The Catcher in the Rye The Catcher in the Rye discussion


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Holden Caufield- view of the world (page 16)

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message 1: by Allison (new) - added it

Allison Moran When I started reading this book, by the second paragraph I already had a pretty good idea of Holden’s personality. It seems as if just about everything bothers him of he doesn’t like many things. Also, he doesn't say many positive things, and if he does, it’s closely followed by a negative.

I think that something traumatic happened in his life that made him develop his view of the world the way he did. Initially I thought his parents abused him or something, but then he talked about how the were nice people, so I ruled that out. My next thought was maybe he had a sibling or friend he was close with had died, and the death had major side effects on him. My last idea was his personality was like this naturally; negative and uncaring (to some degree).

I don’t think I missed a major hint or clue, did I? Can you think of any other reason?


message 2: by Cassandra (new) - added it

Cassandra I deffinitly agree with you on the point that he had somthing big happen in his life prior to the book to give him his adittude on life. It doesn't seem like people are just natrually that cynicle and uncaring of a thing in their life. I really don't have an idea of what kind of event it could be however. I do feel that there could be somthing that happened with his parents because when he says his parents are "nice people" I get the feeling that he is lying a really hiding a big part of the truth from us. Do you get that feeling?

I feel like he also would have to be smart to get into the school originally so that makes me feel like he really just doesn't care about his life, not that he is unintelligent or somthing like that where he would need to be kicked out of school. He is just to lazy to apply himself for some unknown reason.


Danielle some people are just assholes. holden was one of those people. that's why he hated himself too. because he wasnt that different from the people he hated.


Melody I thought he was institutionalized the whole time. He talks about pulling back the curtain etc...


Bernard Danielle wrote: "some people are just assholes. holden was one of those people. that's why he hated himself too. because he wasnt that different from the people he hated."

Yeah! I think you got something there. In some way, Holden reminds me of Meursault in The Stranger of Albert Camus; those are the two fiction characters I have the most dislike for.


message 6: by Eric (last edited Apr 19, 2011 08:32PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Eric Jay Sonnenschein The Catcher in the Rye is one of the most popular American books of all time. Yet its hero is barely a hero at all. He is disliked and misunderstood, a classic "screw-up", who does poorly in school, loses his team's equipment, and takes an impulsive trip to New York to see his sister and his old teacher. How can we Americans, who like our heroes bold, active, and "likeable" be receptive to Holden Caulfield?

Here is a protagonist beloved not for what he does or fails to do but for what he thinks. Holden Caulfield is no genius; he is simply in too much pain to be anything but honest. We like him because we trust him. We know he will not lie. He may be confused about life, but not how he feels about it.

Holden is not afraid to see things for what they are. He expresses thoughts we have but rarely allow ourselves to admit--that we despise authority, that most people are hypocrites, and that life pretty much disappoints us. Holden is the yin to our yang. Many of us do the right thing at the right time, but we're never sure why it's right or how we feel about it. Holden Caulfield almost always does the wrong thing, but he is saved by one great and powerful insight--that life is painful and confusing. He is open to this fact, he does not deny it or euphemise it.

However, knowing something solves nothing. Holden's knowledge can only destroy him if he does not learn how to use it. The objective of his journey to New York is to learn how to cope with what he knows. He is the American Hamlet, stumbling and bumbling his way from excruciating knowledge to coherent action.

Youth is hope. Unlike Tommy Wilhelm in Seize the Day, Holden has most of his life ahead of him, with time to steer himself on a positive course. The reader ends the book believing that Holden's sensitivity will mature into something strong and worthwhile.


Jessica Amador I feel like Holden's personality, views, way of talking, and over all character was "trying too hard". I know that isn't the most eloquent explanation but during the book my biggest thought was "get over yourself", it was like he was whining for no reason. Yep.


message 8: by Eric (last edited Apr 23, 2011 05:05PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Eric Jay Sonnenschein Why we like certain people and not others is a mystery and purely subjective. No one can tell you whom you should like. However, millions of readers have liked Holden Caulfield, so at the very least you might try to understand his wide, if peculiar appeal. Objectively speaking, like him or not, Holden Caulfield has a lot to "whine" about. For one, his beloved brother died. Secondly, he does not have much love or attention in his life. Where are his parents? He has apparently been "parked" in a boarding school, where he does not have any friends or mentors. In my book, those are legitimate grounds for unhappiness and protest.


Robin Jeez, I read this book so long ago, maybe should revisit this one again. He was pretty cynical about life, and I guess by the above posters comments that is reason enough to be cynical. Or the author was trying to portray someone so jaded with life and by the time teens read this, some of them are also. Just my personal view.


message 10: by Ally (new) - rated it 4 stars

Ally Sweeting Melody wrote: "I thought he was institutionalized the whole time. He talks about pulling back the curtain etc..."

yeah he was telling his story from the "hospital" he was put it. he wants the world to treat him as an adult but also wants to save the innocence of himself and his sister. i think his negativity comes from knowing that growing up means moving on & changing. he wants to stay young forever. he lies about everything, because the denial is easier than acknowleding that he's changed too.


Robin I think so too. The scene in the museum states so eloquently that the statues of the Eskimos will forever remain that way, but as people we do not, we all change, and we all become, gasp, adult.


Adrienne Agawin Eric wrote: "Why we like certain people and not others is a mystery and purely subjective. No one can tell you whom you should like. However, millions of readers have liked Holden Caulfield, so at the very le..."

I agree, but I really like that about Holden. He's makes messing up look "cool".


message 13: by Eric (new) - rated it 5 stars

Eric Jay Sonnenschein Exactly. We all mess up and only some people are cool enough to admit it.


Robin I know. The operative word being we all mess up, but some people can get back on the horse and ride away.


message 15: by Lily (new) - rated it 3 stars

Lily Robin wrote: "I know. The operative word being we all mess up, but some people can get back on the horse and ride away."

Robin -- a very healthy, very American attitude. But not all do, as those of us struggling elsewhere with Jude the Obscure are observing. I like this comment from another book I have been reading:

"You survived by seizing every tiny drop of love your could find anywhere and milking it, relishing it, for all it was worth. Your parents weren't all hate or all abuse. There were tender moments, whether or not you choose to remember them now. There were those moments, however brief, when you felt safe. You felt loved, and you savored every minute of it and held it closest to your heart. And as you grew up, you sought love anywhere you could find it, whether it was a teacher or a coach or a friend or a friend's parents. You sought those tiny droplets of love, basking in them when you found them. They are what sustained you." From Chapter 11, Get Me Out of Here by Rachel Reiland.


Robin That is good. I was just saying that it is a colloquialism about once you fall from a horse, you get back on it. I believe in the Get me out of here, I have been there, done that to an extent. Jude, nah I wouldn't touch that book. I am into the Moonstone by Wilkie Collins.


Elene I have read the book for several times, then listened as audio book and i love it.Selinger is a genius writer. and now i am aware of him,i understand why he wanted to be alone and why he was upset with readers.A lot of people like this book.but majority of them don't understand it.


message 18: by Eric (new) - rated it 5 stars

Eric Jay Sonnenschein I don't know why Salinger was a recluse. It could be that he was pathologically shy. Or he did not want people to ask him when he was publishing his next book.

Maybe he was a lot like Holden, and thought that people were phonies. Or it could be that like many writers, he was used to solitude and could not live without it.

If people love a book, is it so important for them to understand it? Maybe loving a book is understanding it in the most profound and important way--the way you love a person, a pet, or a prized possession. Anyway, we all understand works of art in a different, personal way. That is why people rarely agree on a movie they have just seen.


Elene Eric you are absolutely right.I read a lot of interviews,tried to understand why Salinger liked to live in solitude.He hated the popularity,which his book brought him.But anyway he should be happy because everybody loves Cather In the Rye.I think he didn't like that his book wasn't considered deeply by majority,he only wanted Holden to live in every reader's soul.


Michelle I love Holden's character. I guess I seem to be the only one here that can relate to him and really felt a connection. Holden kept it real everyone else was just a phony.


Valerie I agree with the person below me....I just finished Someday This Pain Will Be Useful to You by Peter Cameron and that was amazing as well. Both chatacters are awesome and I highly reccomend both.


Kristen Callihan I guess I always could understand where Holden was coming from. I too lost a sibling at an early age, and I would be lying if I said it didn't affect me. I'm not saying I went crazy, or anything like that, but I do think I had to grow up faster than some of my friends, and have been desensitized a bit too tragic things because of it. It does change your perspective of things, and not everyone else would understand because they didn’t have those experiences. For example, I would talk bluntly about certain things, and it would shock people, and I just understood it as factual. Unlike Holden, my parents were there for me, but I still didn't feel like they understood. In a way I always felt that struggle to maintain the innocents of youth, while trying to be seen as an adult. It’s hard to talk openly about such things, and I guess that's why I like Holden is because while he might be an unreliable narrator (but who isn't), he is an honest unreliable narrator.


message 23: by Amy (new) - rated it 5 stars

Amy Asbury Eric wrote: "The Catcher in the Rye is one of the most popular American books of all time. Yet its hero is barely a hero at all. He is disliked and misunderstood, a classic "screw-up", who does poorly in schoo..."

I think you hit the nail on the head with this one Eric- I am in complete agreement with you


Robin Kristen, wow, did not even know about that from the book. I must have ditched the reading before it got to that part. It reminds me of that movie with Mary Tyler Moore when they lost their son, and how the Timothy Hutton character knew that he wasn't the one that the mother cared about. I feel your hurt in your thread, and I know that losing a loved one is always hard, I lost a cousin to suicide and it still hurts.


message 25: by Eric (new) - rated it 5 stars

Eric Jay Sonnenschein The loss of a sibling or parent is traumatic but it is specific and can be mourned. Holden's anguish is more painful because it is non-specific, hard to locate or articulate. I think Holden connects with so many young readers because they feel his extreme unease in the world,that abiding sense of missing something, without quite knowing what it is. The realization that the world is bogus, opressive and absurd is one most people make at some point in our lives. Oddly, Kafka also taps into that pain in The Metamorphosis, The Trial and The Castle. So does John Barth in "The End of the Road." And Saul Bellow in "Herzog", "Sieze the Day" and "Humboldt's Gift."


message 26: by Eric (new) - rated it 5 stars

Eric Jay Sonnenschein I'd agree with you about the "loss" but not about "the innocence." It seems to me that Holden tries hard to hold on to his innocence. That's why he doesn't want any responsibility because that always entails the possibility of guilt. Holden is not exactly a literate person, so he would not be given to description or insight. He's very young and very disturbed. He feels abandonned and guilty.

But think what you want. There can be no meaningful disagreement about literature. It's entirely subjective.


Daniel Clausen When I was in high school I tried writing a paper that compared Holden Caulfield to Mark Renton in Trainspotting.

It was mentioned that Holden hates himself for being just like the "phonies" he sees around him. I think that is part of the point, he doesn't see any escape other than total self destruction.

Youth will always have the problem: we don't want to grow into our parents for some reason. We feel like growing up means abandoning our ideals. In Renton's case it means abandoning something pure for the allure of consumer goods "an F***ing car, washing machine" etc. Holden feels the same way. We abandon all the moral education we got in elementary school so that we can have our names put on a building. We tend to worship success more than purity.

As I grow older and my hair thins, though, it seems that in order for us to sometimes survive we have to turn into a bit of smarmy ass like Holden. We become sarcastic. Our sarcasm only seems to hit the register with other people who seem to understand the bind that they are in--to succeed (or even survive) in the real world, we must give up a better part of ourself.


Daniel Clausen Michelle wrote: "I love Holden's character. I guess I seem to be the only one here that can relate to him and really felt a connection. Holden kept it real everyone else was just a phony."

Michelle, no I get Holden Caulfield as well. He made being a loser cool. He's the reason I haven't gone to lawschool or into an MBA program---yet...


message 29: by [deleted user] (new)

Michelle wrote: "I love Holden's character. I guess I seem to be the only one here that can relate to him and really felt a connection. Holden kept it real everyone else was just a phony."

While I can understand what most people in this post are referring to, I have to make a point of him being a hero. To say that Holden Caulifield is a hero may be a bit dramatic and opposite of what Salinger was really going for. Salinger hated the American "phony" and more than likely the typical "hero" would fit right into that mold. Superman wants/needs to be liked by everybody whereas Holden never cared, nor did Salinger (and nor did Batman for that matter but that's a different story altogether).

I think that most people love Holden is because he seemed to understand what most people never do. He never was caught up in the hype. The Holden of today would be absolutely disgusted with the Jersey Shores, Lady Gagas, and all the other media whores who prostitute themselves for the glory of fame which has infected all of society today. Go to any American mall today and you will see what Holden wanted to so desperately prevent.


Sheri Allison wrote: "When I started reading this book, by the second paragraph I already had a pretty good idea of Holden’s personality. It seems as if just about everything bothers him of he doesn’t like many things. ..."

Totally agree I always thought that Salinger was a darker writer. I think Holden is a reflection of that darker side .


message 31: by Brianna (last edited Jul 16, 2011 02:09PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Brianna yea usually in some cases the author expresses his life through a character he/she created.


Franny I think Holden is a guy that is a lot like our youth today who feel at odds when they have that reached that line between child and adult, but he is brave, a rebel and does not feed into the bullshit. He is depressed but I think even if he was not he would still be him, a down to earth guy who just knows what he feels and is simple. Reading the book made me a little down because I am an optimist and I do not want to believe the world is as Holden makes it because it sounds sad, depressing and alone. I think Holden is experiencing PSTD ( dont know if I got the right abbreviation) He is liked because everyone at some point or another has felt the way he feels but do not have the guts to allow themselves to feel, think or say such things. I know I try not to, because the mind will believe anything you let it and thinking this way constantly is just contradictory to living life. I feel like things should be looked at in a objectionable manner but in balance. Sometimes though people do not want happy endings and want a story that is dark, dreary and unhopeful and Holden lives up to that role.


message 33: by Monty J (last edited Apr 11, 2013 07:51PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Monty J Heying Allison wrote: "When I started reading this book, by the second paragraph I already had a pretty good idea of Holden’s personality. It seems as if just about everything bothers him of he doesn’t like many things. ..."

I address this at length in a separate thread, "Interpreting The Catcher in the Rye," attributing his rotten attitude in part to PTSD stemming from two traumatic incidents that happened within a year or so of each other. The first is the death of Holden's younger brother, Allie. The second incident was the suicide of James Castle, a dorm-mate who leaped to his death to escape being bullied wearing a sweater Holden had loaned him. Either incident could have caused PTSD, but having them both happen during his mid-teens was too much. Holden was barely "holdin' on." Salinger knew about the psychological effects of trauma from his war service, having been himself hospitalized for "battle fatigue," though it wasn't called PTSD then.

In another thread I compare Holden to Conrad Jarett of Ordinary People. Conrad witnessed the death of his brother in a boating accident and tried to commit suicide because of it. Like Holden, Conrad had trouble at school and got into a fight. Both Holden and Conrad were hospitalized to treat their disorders.

Holden's "bad attitude" is characteristic of people with repressed "Bystander rage." They witnessed something horrific but were unable to help. Logically, Holden was left with an urge to protect children as "Catcher in the rye."


message 34: by Monty J (last edited Apr 11, 2013 11:08AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Monty J Heying Eric wrote: "Holden's anguish is more painful because it is non-specific, hard to locate or articulate."

Holden's anguish IS specific. (See my post #34 above.) He was traumatized by the death of his brother Allie and by the suicide of his dorm-mate, James Castle.


Amber Holden was affected by his brother's death and by depression and suicidal thoughts.


message 36: by Alex (new) - rated it 5 stars

Alex Stefansson As a lot of people have already mentioned in this thread, Holden's attitude and outlook on life is cynical or "dark" because of the traumatic events he experienced early in his life. When we, the readers, meet Holden, he is only 16 or 17 years old, and his brother Allie is dead, his former dorm-mate is dead, his other brother D.B. lives on the other side of the country, he is separated from little sister Phoebe (whom he adores) and his parents are "occupied." He is alone in a "hospital," away from his family and everyone he has ever loved or cared about. In my opinion, I think Holden seems fairly well adjusted considering what he has been through.

I disagree with everyone who says that Holden makes "being a loser cool," or "makes messing up look cool." I don't think Holden is a loser, nor do I think he is cool. And I definitely don't think he is an "asshole."

I think Holden is just a kid who never really got to experience being a child. He is cynical and unhappy as he is telling his story because he is institutionalized. He doesn't want to be in the "hospital." He is recovering. And as he tells his story, I think he is reflecting on his own course of action and coming to terms with who he is and what he has done. He isn't bragging about anything. He isn't looking for admiration.


Carlos Vazquez • I think the key in determining the causes of the neurotic character of Holden Cauldfield is he has a low threshold for anxiety, and that’s a congenital way of being in life. Probably, Holden has born so as other people is born with blue or dark eyes, is short or tall.
• We see, in Spain these characters didn't happen 50 years ago, but today these are more or less frequent. Holden is a teenager born in a upper middle class family.
• In these families, both father and mother uses to work. Women liberation I don't deny is a right, but as all rights supposes a duty or a price to pay. Frequently, in this cases, the payer is the descent. The price for a busy mother which works out of home and is a woman alternating in feasts of society is frequently a son or several with unstable mood from his birth.
• Kafka is a perfect sample of this class of people: he was the son of a wealthy family, but still so, he judges his father as very rude and his childhood was too hard. But Kafka’s father only was a common merchant worried by his business. Truly, these people are badly adapted for practical life, but can have an extreme sensibility and see what another more common people is unable to perceive. Is these people which don’t fit in the Army, sports, etc, and in society only are capable to find friends between people as themselves.





Carol I think most of you are putting way to much into this. I read this book more than 50 years ago along with all of Salinger's other books. I always hoped he would write more but at this point I think he wrote just enough. What's it all about? That's up to the individual reader.


message 39: by Monty J (last edited May 17, 2013 10:34PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Monty J Heying Allison wrote: "My next thought was maybe he had a sibling or friend he was close with had died, and the death had major side effects on him..."

This subject is covered thoroughly in my discussion topic, "Interpreting Catcher... ."

Holden was traumatized by the death of his brother Allie and by the violent suicide of his dorm mate, James Castle, who leaped to his death to avoid bullies wearing a sweater Holden had loaned him.

Today he would probably have been diagnosed with PTSD.

CiTR was written after Salinger returned from WWII. He was at Utah Beach at Normandy and was among the first Allied soldiers to enter a concentration camp. He was hospitalized for "battle fatigue." He knew what it meant to be depressed and brought to your knees by horrific memories. He had seen and participated in the horrific events of war. It's no wonder he became a recluse.


Carlos Vazquez Es un poco asombroso ver como en USA, el tema “cantidad de producción” es importante.
Y creo que esto, según en qué actividades, es un error, y que a un escritor no se lo puede catalogar por la cantidad de obras escritas, sino por la calidad. Un escritor no es General Motors, vamos.
En otro sentido, sé que Salinger participó en la II WW, pero muchos otros lo hicieron y no escribieron jamás una obra así ni les afectó tanto. Supongo que unos les afectó más y a otros menos, pero no llevaron una vida como la suya. El secreto de su talento y su existencia solo le pertenece a él.


message 41: by Tim (new) - rated it 5 stars

Tim Monty J wrote: "Allison wrote: "My next thought was maybe he had a sibling or friend he was close with had died, and the death had major side effects on him..."

Monty, I was just about to write the same thing, but then spotted your comment. I'm surprised readers miss something so obvious; Holden breaks his hand punching out all the windows in the garage after Allie dies. Not exactly subtle.

A little harder to pick up on is his mother being sick. He mentions her getting headaches because she never really got over the death of Allie. Holden claims both he and his mother are psychic. Even if not taken literally, it shows an affinity between Holden and his mother. His mother's depression would definitely have had an effect on him.



Tulio  Albuquerque Eric wrote: "The Catcher in the Rye is one of the most popular American books of all time. Yet its hero is barely a hero at all. He is disliked and misunderstood, a classic "screw-up", who does poorly in schoo..."


Tulio  Albuquerque I agree completely with you Eric!


message 44: by Monty J (last edited Jun 07, 2013 09:45AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Monty J Heying Eric wrote: "The loss of a sibling or parent is traumatic but it is specific and can be mourned. Holden's anguish is more painful because it is non-specific, hard to locate or articulate."

Just because it CAN be mourned doesn't mean it was, in Holden's case (bearing in mind that we're talking about a fictional character.) Delayed or unresloved grief is a common basis for neuroses, "background" anxiety among them.

Salinger wouldn't have included details about Holden's reaction to the death of his brother Allie and the hideous violent death of James Castle unless he meant something by it. These events are either just setting/background (like the guys unloading the Christmas tree) or character definition. These are major events in Holden's life. Anyone's life. He's the the main character, so I deem it the latter.

Remember, Holden didn't cry at Allie's funeral (didn't even attend because he was hospitalized for injuring his hands bashing out windows over Allie's death.) This is the tip-off. Why would Salinger write this if he weren't guiding us, giving us a clue as to why Holden is doing "this madman stuff?"

Salinger didn't spell it out for us, but then what truly good writer would?

From post #18: "I don't know why Salinger was a recluse."

It is hard not to connect the dots to Salinger's war service, where he saw his comrades mowed down by German machine guns at Utah Beach in the Normandy landing, the heart that action, and was among the first Allied troops to enter a concentration camp. PTSD wasn't a diagnosis in those days, but he was hospitalized for what was then called "battle fatigue."

I don't subscribe to the idea of non-specific anxiety. What I've read, e.g., Inner Conflict and Defense, indicates that all anxiety has a basis; we just aren't always able to diagnose the source because the causative memories have either been repressed or forgotten.

But as you say, it's subjective and after all this is a fictional character. We see what we are able (or need/want) to see. Although Holden is highly autobiographical, as Salinger once admitted. PTSD is abstract or gibberish to most people lacking any direct experience with it.


message 45: by Tim (new) - rated it 5 stars

Tim Holden didn't attend Allie's funeral, as he was in the hospital after breaking all the garage windows with his fist. (Chapter 20)

Holden also says that he talks to Allie when he gets depressed.

I agree. He obviously had some unresolved grief.


Jerry Guarino Did we need 200+ pages to get the point? This could have been a better short story. But love his other work, especially Nine Stories.


Tammy Dumouchel I just finished reading "The Catcher In The Rye" for the first. I truly did enjoy this novel and found myself not being able to put it down.

The way that I see Holden Caulfield is that he is just a 16 year old teenager unsure of himself and what life has in store for him. I think that due to certain circumstances in his life (Allie's death, being kicked out of three schools, etc), it has left him with a void that he ins't quite certain of how to fill. He himself states that he feels depressed quite often and with depression sometimes comes erratic behavior. He is also very lonely throughout the book and is looking for someone to have an actual conversation with which is why he offers to buy cocktails for Cabbies and hires Sunny the prostitute with which he doesn't further any sexual relations but just wants to converse with her.

As to the whole Allie's funeral setting. I felt like it was quite unfortunate that Holden wasn't able to be there and maybe it would have helped him with his grief but we will never know.

I think that Holden was lonely, depressed and just looking for a way out. When he mentioned moving to Vermont, I think that he figured that's the answer to everything. He was just looking for an answer and someone to maybe help him find it out.

All in all I enjoyed reading "The Catcher In The Rye" and I am looking forward to finding and reading other works by J.D. Salinger.


Jerry Guarino Tammy, you certainly summed up the book quite well. What did you think of the ending?

Jerry


Tammy Dumouchel Jerry,
I was quite unsatisfied. I wish that Salinger would have told us exactly what happened to Holden. It is definitely that Holden was in some sort of Hospital (probably a Mental Institution) however I would have liked to know what happened, how he got there, and did he find the answers he was looking for in life. But again I still loved the book and I am certainly happy to have found it.

Tammy


Jerry Guarino yup.. check out my earlier comment (message 47)..

Jerry


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