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The Death of Innocence in The Catcher in the Rye Essay

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   Holden identifies with, yearns for, and despises traits of the adult and child realms. In the novel The Catcher in the Rye, by J.D. Salinger, the protagonist, Holden Caulfield, fears becoming an adult who exhibits the characteristics that he holds complaints against. Throughout this Bildungsroman narrative, Holden searches for his identity. He tries to figure out his place either in the adult or child realm.

Holden possesses a combination of fear and hatred for "phonies". Holden uses this term to describe a wide range of people including shallow, superficial, fake, untruthful, or hypocritical individuals. "One of the biggest reasons I left Elkton Hills was because I was surrounded by phonies... They were coming in the goddam window." By saying, "They were coming in the goddam window," Holden implies his fear. "Phonies" scare him because they surround him; there is a hint of Anthropophobia and Claustrophobia. "Anthropophobia is an anxiety disorder characterized by an abnormal, irrational, and intense fear or dread of human companionship. Anthropophobia comes from the Greek word `anthropo' meaning `human' and the Greek word `phobos' meaning `fear' ". "Claus·tro·pho·bi·a, an abnormal fear of being in narrow or enclosed spaces [Latin claustrum, enclosed place; see cloister + -phobia.]. Holden's case of claustrophobia deals more with "phonies" encircling him and cutting off an escape. Holden's fear stems from the idea that their influences may turn him into a "phony". Holden hates "phonies" because of the insincerity in their actions and speech [(about Ossenburger)"... That killed me."]. He finds their fakeness annoying and criticizes the ladder from a very cynical point of view. Holden lists people whom...


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...ne makes when maturing into an adult. Holden wants to protect children from falling into adulthood and catch them before its too late.

Many adolescents share the same complaints with the adult world as Holden. But those complaints remain in the untainted field of the rye as each individual must let go of them and plummet to their corruption, leaving all innocence behind.

Sources Consulted

Bloom, Harold. Major Literary Characters: Holden Caulfield. New York: Chelsea House, 1990.

Pinsker, Sanford. The Catcher In The Rye: Innocence Under Pressure. New York: Twayne Publishers, 1993.

Salinger, J.D. The Catcher In The Rye. Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1951.

Wildermuth, April. "Nonconformism in the Works of J.D. Salinger." 1997 Brighton High School. 24 November 2002.

 


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