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Throughout the novel, Holden seems to be excluded from and victimized by the world around him. As he says to Mr. Spencer, he feels trapped on “the other side” of life, and he continually attempts to find his way in a world in which he feels he doesn’t belong. As the novel progresses, we begin to perceive that Holden’s alienation is his way of protecting himself. Just as he wears his hunting hat (see “Symbols,” below) to advertise his uniqueness, he uses his isolation as proof that he is better than everyone else around him and therefore above interacting with them. The truth is that interactions with other people usually confuse and overwhelm him, and his cynical sense of superiority serves as a type of self-protection. Thus, Holden’s alienation is the source of what little stability he has in his life.

While it is appropriate to discuss the novel in such terms, Holden Caulfield is an unusual protagonist for a bildungsroman because his central goal is to resist the process of maturity itself. Throughout the novel he encounters many characters who do seem affected, pretentious, or superficial—Sally Hayes, Carl Luce, Maurice and Sunny, and even Mr. Spencer stand out as examples. Frequently in the book Holden describes the world of adults as being full of rules and conventions that make people into phonies. At one point he exclaims, “I didn’t give a damn how I looked.” However, his self-consciousness about putting the flaps down on his hunting cap, for example, reveal that he, too, is secretly concerned with appearances. I’m an exhibitionist.” Whether tap dancing for Stradlater in the dorm bathroom, taking on the alter ego of Rudolph Schmidt on the train to New York, or trying to play it cool in city bars, Holden performs and exaggerates constantly.

What are three common themes in Catcher in the Rye?

Alienation as a Form of Self-Protection. Throughout the novel, Holden seems to be excluded from and victimized by the world around him. ….The Painfulness of Growing Up. ….The Phoniness of the Adult World. ….Religion. ….Inaction. ….Appearances. ….Performance.

What is the main theme of the first paragraph The Catcher in the Rye?

The main theme of the first paragraph is loneliness. He mentions it twice as well as the ducks, symbols of loneliness and alienation. 2. Holden describes Horwitz as impatient and the type of man who always sounds angry about something when he speaks.

Is death a theme in The Catcher in the Rye?

The most prominent theme in The Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger is death and the loss of innocence. Death is the vehicle that drives the story, offering an explanation to Holden’s views and punctuating his feelings towards the world.

What is the true meaning of Catcher in the Rye?

Holden wants to be the “catcher in the rye”— someone who saves children from falling off a cliff, which can be understood as a metaphor for entering adulthood.

The novel takes place most in New York City as the main character, Holden Caulfield, navigates growing up and leaving behind his childhood innocence. The story takes place in post-WWII American as the nation experienced great prosperity. Holden interprets the resulting lifestyles as creating “phonies” and hypocrites. As he engages in several social activities, he is disappointed time and time again by the contrast between the prosperity of the late 1940s or early 1950s and the darker aspects of human nature.

Self-alienating for the purpose of self-protection Growing pains and loss of innocence Adulthood is “Phony” Inability to take action Maintaining appearances and performing happiness This serves to create a rift between himself and world around him so that he can blame his unhappiness on unsatisfactory settings, companions, and life events rather than having to acknowledge that he himself is also a part of the problem he so desperately despises—adults hurt one another and often act hypocritically. He refuses to let go of past traumas, such as the death of his little brother; because of this, he stays rooted in pain and misery instead of working to accept things and move on. Her words help to show that Holden is very much rooted in his cynicism and unwilling to accept that he needs to change in order to find happiness and a sense of belonging in the world. The people he interacts with throughout the course of the novel who have social status annoy Holden because he sees the darker side to their personalities which they, of course, do not show to the rest of the world.

Perhaps the greatest theme of the novel involves the relationship between the pain of actual experience and feeling one’s feelings, on the one hand, and on the other hand the equally devastating numbness that comes with shutting down one’s emotions in order to avoid suffering. After the death of Allie, Holden essentially shuts down, forcing himself to lose all attachments to people so as never to be hurt again. He repeatedly mentions how important it is not to get attached to anyone, since this will lead to missing them once they are gone. By the end of the novel, he has spiraled so far down with this theory that he has become afraid to even speak to anyone. Phoebe is perhaps the only reminder that Holden still has the capacity to love. When he looks at her, he cannot help but feel the same tortured love that he felt for Allie. Nevertheless, the surges of these feelings leave him even more bereft. He knows he must leave Phoebe to protect himself, but when she shows up to accompany him on his journey, ultimately he puts his love for her first and sacrifices his own instinct to flee in order to return home.

Innocence has been problematic: the prostitute demands more money for nothing, the man who takes him in seems like a pedophile, and the cab drivers berate him as stupid when he asks simple questions about the birds in the park. Holden also has the common adolescent experience of perceiving that time in school learning mundane lessons feels petty when his entire soul is in flux as it comes to grips with reality. The fact that no one is acknowledging how trivial and fleeting life is, compared with the grand things we tell one another about reality—how difficult it is to truly love and share oneself with people knowing that all, like Allie, will eventually die—causes him to burn with frustration, even rage. All Holden wants is some authentic living, to hold on to someone like Phoebe or Allie who knows nothing of the world’s superficiality and therefore is not tainted by it, but he is afraid to make it too real out of the justified fear of one day losing them forever.

Main Theme of Catcher in The Rye

The novel takes place most in New York City as the main character, Holden Caulfield, navigates growing up and leaving behind his childhood innocence. The story takes place in post-WWII American as the nation experienced great prosperity. Holden interprets the resulting lifestyles as creating “phonies” and hypocrites. As he engages in several social activities, he is disappointed time and time again by the contrast between the prosperity of the late 1940s or early 1950s and the darker aspects of human nature.The novel has several motifs that speak to the novel’s broader themes. Motifs such as loneliness, intimacy issues, and deception speak to issues that Holden has as he navigates how to gracefully exist as an adult, having lost his childhood innocence. Holden desperately wishes to cling to his childhood and as a result, he has a hard time connecting with other people his age and older. This makes for a very cynical and unhappy narrator who shares his view of the world around him unabashedly.

Self-Alienation

Here’s a list of

Growing Pains, Loss of Innocence

Adulthood

Inability to Take Action

Painful Experience vs. Numbness

Perhaps the greatest theme of the novel involves the relationship between the pain of actual experience and feeling one’s feelings, on the one hand, and on the other hand the equally devastating numbness that comes with shutting down one’s emotions in order to avoid suffering. After the death of Allie, Holden essentially shuts down, forcing himself to lose all attachments to people so as never to be hurt again. He repeatedly mentions how important it is not to get attached to anyone, since this will lead to missing them once they are gone. By the end of the novel, he has spiraled so far down with this theory that he has become afraid to even speak to anyone. Phoebe is perhaps the only reminder that Holden still has the capacity to love. When he looks at her, he cannot help but feel the same tortured love that he felt for Allie. Nevertheless, the surges of these feelings leave him even more bereft. He knows he must leave Phoebe to protect himself, but when she shows up to accompany him on his journey, ultimately he puts his love for her first and sacrifices his own instinct to flee in order to return home.Holden, it seems, is in the throes of an existential crisis. To a great degree he is numb to the pains and joys of life. Unable to come to terms with his brother’s death, he has no one to show him the kind of parental or brotherly love that he himself gave Allie. Whenever someone does end up showing him even a hint of such love (such as Mr. Antolini), Holden ends up being disappointed.

Love and Sex

At his core, Holden is a deep, sensitive soul, at bottom unable to sublimate his feelings into numbness. He envies someone like Stradlater, who can simply pick up girls whenever he likes, and who treats sex as a casual pleasure. To Holden, however, sex is deeply discomforting. He cannot have it with girls he likes, and he cannot manage to numb himself enough to treat girls casually. Numbing himself to love, it seems, is Holden’s greatest challenge. He feels too deeply about the world, about people, to truly shut down. When he finally does fall in love with Jane Gallagher, he soon discovers that Stradlater has a date with her, which confirms his suspicion that everything he loves eventually deteriorates. He leaves Pencey with some hope of inventing a new identity, but he cannot break out of his being. Even in the presence of a prostitute, he cannot think of having sex, only of having a conversation in the hope of feeling some glimmer of human affection with her. All Holden wants to do is talk, but he cannot find someone who will listen.

Loss of Innocence

Holden must face that fork in the road of adolescence when one realizes that maturity entails a loss of innocence—that greater knowledge of oneself and others and the circumstances all comes with a price. In Holden’s case, he cannot bear to accept the death of Allie, the death of pure innocence that had no good reason to suffer or die. In Holden’s eyes, Allie is truth, while everyone else is “phony.” Innocence goes with idealism and a certain inability or unwillingness to bear and accept the harsher reality. Holden cannot bear to hold onto his innocence because innocence brings its own harms; people continue to disappoint him. Thus the cost of maturity is much less; innocence has been quite painful, too. Innocence has been problematic: the prostitute demands more money for nothing, the man who takes him in seems like a pedophile, and the cab drivers berate him as stupid when he asks simple questions about the birds in the park. While Allie’s memory can help him preserve his innocence, this is not enough, for he cannot find real love in the outside world.Besides, losing Allie has brought tremendous pain. Holden also has the common adolescent experience of perceiving that time in school learning mundane lessons feels petty when his entire soul is in flux as it comes to grips with reality. When the entire world around him appears phony, where can he go to grasp hold of some reality, some stable truth? Without an explanation why Allie was taken from him, there appears no reason behind the world’s events, and in this respect Holden’s maturity involves a deep loss of innocence such that he perceives that the reality of the world is its very irrationality.

Phoniness vs. Authenticity

Holden labels almost everyone a “phony,” excepting Phoebe, Allie, and himself. In Holden’s eyes, a “phony” is someone who embraces the world’s mundane demands and tries to make something out of nothing—that is, just about everyone who studies in school or who puts on airs in order to do a job or achieve a goal. The fact that no one is acknowledging how trivial and fleeting life is, compared with the grand things we tell one another about reality—how difficult it is to truly love and share oneself with people knowing that all, like Allie, will eventually die—causes him to burn with frustration, even rage. Holden understands on some level one of the most profound truths of mortal life: the superficial matters little because it will not last, yet it is made to seem so much more important. Meanwhile, all around him, he must watch superficial people win honors through their artifice. He thus holds his deepest contempt for those who succeed as phonies: Stradlater, the Headmaster, and all the boys who treat school as if it is a club to be ruled by Social Darwinism. All Holden wants is some authentic living, to hold on to someone like Phoebe or Allie who knows nothing of the world’s superficiality and therefore is not tainted by it, but he is afraid to make it too real out of the justified fear of one day losing them forever.

Life and Death

A key part of Holden’s emotional life involves his reaction to Allie’s death. People live for a while, but all too soon we all die. Allie did not choose it, but Holden thinks about James Castle, a skinny boy who jumped out the window at school and fell to his death. Holden himself entertains thoughts of a similar suicide. The decision to numb himself to his feelings about life is a decision to shut himself down emotionally so much that he is no longer truly living. It is a decision, however, that remains fundamentally impossible for Holden. When he thinks about James Castle, he cannot bear to imagine James just laying there amidst the stone and blood, with no one picking him up.Holden might see some romance in suicide and some comfort in the idea that it ends internal pain, but death does seem worse, the ultimate loneliness. He seen the effects of death on the living as well. He thus cannot do to Phoebe what Allie has done to them already.He plods on, only sure that he must gradually wean himself away from Phoebe so that she gets used to losing him forever–and so that he gets used to being away from her. Though Holden needs closeness and love in order to renew his life, he keeps driving himself further away from it in order to avoid the inevitable loss. The more he wants to experience life, the more antisocial he becomes and the more he imagines death. This paradox is part of Holden’s life: there is pain in shutting down one’s feelings, and there is pain in the risk of opening oneself up again. He impossibly tries to avoid pains that are inevitable for human mortals while they live.