Some works of literature portray childhood and adolescence as times graced by innocence and a sense of wonder. Others portray it as times of tribulation and terror. In J. D. Salinger’s Catcher in the Rye, childhood seems to be shown more as times of innocence. Childhood is praised by the protagonist Holden Caulfield, as he does not seem to like the idea that he will grow up and life will be different. The meaning of the novel as a whole is basically that growing up sucks, so protect your innocence.
Holden shows this throughout the entire novel by showing his hatred to society, sex and change. Holden talks about how he hates pretty much everyone, women, phonies, and even cliques, he hates that society is run by adults and he HATES adults. He also seems to not be so fond of sex as he gets upset with his friend over the Jane situation and pays a hooker to not have sex with him…? And most of all he hates change, that’s why he likes museums and why he hates growing up. The first thing that Holden hates in his reign of terror happens to be everyone.
There are many things that holden hates about society that the list would never end. The reader can see that Holden hates society when he is talking to Sally about getting away, “We’ll stay in these cabin camps and stuff like that till the dough runs out. Then, when the dough runs out, I could get a job somewhere and we could live somewhere with a brook and all and later on, we could get married or something” (132). Holden talks about how he wants to live isolated in a forest somewhere where there are no phonies to ruin his life.
Since that’s all they do is ruin everything for him, he wants to escape everyone for good. Whenever Holden is reflecting on society, it is in a negative fashion, He always is complaining that he is so lonely. He could be lonely because every time someone gives him a chance, he basically turns it down because he sees everyone for their pitiful qualities rather than for their good. Holden does not seem to want to change this as he never makes a real effort to keep a steady relationship with anyone and pushes all of the people he talks to away from him.
Holden hates that other people are able to stay together, “Everybody sticks together in these dirty little goddam cliques. The guys that are on the basketball team stick together, the Catholics stick together, the goddam intellectuals stick together, the guys that play bridge stick together. Even the guys that belong to the goddam Book-of-the-Month club stick together” (131). This quote proves Holden’s loneliness because he is not apart of any clique or group of people that like him or people that he can actually like for them.
Once again Holden pushes all people who give them a chance because they are stupid, a bastard, or phony. This relates to the meaning as a whole because society is run by adults, adults that are all phony. This shows that he is not ready to let his world become apart of theirs, he does not want his life to change and he is not ready for the responsibilities that come with becoming an adult. He wants to protect the thoughts that he is still an innocent child by getting away from society and keeping it out of his life.
Not only does Holden hate all of the people who reside in this god forsaken world, he does not want to have relations with them. Not only does he not want to have social relations with the members of society, he does not want to have sexual relations with any phony heathens that roam this green Earth. Holden seems to be against sex many times in the novel.
First we see this when he gets very angry at Stradlater for taking his old pal Jane into the back seat of his coaches car in order to do who knows what (Cucumber Sandwich? . Through Holden’s childhood that he spent with Jane, he showed her his attraction to her but never wanted to engage in kissing or anything of the sort, “I was kissing her all over—anywhere—her eyes, her nose, her forehead, her eyebrows and all, her ears—her whole face except her mouth and all” (79). Holden also loves to hold hands with Jane rather than engage in any serious business, “I held hands with her all the time, for instance. That doesn’t sound like much, I realize, but she was terrific to hold hands with” (79).
This shows Holden’s true self, that he is not into sex, rather he cares for the companionship and emotion of the relationship. This reveals that Holden wants to remain innocent in his life, he doesn’t want to conform to society and risk taking the consequences of sex, which would be losing that innocence and basically taking one step closer to adulthood. This clearly relates to the meaning of the novel as a whole because Holden seems to be afraid to lose that innocence in the sake of growing up and taking on the responsibilities of the real world.
He believes that there is no good to growing up and does not want life to change. There are many instances that Holden shows he is not fond of any change that may occur, well what is he fond of at all anyways. “Certain things should stay the way they are. You ought to be able to stick them in one of those big glass cases and leave them alone” (122). Holden does not like change because it reminds him that he too must change in the process of growing up as change seems to be the only definite thing to happen in life, no matter how much he tries to avoid it.
Whenever Holden felt that life was changing too much for him, he would visit the museum, “The best thing, though, in that museum was that everything always stayed right where it was. Nobody’d move. You could go there a hundred thousand times, and that Eskimo would still be just finished catching those two fish, the birds would still be on their way south, the deers would still be drinking out of that water hole” (121) Holden feels secure in the museum because he knows that it is the exact same as the first time he saw it.
This suggests that Holden wants to go back to the good ol’ days, the days of youth. The days when he did not feel the pressure of becoming an adult, because everytime he would go back, “The only thing that would be different would be you” (121). Holden is afraid to grow up, he is not ready to be an adult, nor is he mature enough. He fears change for others too, he wants to be the catcher in the rye. He explained that, “I’m standing on the edge of some crazy cliff.
What I have to do, I have to catch everybody if they start to go over the cliff—I mean if they’re running and they don’t look where they’re going I have to come out from somewhere and catch them. That’s all I’d do all day. I’d just be the catcher in the rye and all” (173). Not only does he want to prevent the change in himself, he wants to help other children who are close to making a decision of ‘falling’ into the adult life, the thing that he struggle to stay away from himself.
He says that the kids are not looking where they are going as they run to the edge of the cliff, he is suggesting that kids do not know the stress and all the pressure that tags along with the change into adulthood and he wants to save them from it. he also tells that, “nobody’s around – nobody big, I mean – except me” (173). Once again referring to the fact that he hates that adults run the society, he hates the idea of becoming one of them.
This relates back to the meaning of the novel by allowing Holden to feel that he is not going to fall into the trap of becoming like them, he wants to live his life as a child forever and nothing will change for him. He hates change because it makes him feel closer to growing up and maybe something will change that will make him lose his innocence. The catcher in the rye is a book that is based off of a boy who does not want to face reality, he does not want life to move on and he does not want to face the actuality that he too will have to grow up like the rest of us.
Throughout the novel Holden fights to protect his innocence from the cruel society around him that is just so… phony. He hates all of society for the phony things it does, he hates sex because that may make him feel that he too is apart of the adult life, and he hates change because change is just a recipe for a child to step into the new life, the older more mature life. The one that comes with responsibilities that Holden is not ready to face.