of whom, in fact, never actually appear in the book at all, floating ghostlike through the dark recesses of Holden Caulfield's mind" (McNally 107). These come in the form of stereotypes, from peer groups such as jocks and outcasts, to authority figures such as teachers and mothers, and a whole spectrum in between. These characters, as they are introduced, may play different roles to the story line, but each one gives a different perspective of how they interact with someone in Holden's position.
There are two views put forth by these characters. The first is what Holden sees in these people and how he learns about society in general from them. This one is the more obvious because Holden is telling the story. When Holden meets Mrs. Morrow on the train, he is most interested in how her perception of her son is so different from reality and concludes that "Mothers are all slightly insane" (Salinger 55). Right from the beginning of the novel, we are shown that Holden is not satisfied with the façade presented to him by people and is interested in people's intentions like when he sees through Stradlater's compliment: "He was only flattering me, though" (Salinger 29), or someone's charitable work "The only way she could go around with a basket collecting dough would be if everybody kissed her ass for her when they made a contribution" (Salinger 114). He also observes how others conform to the point of mindless obedience like the elevator operator who he circumnavigates with a little "Social Engineering"1 and notes "All you have to do is say something nobody understands and they'll do practically anything you want them to" (Salinger 157-8). But Holden does not blindly accept things without reading into them more carefully, and this brings us to the second view expressed through these characters, which is how they react to him. One character, Carl Luce, suggests Holden should seek psychoanalytical help2 when Holden tries to have an intelligent...
Please join StudyMode to read the full document