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J.D. Salinger’s Catcher in the Rye

September 19, 2016

J.D. Salinger’s Catcher in the Rye

Holden’s Idealism:
•One of Holden’s biggest problems is his idealism. What he demands and expects of the world is unreasonable; he expects near perfection from everyone and everything and, as this is impossible, is always disappointed with the world and those around him.

•Holden rarely ever points out someone’s strengths (except their physical appearance, if they’re attractive) but can always find minor flaws and weaknesses.

•Puts far too much emphasis on people’s flaws, to an exaggerated level, says he “hates” them because of it.

• He groups nearly all forms of behaviour that bother him into “phoniness”, anything that deviates from his ideals or that seems predictable, such as selfishness, vanity, etc. •What he fails to accept is that these are simply basic human personality traits, human nature (this is why his ideals are impossible), and that even he often behaves in a manner that he would describe as “phony”. 

•Holden’s love of children, particularly Phoebe, is demonstrative of his naïve, perfectionist ideals. Holden likes children because he cannot find any “phoniness” in them. Children are not yet “tainted” with this supposed “phoniness” that inevitably becomes a part of one’s personality as they grow and that is what Holden is really rebelling against: adulthood. Holden is not ready to accept that he will have to sacrifice some of his ideals in order to survive in the adult world.

•We witness Holden trying to preserve a child’s innocence when he reacts so strongly to the words “Fuck you” written on the wall in Phoebe’s school and erases it (Salinger 201).

•However, Holden demonstrates a fair amount of kindness and compassion, such as when he says “Don’t ever tell anybody anything. If you do, you start missing everybody.” (Salinger 214). He is admitting that, despite everything, he feels bad for them. This demonstrates a startling level of compassion and caring, as well as forgiveness. 

•His encounter with the nuns is a good example of Holden’s innate goodness: he cannot reproach the nuns and cares about what they’re doing and even feels bad for not making an even bigger donation than the 10 dollars he does give. He could surely have found annoying characteristics about them to rant about, but he doesn’t.
 

Question # 2
•As discussed in Holden’s Idealism, Holden, like Gatsby, has an impossibly perfect vision of how the world should be. Both characters at once set themselves apart by their behaviour and reproach the world around them and yet they both desperately long to fit in (Gatsby is trying to get in with a far more specific crowd).

•However, were Holden to ever meet Gatsby, it is likely that he would call him a phony, as that is essentially what Gatsby is. Gatsby leads a double life, throws lavish parties and frequents some of the worst society around, true phonies.

•Gatsby and Holden long for a similar thing, they want to set themselves apart from the rabble (in their eyes) as well as be accepted. However, they attempt this in very different fashions and neither is likely to approve of the others methods.

Question # 3
•Like Romeo & Juliet, one of Holden’s biggest flaws is his youthful impetuousness.

•These characters don’t exert the caution and restraint that a more experienced, mature person would. Had R & J been older, their story may have ended on a more positive note.

•Whilst Romeo & Juliet truly are hated by certain adults, it is more the other way around with Holden; it is he who seems to “hate” so many people. Many adults in the story seem to pity and worry for Holden and his wellbeing.

•There are similarities with Hamlet as well. Both he and Holden face moral dilemmas, they both face their situations alone and most importantly, both characters are stalling, avoiding something extremely important that must be done.

•Hamlet finds several ways to stall and back-paddle before ultimately deciding to kill the King whereas Holden finds several ways to avoid going home and tries to shrug off the fact that he will eventually have to settle down and prepare himself for adult life.

•Both characters are reluctant to take their lives into their own hands and do what must be done.

Question # 12
•It’s too early to tell how much he has changed because he is still in the process of recovery.

•The way he writes about his feelings and thoughts, in the present tense, indicates he still thinks that way. If that’s the case, he hasn’t improved much.

•It’s hard to determine how much he has changed

because we only see things from his perspective, we don’t actually know if he’s changed. Maybe the book is extremely different from how he might have written it beforehand.

Click here to read more about hegelian idealism.

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