Themes in Catcher in the Rye
In 1951, JD Salinger published a novel titled The Catcher in the Rye. Between the years of 1945 and 1951, Salinger had changed his concept of the misfit hero from a pathetically misunderstood protagonist who seemed doomed to a less than average life, to a protagonist who has learned to surpass the morons and show them compassion through somewhat condescending gestures. The latter is the present day Holden Caulfield, the protagonist in The Catcher in the Rye. Holden presents himself as a mature young man, but the theme of phoniness and preservation of innocence against the fake world of adults run strong throughout Salinger’s novel. Peter Seng writes in his essay “The Fallen Idol: The Immature World of Holden Caulfield” that Holden hates lies, phoniness, pretense but these are often his own sins, not just of those around him. Seng says that Holden thinks of others as worthless in their actions, but then reveals those same traits later throughout the plot (Seng, 63, print). Holden has a roommate named Ward Stradlater who Holden doesn’t care for too much. He thinks of Stradlater as self-obsessed and phony so when Stradlater takes Holden’s childhood crush Jane Gallagher and “makes time” with her in the backseat of a car, Holden is enraged. He thinks that Stradlater is too obsessed with girls and sex, but as soon as he gets to New York, Holden attempts to “make time” with first a stripper, then a hotel call girl, and then he finally calls in a prostitute to try and do the dead. Holden displays here the same phoniness and that he hated so much in Stradlater. At the Wicker Bar in New York, Holden goes on about the place, saying that “it’s one of those places that are supposed to be very sophisticated and all, and the phonies are coming out the window.” Holden goes on to describe everyone in there as phonies and louses, but he is in the bar by choice. In the Wicker Bar, Holden is just as much a phony as the rest in there because...
Cited: Finch, Warren. J.D. Salinger, Revisited. Boston: Twayne, 1988. Print.
Seng, Peter. “The Fallen Idol: The Immature World of Holden Caulfield.” J.D.
Salinger and the Critics. Ed. William F. Belcher and James W. Lee. Belmont,
CA: Wadsworth, 1962. 60-68. Print.
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