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Holden Caulfield and the Pressures of Society: The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger

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Confucius, a Chinese philosopher, once stated, “You cannot open a book without learning something.” Throughout time, books, molded by their authors, have been the key source of knowledge. Regardless of the subject, most works of literature often have a message or theme for the reader. Not only do authors use themes, but also well developed characters to bring a novel to life. In the bildungsroman, The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger, characterization is often found, especially regarding the protagonist, Holden Caulfield. Salinger also includes many themes in his novel relating to growing up in a corrupt society. Hence, this paper will compare, contrast, and evaluate literary criticisms regarding the themes and characterization of J.D. Salinger’s novel The Catcher in the Rye.
Many critics of The Catcher in the Rye discuss in depth the characterization of the protagonist Holden Caulfield. For example, Reiff believes that Holden is a “symbol of a spontaneous, idealistic, innately good child,” despite what some believe. Reiff finds that he is also an unselfish and caring person due to Holden’s constant generosity and worrying for others (69-70). Some believe, however, that Holden is a hypocrite or a phony because of all the lies he tells. Pinsker disagrees and defends Holden saying that he lies to keep others from being hurt (Reiff 61-62). Bloom agrees with Reiff about Holden being a kind hearted person with a soft spot for children, even calling him a “secular saint.” Holden’s vision of being a catcher in the rye and desire to save children from the troubles of the world show his altruistic intentions (2). Pinsker agrees with both Bloom and Reiff but also argues that Holden worries about himself as much as the othe...


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...s Cited

Bloom, Harold. Introduction. Bloom’s Modern Critical Interpretations: J.D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye. Ed. Bloom. New York: Infobase Publishing, 2009. Print.
Heiserman, Arthur, and James E. Miller Jr. “Holden Caulfield Is Searching For Love.” Social Issues in Literature: Depression in J.D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye. Ed. Dedria Bryfonski. Detroit: Greenhaven Press, 2009. Print.
Pinsker, Sanford. The Catcher in the Rye: Innocence Under Pressure. New York: Twayne Publishers, 1993. Print.
Reiff, Raychel H. J.D. Salinger: The Catcher in the Rye and Other Works. New York: Marshall Cavendish Benchmark, 2008. Print.
Salinger, J.D. The Catcher in the Rye. New York: Little, Brown and Company, 1991. Print.
Telgen, Diana, ed. “The Catcher in the Rye.” Novels for Students. Vol. 1. Detroit: Gale, 1997. Gale Virtual Reference Library. Web. 6 Mar. 2014.


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