The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger

February 27, 2008
The main character in J.D. Salinger's The Catcher in the Rye, Holden, can never see anything good that happens in his life. Throughout this whole book, Holden seems to have an immature mindset that he just can't break and his past plays a large part in this.

Early in his life Holden lost his brother Allie. After Allie's death Holden lost a part of his innocence kids shouldn't have to lose. As he grows up, Holden not only relates better to children, but also wants to protect the innocence in them that he was deprived of. “God, I love it when a kid's nice and polite when you tighten their skate for them or something. Most kids are. They really are” (118). Because Holden still has an immature mindset as an adult, he can interact and get along with children well, but he also wants to protect them from the “phony” things in life.

Holden tells his little sister phoebe that he wants to be a catcher in the rye instead of a lawyer or doctor. “I'm standing on the edge of some crazy cliff. What I have to do, I have to catch everybody if they start going over the cliff. They need someone there to catch them. I'd just be the catcher in the rye and all” (173). Holden wants to protect the children from falling the way he had to fall when Allie died.

Holden also dislikes change. He likes museums because “everything was always the same.” He likes the glass cases because the objects in them never change, and that's the way he likes things. “Certain things should stay the way they are. You ought to be able to stick them in a glass case and just leave them alone” (122). He wants things to stay exactly the way they are and never change. Change is a challenge.

Although Holden does seem very immature at the beginning, he seems to be trying to burst out of this immature mind set and actually seems to be making progress towards the end of the book. He begins to realize things that he thought he never would.

While watching Phoebe on carrousel, Holden becomes very happy for once. “I felt so damn happy all of the sudden, the way old Phoebe kept going around and around. I was damn near bawling, I felt so damn happy, to tell you the truth” (213). While watching his sister spin around and around on this carrousel, Holden comes to the realization that he can't be the soul protector of all the children. He realizes that they have to learn from experience or they really will not learn at all.

Holden now realizes that he cannot be the “catcher in the rye” because by catching these kids, they won't be able to learn from their mistakes. They will just keep running off the side of the cliff because they know that Holden will be there to catch them.
At the end of the book, Holden finally appreciates the fact that these children have to actually make their mistake before they learn what they are doing wrong. “The thing is, if they want to grab for the gold ring, you have to let them do it, and not say anything. If they fall off, they fall off, but it's bad if you say anything to them” (211). He now knows that to learn from your mistakes, you must first make the mistakes.
Throughout the course of this book Holden goes from a scared, immature man that believes he can protect all the children from real life to a man that understands changes are not always bad and he cannot protect people from the things that need to happen. He finally breaks out of his immature mind set and becomes a mature man.

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