The Tragedy of Holden Caulfield Is That He Cannot Accept the Adult World He Is Too Old to Continue the Innocent Life of a Child Essays

Words: 1029
Pages: 5

The main concern of the novel The Catcher in the Rye is not only that the protagonist is trapped between childhood and adulthood, but also the alienation and regression caused by grief when the sufferer does not address their loss properly. Holden Caulfield's nervous breakdown is largely due to the death of his younger brother. It is because of this that he fears change and maturity so much, specifically the loss of innocence. Holden cannot accept the complexities of the world; instead, he uses "phoniness" of as an excuse to withdraw into the world of children.

Holden has experienced two great traumas connected with death. First, he has lost a loved and valued sibling, Allie. Secondly, he has witnessed the suicide of his classmate.
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"All the kids kept trying to grab for the gold ring, and so was old Phoebe, and I was sort of afraid she'd fall off the goddamn horse, but I didn't say or do anything. The thing with kids is, if they want to grab, you have to let them do it, any not say anything. If they fall off, they fall off, but it's bad if you say anything to them"

Holden also realises that becoming an adult does not necessarily mean that one becomes a "phoney".

Holden's self-righteous cynicism provides him with an excuse to see the world in oversimplified terms. He does not realise the complexities of others' personalities. If they are adults he usually instantly dismisses them as "phonies"; if they are children he enforces his own ideals of innocence onto them. One of the few adults he does not consider "phoney" is Mr Antolini. After running away from Mr Antolini, Holden realises that he sees the world in generalised terms. He runs away because he believes Mr Antolini is a homosexual. Later he comes to terms with the fact that he was wrong to cast aside Mr Antolini's kindness, empathy and hospitality on the assumption that Mr Antolini was making an advance on him. Holden's encounters with Phoebe also reveal his tendency to see people as he would like to be rather than as they are. He sees Phoebe as the epitome of childhood, when, in fact, she seems to know more about reality than he does. Holden dismisses others as means of protecting himself from any kind of intimacy.