Holden’s Attitude to Loss – the Catcher in the Rye

9 September 2016

The most vivid quote to gain insight into Holden’s view on change and subsequently loss (Byrne, Kalua and Scheepers 2012: 64) is in chapter 16 when Holden reflects back on his childhood and his regular school visits to the Natural History Museum, Holden finds a great comfort in the static and unchanging displays in the museum and in the continuity he finds in there, “The best thing, though, in that museum was that everything always stayed right where it was. Nobody’d move. ” (SparkNote…2007).

The first example of a departure we encounter in The Catcher in the Rye is in the form of Holden’s goodbye to Pencey Prep in the first chapter. Holden is on the top of Thomson Hill overlooking the whole school and calling to mind all the things he doesn’t like about the school to make the pain of being asked to leave that much easier. Holden recounts that his coat was taken with his gloves in the pocket and his reaction to this was “Pencey was full of crooks. Quite a few guys came from these very wealthy families, but it was full of crooks anyway” (Salinger 1994:3).

Holden’s Attitude to Loss – the Catcher in the Rye Essay Example

It seems that if he rejects Pencey it will take the sting out of failing and being expelled, Holden makes light of the situation “So I got the ax. They give guys the ax quite frequently at Pencey. ” (Salinger 1994:3) The second example of loss is the death of Holden’s brother Allie and his uncontrolled response to his brother’s untimely end. Throughout the novel Holden never mentions his feelings or emotions openly but he alludes to them through his behaviour and the stream of conscious narration that Salinger uses (Byrne et al 2012:53).

In chapter 5 Holden recalls the night that Allie died, “I slept in the garage the night he died, and I broke all the goddam windows with my fist, just for the hell of it” (Salinger 1994:34). It is an explicit example of how Holden internalises his feelings without processing them and then acts out with disturbing behaviour. Holden goes on to say, “I hardly didn’t even know I was doing it” (Salinger 1994:34). Holden never eally accepts that Allie is gone as he talks to Allie in chapter 14 after Sunny, the prostitute, has left his room “I felt so depressed, you can’t imagine. What I did, I started talking, sort of out loud, to Allie. ” (Salinger 1994:89) and again in chapter 25 while he is hallucinating that between the curbs the road disappears and he falls into a black hole and he speaks to Allie to keep him safe while crossing the road and thanks Allie when he is safely on the other side of the curb (Salinger 1994:178).

In chapter 20 Holden discusses Allie’s death and says of his mother “she still isn’t over my brother Allie yet” (Salinger 1994: 139) which is an interesting comment from young Holden who in the same chapter, states that his brother Allie who is buried in the cemetery is “Surrounded by dead guys” (Salinger 1994:140) which implies that Allie is still alive and is different to the rest of the corpses in their graves (Byrne et al 2012:67). The third and last example of loss is the migration of the ducks from the Central Park Lake.

Holden struggles to accept that the ducks have migrated and that this is a temporary disappearance and they will return for the summer months (SparkNote…2007). In chapter 20 Holden is in Central Park late at night, it is winter and it is very cold we see this through the icicles he has in his hair and Holden is walking around the lake desperately looking for at least one duck “I walked all around the whole damn lake – I damn near fell in once, in fact – but I didn’t see a single duck” (Salinger 1994:139).

This difficulty to accept the migration of the ducks is most likely due to Holden’s inability to adapt to and accept change and loss. We see this again in Chapter 16 Holden says after he reminisces about his school trips to the Natural History Museum “Certain things they should stay the way they are. You ought to be able to stick them in one of those big glass cases and just leave them alone. ” (Salinger 1994:110)

To understand Holden’s natural affinity towards constancy and familiarity we need to look at his reaction and praise of the kettle drummer in the Radio City pre-show before the movie, we can see that Holden admires the drummer for his precision and enthusiasm but mostly as he recognises him as a constant in the Radio City orchestra since he was a child and Holden has memories attached to watching his performance “I’ve watched that guy since I was about eight years old.

My brother Allie and I, if we were with our parents and all, we used to move our seats and go way down so we could watch him. He’s the best drummer I ever saw. ” (Salinger 1994: 124) SOURCES CONSULTED Byrne, D, Kalua, F & Scheepers, R. 2012. Foundations in English Literary Studies. Study guide for ENG1501. Pretoria: University of South Africa. SparkNote on The Catcher in the Rye. 2007. [O]. Available: http://www. sparknotes. com/lit/catcher/ Accessed on 2013/04/03 Salinger, JD. 1994. The Catcher in the Rye. London: Penguin.

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