A respectable text discusses and presents the reader with insights into the nature of ourselves and our world, evidently shown by J.D Salinger’s novel The Catcher in the Rye, a classic bildungsroman narrated by an unreliable, depressed and archetypal teenager. Salinger exposes the pop-cultured, materialistic society post World War II, Caufield’s overwhelming fear of developing and losing a child’s innocence, and the self-alienation and grief he endures after the tragic passing of his brother Allie. The novel reflects the traumatic experience Salinger survived throughout the war as a soldier and alludes his personal struggle with grief and adulthood.
Salinger’s coming-of-age novel provides the democratic audience with a perspective of the battles teenagers face while developing and losing their innocence. Right through the novel, Caufield learns to come to terms with the fact that either way a child will grow up and likely be categorized as a ‘Phony’. He has a great yearning to keep the youth ignorant from the negativity in the world and tries to prevent any possibility of exposure to the abominable truth of the rat race especially when visiting Phoebe’s school and discovering “F**k you” written on the walls then removing it. His fervent disliking of anyone seeming as strong members of the artificial society and not being authentic around peers is quite hypocritical since
“When I’m with someone corny, I always act corny too”.
As Holden is close minded and strictly judgmental on his associates and authority figures, it sparks his urge to prevent the children growing into those categories suggesting his desire to be seen as The Catcher in the Rye but his discovery after learning he misunderstood Robert Burn’s Comin thru the Rye which is a mature poem relating to a sexual encounter. Caufield’s change of view lead on to him accepting the inevitable prevention of maturation within children and represented the outcome as a golden ring on a carousel,
“All the kids kept trying to grab for the golden ring, and so was old Phoebe, and I was sort of afraid she’d fall off the goddamn horse, but I didn’t say anything. If they fall off, they fall off, but it’s bad if you say anything to them.”
The concept of forced mellowing can be interpreted to relate to Salinger and his eye-opening experience of living in the trenches.
The materialistic, conceited society post World War II was polluted by self-absorbed people who mostly desired relations to boost their worth. Holden had been exposed to this lifestyle his whole life as he was raised in upper-class New York. The obsession to have a successful and wealthy child was apparent as Phoebe kept repeating after discovering he had been expelled from Pencey Prep, “Daddy’ll kill you”. The fascination for prestigious individuals throughout the novel is highly visible when the principal would discriminate against anyone he found peculiar,
“He’d be charming as hell and all. Except if some boy had little old funny looking parents”.
Caufield struggled with socializing and making connections as nearly everyone he attempted to converse with tended to ignore him since he wasn’t some big shot. The frequent endurance of rejection was implemented because he was not top of the hierarchy which became a constant endeavor when meeting people especially when he was visiting the Lavender Room and multiple other bars,
“She didn’t answer me, though. She was busy looking around for old Peter Lorre to show up I guess”
A significant number of friendships and associations within a Catcher in the Rye can easily be written off as meaningless and social-climbing.