Catcher in the Rye- Holden as a Dynamic Character

1 January 2017

Throughout the novel The Catcher in the Rye Holden sees the world as an evil and corrupt place, however it is clear that he gradually comes to the conclusion he cannot change it. The first instance demonstrating Holden’s progression is when he sees the profanity written all over Phoebe’s school. In this moment he finally understands that it is inevitable to enter adulthood and realizes the impossibility to try to rid even half of the profanity within the world if given a million years.

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The first majority of the novel displays Holden’s pessimistic view on everything in life and his desire to contain the innocence he has left. Holden’s evolution as a dynamic character is unclear until reaching the last few chapters in the book where his acceptance of the real world is slowly but surely obtained. Literary analysist Susan Mitchell voices her opinion when stating, “Holden’s unreliability forces us to question everything about the subject: Holden’s view, society’s view, our own view as readers.

The apparently stable themes are radically unstable; Holden does change, and society can, too, for society is neither entirely phony nor wholly pastoral,”(4) in her analysis of Holden Caulfield as a character. Holden slowly but surely learns to confront the complexities of adulthood throughout J. D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye. The next major event pointing to Holden’s growth is when he takes Phoebe to the carousel at the zoo. It brings him back memories from his childhood where his innocence was completely in tact and he almost begins crying of happiness.

The most prominent features of the carousel are the music playing on the ride because it has stayed the same since he used to ride it as a child, and the gold ring all the children continuously reach for. Holden demonstrates his acceptance of the loss of innocence when thinking, “The thing with kids is, if they want to grab for the gold ring, you have to let them do it, and not say anything. If they fall off, they fall off, but it’s bad if you say anything to them. ”(Salinger 211). It seems that Holden is inally coming to the conclusion that every child will have to fall at some point and he is accepting of that. This part of the novel is significant because it is one of the first moments that a reader can clearly note that Holden seems to change his original mindset from the beginning. Reaching the very end of the novel there are several events that lead up to the conclusion that Holden evolves as a dynamic character. The last few contributions include Holden sitting in the rain while Phoebe goes on the carousel, and finally when readers learn Holden must have entered some sort of a mental institution.

While waiting for Phoebe he sits on a bench as it starts raining and thinks to himself, “My hunting hat really gave me quite a lot of protection, in a way, but I got soaked anyway. I didn’t care, though. ”(Salinger 213). One of the symbolic objects Holden keeps throughout the novel is the hat because it is comforting and gives him the feeling of protection. In this particular part of the novel it is clear that the hat can no longer protect him from entering the adult world.

An English novelist Malcolm Bradbury expresses his opinion when writing, “Some seem to suggest a role for Holden in relation to childhood—he can be a catcher in the rye, the adult who is the protector of childish innocence. Over these episodes, Holden obviously develops and his attitudes change. He is hunting for his own adulthood, but doesn’t want to lose his childhood,”(3). Holden incontestably is a dynamic character in this novel due to his gradual realization that he is powerless in changing the world and his attitudes toward life deeply mature and develop.

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