First 841 words of the document:
The Catcher In The Rye
(Why does Holden do that?)
1. Holden sees childhood as a perfect place. This could be because as a child he was happier than he is
now (since the death of his brother Allie.) He can relate to children, and prefers to talk to them than
adults, as he thinks they have a purer way of seeing the world.
a. He mentions a story that he loved by his brother, D.B, `The Secret Goldfish', about the way
children think (Ch.1). Contrast this to his hatred of the movies, and their overthetop
b. `Old Phoebe didn't say anything, but she was listening. I could tell by the back of her neck that
she was listening. She always listens when you tell her something. And the funny part is she
knows, half the time, what the hell you're talking about. She really does.' (Ch.22)
2. Since the death of his brother, Holden has isolated himself from the world as a form of selfprotection.
He feels that he needs to separate himself from a world that treats him badly. He is lonely, and
throughout the novel tries to find love and companionship, but cannot bring himself to establish a
relationship with anyone because he has become frightened of intimacy.
a. `Sex is something I just don't understand. I swear to God I don't.' (Ch.9)
3. In Holden's mind, there is a very clear division between the worlds of adulthood and childhood. The
case may be that Holden is scared by how complicated the adult world is, and does not understand why
people do what they do, when it may go against how they or other people feel. He looks around and
sees the adult world as being full of hypocrisy and superficiality, in comparison to the children's world,
which is full of innocence, curiosity and honesty. As he is unable to really express this, he uses the
catchall phrase `phoney' to describe adulthood.
a. Holden likes the Museum of Natural History because it is simple and does not change,
showing his fear of change and of complexity, but is uncomfortable that he is older each time
he visits. (Ch.25)
b. Notice how he says to Mr Spencer in his essay `That is all I know about the Egyptians. I can't
seem to get very interested in them.' (Ch. 2), and yet he is willing to talk to children in the
Museum about them, and evidently knows a lot about them as he seems to know the whole
museum by heart: `'You know where the Egyptians buried their dead?' I asked the one kid.
`Naa.' `Well, you should. It's very interesting. They wrapped...etc.etc.' (Ch.25)
4. He gets very upset when he sees what he believes to be the `adult world' ruining the childhood world.
a. For example, when he sees `fuck you' written in the primary school he becomes upset but
cannot understand why. He tries to scrub it off, as he believes he needs to protect children
from adult `phoniness' (Ch. 25)
b. He gets depressed after he drops the `Little Shirley Beans' record, and it smashes. `It broke
into about fifty pieces...I damn near cried, it made me feel so terrible' (Ch. 20)
5. Holden explains in his talk with Mr Spencer that if life is a game, he can only win if he is `on the side
with the hotshots'. This explains a lot about the way Holden acts. He thinks that in the adult world, the
only way to survive is to be phoney. As a result, he tells himself that he is morally superior for not
having `given up' in his personal fight against the `phonies'. This is why he does not make an effort at
school, or particularly want a career. He doesn't want to be part of the phoney establishment that
Pencey and other schools represent to him.
a. He says that the only job he wants is to be the `catcher in the rye', to save children from
`falling' into the adult world, which he believes will cause them as much sadness as it did him.
b. Right at the end of the book, Holden says he `felt so damn happy all of a sudden'. This is
because he has just realised that everyone has to grow up, and it's inevitable. This is
symbolised by the gold ring on the carousel. `All the kids kept trying to grab for the gold ring,
and so was old Phoebe, and I was sort of afraid she'd fall off the goddam horse, but I didn't
say anything or do anything. The thing with kids is, if they want to grab for the gold ring, you