StudyBoss » J.D. Salinger » Holden Caulfield character analysis in J.D Salinger’s novel The Catcher in the Rye

Holden Caulfield character analysis in J.D Salinger’s novel The Catcher in the Rye

It’s nothing new, that everybody feels depressed at some time or another in their lives. However, it becomes a problem when that depression is so much a part a person’s life that she can no longer see the happiness right in front her. (As tragically happens to the young boy, Holden Caulfield in J. D Salinger’s novel, The Catcher in the Rye. ) Mr. Antolini accurately views the cause of Holden’s depression as his lack of personal motivation, his inability to self-reflect and his stubbornness to overlook the obvious which collectively results in him giving up on life before he ever really has a chance to get it started.

Holden lacks the essential ability to motivate himself, which he needs to survive in the real’ world. He continues to be kicked out of every school he attends because he fails to apply himself, his simple reasoning being “how do you know what you’re going to do till you do it? The answer is, you don’t” (213). Everybody else in his life tries to encourage him to care about school and his grades but it doesn’t make any difference. From the start of the novel Holden’s history teacher at Pencey tells him “I’d like to put some sense in that head of yours, boy.

I’m trying to help you. I’m trying to help you, if I can” (14). But the fact of the matter is he can’t help him, Holden has to help himself. The drive to succeed has to come from within him, “I mean you can’t hardly ever do something just because somebody wants you to” (185). In order for Holden to succeed he has to want it for himself. The only problem being Holden is unable to will him into doing anything he is not genuinely interested in, therefore missing out on further knowledge he could acquire that would truly entice him.

Holden gives up on school because he fears if he were to bestow his efforts upon his undesired subjects he would consequently become one of the phonies’ he had spent his entire life hating. But like Mr. Antolini tells him,” You’re a student – whether the idea appeals to you or not. You’re in love with knowledge. And I think you’ll find, once you get past all that, you’re going to start getting closer and closer – that is, if you want to and if you look for it and wait for it – to the kind of information that will be very, very dear to your heart”(189). Nevertheless Holden has so much personal pride he refuses lower him to that level.

For if he does, in his eyes, he will be the same as all those other “Phony Ivy League bastards” (85). As a result of Holden giving up on school, he is unable to proceed with the natural evolution that must occur for him to move on in society. Mr. Antolini later points out to him “Learning is a beautiful reciprocal arrangement. And it isn’t education. It’s history. It’s poetry” (189). His goal for Holden being to see school as something he loves and not something he is being forced to do. Mr. Antolini tried to give Holden a reason to be motivated and in which case not to give up so easily.

Holden is quite skilled at citing exactly what is wrong with other people. However he never acknowledges his own faults. He was sure the entire world was out of step with him. As Alan Stewart explains, “Holden seemed to divide the world into two groups. He was in one group, along with a few other people such as his little sister, Phoebe, and Jesus; everyone else was in the other group”. Being the reason that he felt, “people were always ruining things for you” (87). Only, Holden can not understand that everything he hates in other people was really inside of himself.

He is a hypocrite and unable to self-reflect. As he continues to build up his hatred for the people around him, he fails to notice the seclusion he is forcing upon himself. As a result of Holden’s alienation Mr. Antolini feels Holden is headed for a terrible fall. “This fall I think you’re riding for – it’s a special kind of fall, a horrible kind. The man falling isn’t permitted to feel or hear himself hit bottom. He just keeps falling and falling” (187). Through the course of Holden’s childhood and teenage years he basically alienates his emotions from whom he is as a person.

Holden brings his brother Allie up when he is upset. He is still very confused about his death, and because of Holden’s absence at the funeral he had no chance to fully say good bye and comes to the conclusion that the only real’ person he actually knew is no longer alive. He is not able to understand that he is hurting inside and yearning for the comfort the adult world could have given him and should have given him. As a result of him cutting his emotions off he is unable to comprehend what is truly bothering him and therefore projects this confusion onto others.

What he is not aware of and Mr. Antolini tried pointing out to him is, “You’re not the first person who was ever confused and frightened and even sickened by human behavior. You’re by no means alone on that score” (189). Up until this point Holden believed that he is the only one to feel this way. He thinks the whole world is full of phonies’, morons’ and Ivy League bastards’ and truly believes that he is the only intelligent person alive. Except what he fails to understand is he doesn’t really hate these people, he hates himself.

Only he has to shut down his own emotions and therefore keeps falling and falling without being aware of what is truly happening. There is no bottom end for Holden because even if he were to hit bottom, he wouldn’t allow himself to feel it and would result in him to just keep falling the terrible kind of fall Mr. Antolini warns about. If only Holden could have combined his emotions and intellect sooner to understand what was going on inside him and in turn he could prevent this fall from occurring. Along with Holden’s inability to recognize his own faults he is also unable to identify with the true joys of life.

For so long he wasted all of his energy on despising those around him that even if there were a few decent people out there (Stradlater, Ackley), he is unwilling to give them a chance due to his own stubbornness towards change. Holden feels ” certain things 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” (122). It is not only things that he wouldn’t let change, as well he wouldn’t change his thoughts. Since he has built up such and immense hatred for those around himself (classmates, his father, D.

B) he is incapable of understanding the single companionship that old Stradlater and Ackley provide him with. Rather he refers to them as a bunch of morons’. It wasn’t until “After awhile, if [he] didn’t see them, if they didn’t come in the room, or if [he] didn’t see them in the dining room for a couple of meals, [he] sort of missed them” (187). It was too late before he realized he actually cared about them. Holden is so alienated from society as well as his own emotions that he can’t even understand that every person needs human companionship. You can’t deny yourself of it or you will go crazy as Holden does. Mr.

Antolini warns him of the fall he was riding for and how “the whole arrangements designed for men who, at some time or other in their lives were looking for something their own environment couldn’t supply them with. Or they thought their own environment couldn’t supply them with. So they gave up looking. They gave up before they ever really even got started” (187). Holden already had the mind frame that there were no people out there to measure up to his standards, which is why he never found them. He will not allow himself to because by this point he had given up on school and eventually he gave up on the whole world.

Tragically though, he gives it all up before he truly has a chance to get it started. Mr. Antolini’s theory as to what is wrong with Holden is right on, it’s just too bad he was unable to get through to Holden. Due to the fact that Holden has already given up on himself and is unwilling to apply the valuable advice he has been given. He has lost the substantial ability to find happiness in life and therefore can’t find the energy to motivate himself in anything he does. It’s a tragedy that someone as bright as Holden Caulfield is is unable to find the strength within him to persevere in a world of insanity.

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