Essay for English

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My essay on The Catcher in The Rye
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English Essay
Leigh Esther Hershkovich
10/29/07
The Catcher in the Rye
Essay Question: Discuss the significance of the title. What does it mean that Holden wants to be the catcher?

A field of rye. Endless rows of tall rye surround the children who playfully run around. What they are unaware of, is that at the end of the field is a drop. This fall does not lead to ones death necessarily, but rather the death of ones innocence. At the end of the field, high above the cliff, stands Holden Caufield with catchers mitt and hunting hat, ready to catch any child on their way down. He cannot allow them to fall and leave this perfect place of innocence and childhood. Not only can Holden not allow the children to fall from their innocence, but he cannot allow himself as well. He is unable to become a man, but he is not a young child either.
In J.D. Salinger’s coming of age novel The Catcher in The Rye, Holden Caufield is stuck in his own trap between childlike innocence, and the phoniness of the adult world. Although Holden may be considered a “normal teenager” the complexity of his thoughts are beyond any mind of any teenager. He worries about the loss of his innocence, and in whole the loss of himself. This in itself proves the significance of the title in Holden’s life. He is the catcher, the savior and the guardian. Everything he does proves more and more how he not only needs to save other people, but realize how much he needs to save himself.

Sex is a subject that never goes well with Holden. Although he brags many times about his “experience” the truth is, is that he has never gone farther than holding hands and kissing a girl, and the girl wouldn’t even let him kiss her lips. He watches as all the people around him go through with more than just holding hands, and as much as he longs for such an experience, he cannot allow himself to go through with it. “ Don’t you feel like talking for a while?” This is what Holden tells the prostitute that he hires. Obviously, the prostitute is not interested in any thing more than the money that is yet to be received. For Holden, the polite conversation will get him out of any thing that he will regret, even though he wants it. This in itself proves how much Holden is trying to hold onto his innocence. Every relationship, every date, anything to do with girls makes him uneasy. One thing that would allow him to consider himself a “true adult” would be to do what was expected of him.

The whole world is full of phony, fake, idiotic people. This is all that Holden truly knows. Everyone around him are a bunch of fake people who just lie to achieve whatever they need in the world. “ I was surrounded by jerks. I’m not kidding.” What Holden refuses to see, is that he is the phoniest of all people. He projects all of his emotions onto others, telling himself that they are fake, phony, lying and cheating people, not being able to see for himself that he is the same, if not worse. To him, blaming who he is on other people is more rewarding than seeing for himself who he truly is. Even Pheobe, his 10 year old sister can see who he truly is, and she is willing to accept it more than he does or ever will. “…the jerk had one of those phony Ivy League voices, one of those very tired, snobby voices.” This one such example of Holden’s projection proves it all. He thinks that this person is fake, phony, tired and snobby. But he himself feels tired and like a fake, snobby person. One reason why Holden pushes his feelings onto other people is because then he doesn’t have to take responsibility for other people, which is something an adult would do. Being that Holden is trying to hold onto his childhood and innocence more than anything else, admitting to himself that he is becoming a fake, cruel adult is the last thing he is willing to ever do.

Change is something that Holden isn’t ready for and is not willing to accept. Anything that will strip him of his innocence, although he wants just that, he cannot allow himself to have. For Holden, the one place that has not changed over the years, no matter how he has changed is the Natural Museum. It always stays the same. This is a safe place for Holden. A place where he doesn’t have to try and convince people that he is an innocent child rather than a phony adult. “ I loved that damn museum.” Opposite to the museum are the ducks in the pond. These ducks are a symbol to Holden of change. “ By any chance, do you happen to know where they go, the ducks, when it gets all frozen over? Do you happen to know by any chance?” This is more a question directed towards himself than at the ducks. The true question is what will happen to Holden, when his own world “freezes over” and he is forced to find a different way? This is Holden’s truest and most well known fear. What will happen to him when he finally falls off the cliff by the field of rye? The change is undoubtfully going to happen sooner or later, he is just trying to postpone it as long as he can.

Once again, we are brought back to the field of rye. And there stands Holden Caufield, with hat and mit ready to catch the children. The change is yet to come. Eventually, he will lose his balance and fall from the innocence of a game in a field of rye, to the slap-in-the-face called adult reality. Salinger has depicted a picture that all people can relate with, and in a way, every person is like Holden. Caught in between innocence and adulthood, waiting for someone to save us in a field of rye, rather than admit to ourselves that the change cannot be stopped. And this is the true meaning of being a catcher in the rye.

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