Analyzing Holden Caulfield

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“If you really want to hear about it, the first thing you’ll probably want to know is where I was born, and what my lousy childhood was like . . . ” (pg. 1) Holden Caulfield is a hostile and constantly negative boy that suffers from depression. The root of his depression can mainly be found in his desire to never grow up and a lack of acceptance of his brother, Allie’s, death. The first words Holden say clearly show me his negative tone, anger, and built-up hostility towards those of his past. Of these people, adults seem to make up the majority.
Holden seems to lack confrontation skills when it comes to talking with adults. He constantly lies to just about every adult he encounters. While speaking with Ernest Morrow’s mother on a train, he praised Ernest saying, “When I first met him, I thought he was kind of a snobbish person…But he isn’t. He’s just got this very original personality that takes you a little while to get to know him.” (pg. 56) Just after that, Holden admitted, “I had her glued to her seat…Then I really started chucking the old crap around.” (pg. 56)
Building an individual up, and secretly bringing him down is a characteristic that Holden likes about himself, “The trouble with me is, I like it when somebody digresses. It’s more interesting and all.” (pg. 183) When adults are around, Holden seems to want to put on a show for them to maybe earn their respect. He may just lie or “play dumb” in order to get them to “prove him wrong and set him straight with the truth.”  
Holden also lacks the will to trust or believe what people say and calls most of his peers “phonies.” Much of this is brought up whenever Holden sees that someone his own age has something that he wants. A roommate of Holden’s, Ward Stradlater, had a date with Jane Gallagher, a girl Holden once lived by and had feelings for. Holden asked Stradlater where he went with Jane and when Stradlater gave Holden a cheesy answer (“Nowhere we just sat in…[Ed Bunky‘s]…car” (pg. 42)), Holden knew then just how Stradlater really was with girls. Holden then called Stradlater a phony and a “stupid moron” (pg. 44) repeatedly because he felt Stradlater was not telling him the truth and he didn‘t want to see Jane get hurt.
To put emphasis on his point of constantly changing people, Holden tells me, “Certain things they should stay the way they are. You ought to be able to stick them in one of those big glass cases and just leave them alone.”(pg. 122) This is a phrase Holden made while discussing how things were different each time his sister Phoebe went to the Museum of Natural History. This sort of change in people younger than him made Holden very depressed. “It’d be entirely different. I said. I was getting depressed as hell again.” (pg. 133) “What I did, I started talking out loud to Allie. I do that sometimes when I get very depressed.” (pg. 104) This sort of statement brings about the lack of acceptance of Allie’s death and a sense of relief from Holden’s depression. Holden seemed to see Allie as one of the only pure hearted people he knew, and now that Allie was gone, Holden didn’t know what to do with himself besides trying to make Allie “alive” again.
The fact that both Allie and Phoebe are younger than Holden give a sense of truthfulness in the younger generation. Holden’s fantasy to never want to grow up stems from this desire of truth. When mentioning a song to Phoebe, Holden mixes up the lyrics saying, “If a body catch a body comin’ through the rye…” (pg. 173) Holden possibly sees this as a way he can help the younger generation to never grow up and “be phonies” like the adults he encountered and his peers. Holden fantasizes children running around on a cliff in a field of rye. If the children fall off of the cliff, it is like they are becoming phonies or finally growing into corrupt adults. Holden feels it is his job to “catch” the children before they fall off of the cliff into a world of lies and fakeness. Holden may also see himself as a “dream catcher,” but feels all of his dreams are very unlikely to become a reality.
I see many of Holden’s feelings and characteristics as normal human functional behavior. I see no real reason that Holden should be in a “rest home”. What Holden needs is love and attention from his family and others around him. I advise him to make one last trip home, sit with his parents, and tell them the reason he was kicked out of school. They seem like normal, caring parents that, although they will be angry with the fact that their son was kicked out of school, they will get over it in the end and nourish him like he needs to be.


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