A Futile Task- the Catcher in the Rye
The teenager stands on a hill in complete solitude, watching the nearby football game, and contemplating if he should say a final farewell to the school. Ambivalent, the melancholy teenager leaves himself in a confused and vulnerable position to the lonely and corrupt reality of the world. In an attempt to endure the vices that alter the blissful spirit, he feels the need to make things right by saving what little recognizable evidence of purity that the world has not already desecrated.
All throughout the novel The Catcher in the Rye, author J. D. Salinger establishes Holden’s bizarre attraction toward particular places, objects, and experiences, past and present. The author concurrently sets out the subtle, tender concern that Holden has for the preservation of innocence and where life will ultimately end up. At essential points in the plot, Salinger embodies these two motifs, which metaphorically represent each other, in order to uncover the true sadness that lurks in an abandoned Holden.
By doing this, the author reveals the greater theme that unlike artifacts of history, constrained the human spirit would severely stunt any opportunity of development for people. Salinger constantly highlights the motif of Holden’s endeavors to preserve innocence from being tainted by corruption. The author first presents this through the objects that Holden develops a bond with. To demonstrate that bond, Salinger produces a scene in which Holden visits his old teacher, Mr. Spencer, one of the few concerned about the boy.
The teacher asks Holden to read his paper about Egyptian mummifying aloud. Salinger first demonstrates Holden’s obsession for the preservation of life when Holden divulges that “Modern science would still like to know what the secret ingredients were that the Egyptians used when they wrapped up dead people so that their faces would not rot for innumerable centuries” (Salinger 16). Implying the deep interest that Holden possesses for this subject, Salinger underscores that the teenager may have experienced a harrowing event relating to the matter.
Because Holden would still dearly like to know the “secret” of maintaining life in such a state, the author also exposes Holden’s unawareness of the topic altogether. Leaving Holden in an unaware state, the author then inserts the minor motif of Holden’s younger brother’s baseball mitt to clear the confusion. When asked to write a composition for a classmate, of all the topics Holden decides to write about, the nostalgic adolescent distinguishes his younger brother’s baseball mitt.
With this sacred object, Salinger links it to Holden’s goal for conserving the unharmed and the aesthetic, as the glove had poems scribed all over it in ink. The author represents the ink as the permanence in which the item endures. Similar to the beloved baseball mitt, Holden finds solidity in a Little Shirley Beans record that he purchases. Identifying the song eternally preserved on the record, the writer elucidates that Holden still preserves things in the state that they are left, never allowing them to change.
Salinger also represents Holden’s remembrance of the innocence of childhood, the record reminding him of that period. In addition to the revered objects, the author exhibits a pattern in Holden’s experiences and anecdotes that motivate Holden in the direction of making events like those last for an eternity. One of Holden’s recollections that Salinger touches on briefly involves Holden playing checkers with a childhood friend, Jane Gallagher. At one point in the game, Jane cries, and sensing this, Holden drives his efforts to console with her, kissing her all over her face, avoiding her mouth.
Symbolizing the need to protect Jane and her virginity, the author portrays Holden comforting her instead of violating her, revealing the tender empathy that Holden possesses. Prior to reflecting this memory, Holden underwent an instance of rejection at a bar, and seeing what little empathy people have, Holden tries to remember a positive memory to keep his motivation alive. One of Holden’s fondest memories stems from the remembrance of his younger brother. When given time to ruminate upon his past, Allie stands out as the ideal brother that Holden would never find in any other person.
Salinger distinguishes Allie as “terrifically intelligent” and that “he was also the nicest… he never got mad at anybody. People with red hair are supposed to get mad very easily, but Allie never did, and he had very red hair” (Salinger 50). Portraying Allie as the epitome of childhood innocence, the author juxtaposes this to Holden’s thoughts of preserving purity. Because his sibling passed away at an extremely young age, Holden’s sole coping strategy involves the thought of bringing back his brother, thinking that someone as magnanimous as Allie deserves to live on.
Despite Holden’s naive point of view toward what troubles him, he finally begins to subtly realize something about his brother. Salinger weaves a scene of Holden conversing with Phoebe, his younger sister, and the teenager mentions that he loves Allie, thinking that he still exists. Following Phoebe’s comment that Allie is dead, Holden refuses to accept and reveals that “Just because somebody’s dead, you don’t just stop liking them, for God’s sake—especially if they were about a thousand times nicer than the people you know that’re alive an all” (Salinger 223).
Salinger highlights a rare moment: someone offering guidance to Holden, accepting that he is stuck. By displaying Holden touching upon Allie, Salinger expresses the adolescent beginning to address the connection with Allie. However, Holden still possesses the unawareness to come to terms with this. Salinger effectively amplifies the essence of Holden’s being in a thought of the teenager. The author illustrates a dream of Holden desiring to catch children who accidentally fall off the ledge of a cliff in the rye field, the adolescent defining himself as a catcher in the rye.
The author resembles Holden as a selfless martyr in this thought, leaving Holden in bliss that he can save people if they fall; the author makes clear that, for Holden, danger should be avoided by all means and at all costs. Salinger stems the implication from Holden’s own dealings with losses Perhaps the most important category that Holden associates with conservation and longing consists of the places that he visits. One of the first locations that Salinger introduces pertains to the museum, a site of never changing exhibits.
The boy favors that all the displays stay the way they are and that things are kept in fixed positions. By symbolizing the museum as a place where nothing changes, Salinger mirrors the setting to Holden’s opposition to growing up and change. Salinger initiates the beginning of a epiphany for Holden when the teenager travels to his old elementary school to meet with Phoebe. The writer describes the school as familiar to Holden While appearing to give up hope on the world, Holden sees yet another instance of chicanery.
The author depicts an obscenity on the wall that appalls Holden, and in the act he makes of rubbing it out, Salinger reiterates Holden as a savior figure and that combating all of evil can be accomplished. The author furthers the learning experience for Holden when the teenager returns to the museum. Although feeling tranquil while all alone in one of the showcases, Holden observes yet another contemptible obscenity, defacing one of the glass cases.
By repeating the obscenity for Holden, Salinger starts to affirm in Holden that he cannot keep everything clean and pure but must accept events like these once in a while. Finally pivoting Holden’s vague realization to the last crucial place, Salinger fleshes out the epiphany. Accompanied by phoebe, Holden views one of the carousels nearby, his attraction to it brought on by the fact that the ride always plays the same song. Holden again clings to a familiar tangent and what comforts him. Yet, the teenager watches Phoebe go around on the carousel and sees her and other children trying to grab for the gold ring.
Salinger depicts Holden as “afraid that she’d fall off” but he does not react, as Holden realizes that “If they fall off, they fall off, but it’s bad if you say anything to them” (Salinger 274). Paralleling and directing opportunity and danger close together, Salinger enables acceptance in Holden that if people stay the same way, there leaves no room for development, thus rendering them static, strayed from the dynamics of change, and this time, Holden does not deny Phoebe or himself the opportunity to mature.