Daniel A. Edery
Catcher in the Rye/Swing Kids
In life, while trying to overcome obstacles there are two options: either it is overcome, or not. But there are many reasons behind whether one fails or succeeds.
Holden Caulfield was “troubled”, and had many obstacles to overcome, most of which were his fault in the first place. He was failing out of school and was therefore getting kicked out. Also, he had this idea that everybody was a “phony”. Because of this notion he got along with almost nobody, especially his roommate, Stradlater. Holden had no boundaries, and he always said inappropriate and sometimes hurtful things. Although, there was one obstacle that Holden had in his path that was not his own fault. He had to overcome the loss of his brother, Allie, who died several years before, but Holden’s biggest obstacle was to go home and face his parents. Holden failed at overcoming most obstacles thrown his way, not because he could not overcome them, but because he did not want to, or he was oblivious to the problem, but he learned a very valuable lesson that no matter what, innocence could not be protected.
Pencey Academy was the boarding school that Holden attended in 1949. Pencey did not tolerate poor grades and unfortunately for Holden, he was failing four out of five of his classes. Pencey was not the only school that Holden got kicked out of. He was not stupid, he was just not motivated and he did not care. On his history exam Holden wrote a note to his teacher that said, “It is all right with me if you flunk me though as I am flunking everything except English anyway.” (Salinger, 12) This shows that Holden “gave up” and he did not care about his exam. Not only did Holden not care about his education, he also let his other problems get in the way of his work, such as his hate for “phonies”. Before he attended Pencey, Holden went to a school called Elkton Hills. Holden eventually dropped out of Elkton. He said, “One of the biggest reasons I left Elkton Hills was because I was surrounded by phonies. That’s all.” (Salinger, 13) This shows how much Holden hates phonies, and his complete disregard for his learning. It is not known if Holden ever did care about school in the future as he said, “A lot of people, especially this one psychoanalyst guy they have here, keeps asking me if I’m going to apply myself when I go back to school next September. It’s such a stupid question in my opinion. I mean how do you know what you’re going to do till you do it?” (Salinger, 213) Although it may seem like failing school was a big problem, Holden’s social skills were much more severe.
Holden had different kinds of problems with different kinds of people, “phonies”, girls and others. His roommate, Stradlater, was a phony and Holden hated that. Holden had no boundaries and he would speak whatever came to his mind. When Stradlater went on a date with a girl named Jane that Holden used to know, he pestered Stradlater with inappropriate questions when he got back such as, “What’d you do? Give her the time in Ed Banky’s goddam car?” (Salinger, 43) This shows that Holden did not know what kinds of questions were permissible to ask people, and he had no respect for people’s privacy. Then for no reason Holden decided to punch Stradlater in the face, and instead of facing him afterwards and trying to work things out, Holden ran away from his problems to New York City and stayed there for a few days to delay his parents from finding out that he got kicked out of Pencey. While in New York City, Holden encountered a girl that he used to go out with named Sally. Just after spending one day with her, Holden said that he loved her and he wanted to run away with her. Sally refused and Holden got upset and yelled at her so she started to cry. Holden did not think that he did anything bad, and he did not know how to handle that situation so he started to laugh. That made Sally even angrier so she ran away. After…