Take a moment to picture little kids playing a game in a big field of rye. Thousands of kids but nobody is as wise or as grown up as the protagonist, Holden. In his mind, like in the poem, he is standing at the edge of a steep cliff, keeping a watchful eye over the playing children. As some get dangerously close to the edge, lost in their excitement, Holden leaps forward, catching them at the last moment - a catcher in the rye. Yet Holden is the one that is caught, snared by illusions of grandeur and deep insecurities about growing up. Soon enough, he will find out that life is more complicated than a poem.
Holden views himself as the savior of little kid’s innocence, yet he, himself is the one that needs to be saved. Holden acts his age, thinks as an adult and has an ability to accurately perceive people and their motives. "Anyway, I keep picturing all these little kids playing some game in this big field of rye and all. Thousands of little kids, and nobody's around-nobody big, I mean-except me. And I'm standing on the edge of some crazy cliff. What I have to do, I have to catch everybody if they start to go over the cliff-I mean if they're running and they don't look where they're going I have to come out from somewhere and catch them. That's all I'd do all day. I'd just be the catcher in the rye and all. I know it's crazy, but that's the only thing I'd really like to be. I know it's crazy." (Saligner, 173) People highlight the dilemma of Holden’s state, in between adolescence and adulthood, while Holden views himself to be smarter than and as mature as adults. The title is an analogy for Holden admiring the kid’s attributes that he struggles to find in adults, like innocence, kindness and generosity. Holden fantasizes about being the catcher of the rye because he has to overcome many obstacles in his life: Dealing with loss at an early age when Allie dies and Holden is just ten years old, his perception of adult phoniness and his emotional intelligence. Falling off the cliff could be a progression into the adult world that surrounds him and that he strongly criticizes.
Holden faces difficult problems growing up, which makes him resent the very process of maturation. He loses his own innocence but he wants to keep other kids from losing theirs, not understanding that falling is an inevitable in a personal journey to adulthood. “Sometimes, you just have to let them fall” (Saligner, 115) said by Phoebe. Being the catcher of the rye is pointless. Growing up and losing your innocence is just part of life. Emotionaly numb due to the death of Allie, Holden desperately clings to the present, fearful of change. Holden visits to a museum and recalls what he liked about it them most. “The best thing, though, in that museum was that everything stayed right where it was. Nobody’d move… Nobody’d be different. The only thing different would be you.” Change leads to maturity. Maturity leads to loss of childlike innocence, the very thing Holden is not ready to let go of. (Saligner, 121)
True to the meaning of being a teenager, Holden is rebellious, displeased, isolated, directionless and sarcastic. His indecisiveness is contagious, leaving the reader unable to make up their mind whether to feel sorry for him or wish he would just get his act together. All he wants to do is connect with someone, but Holden has impossibly high standards make it nearly impossible to establish a real connection. Every time Holden thinks of someone to call, he ends up deciding not to, usually because he is afraid he will have to interact with someone he does not like. His behavior gets him kicked out of four schools, setting him on the path of poor decisions and terrible long term planning, which started with the sale of his typewriter. The typewriter was given to him as a gift from his parents, and a very meaningful one at that. It represented a step towards a possible career in writing, which in turn would give Holden the means of