I recently reread The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger for the second time. I read it in high school and I remember hating the book and not retaining anything that happened. However, this time around I actually really enjoyed it.
Holden Caufield is such an interesting character because he is so irrational about certain things. He has the highest expectations and is only pleased by his family members or certain random people (like the nuns he encounters) who, at times, he is also inclined to hate. Clearly he desires companionship but his hateful nature drives people away from him. He becomes depressed when he realizes he is lonely and that the world is a disappointment, which for Holden is almost one hundred percent of the time. He thinks that everyone is a “phony” and wants to find people who are true to themselves and not just looking to impress other people. Of course there is an extent to which people can really be true to themselves without coming off as rude or arrogant however. Holden himself is “phony” when he talks to Mr. Spencer and wants nothing more than to leave. He even lies to get away from the old man who is only trying to give him helpful advice. This can be seen as being “phony,” but Holden never holds himself accountable for this crime that almost the rest of humankind is committing. After leaving Pencey, he then wanders around aimlessly drinking and trying to find friendship among the random people he encounters. Their annoyed or confused reactions are understandable to the reader, but from Holden’s perspective he cannot see why these people act that way toward him and then writes them off as jerks or ignorant. His intentions become apparent after his parents come home from their party and he sneaks out of Phoebe’s bedroom. He wants them to catch him, which is why he does not try hard to cover up and even admits to wishing they had caught him.
Holden is just a sixteen year old boy who cycles through having irrational desires and getting caught up in moments that constantly disappoint him and lead him back to a depression. He wants to marry Sally Hayes when he is out on his date with her just for the spontaneity and the appeal of acting on a whim. He wants to run away and live in the woods as a deaf-mute with a beautiful woman because it is his fascinating idea as an escape from reality. However, Holden does not and would not go through with these elaborate plans because he knows deep down how ridiculous they are. He lets his imagine run wild and sometimes gets caught up in the moment, but knows he will never actually leave because it would be nearly impossible and they are ideas that are probably more appealing when thought upon and not acted out.
His references to his dead brother Allie show also how he is clearly still affected by his death and how it plays a huge factor into the type of person Holden has become. He does not let anyone in to understand what he is really thinking or how he is feeling, and has seemingly random outbursts. As the reader, we are able to see the connections between his thoughts, but the people Holden talks to are merely confused. When he is wandering around New York City after leaving the Antolini’s house, Holden talks to Allie so that he can help save him from disappearing while crossing the streets. Holden also says how that kind of “perverty” stuff, like Mr. Antolini patting his head, has happened to him a number of times since he was a kid. He does not go on to explain what this means, however, it can be assumed that he may be trying to repress certain details of his past. Holding onto the memory of his brother Allie and the possible history of negative encounters with adults lead him to his last stop on this journey since Pencey which is the mental hospital he lives in until he has to go back to another school again in the fall. The reader is left to wonder if Holden has found help and will start to make a positive change by taking initiative in his school work, or if he will keep failing out in an attempt to find the attention he so badly craves.