This is a cause and effect essay of the catcher in the rye with thorough analysis of the different situations Holden finds himself in and how he alienates himself from society in different ways.
There is no doubt that The Catcher in the Rye is a unique book. The setting, the plot, and the main ideas of the story in general are very unusual, but the main character Holden is by far the most exclusive factor of the book. His personality is very rare for a teenager, and in reality it would be for any person. He thinks about the world and the people in it in a very analytic and critic way, which leads him to be alienated from society in the end. He considers most people, with few exceptions, to be false and phony, but still he is always looking for company, which he always ends up complaining about. The irony in this is that he is actually also phony, but it is not known if he knows this and criticizes others due to his insecurity, or that he just is not aware that he is a great example of what he has always disapproved. Therefore he seeks for some type of refuge in his imagination, and this finally leads him to become insane. Therefore it can be said that the phoniness and falseness of the world in the Catcher in the Rye seen exaggeratedly in Holden’s eyes, leads him to seek alienation in his thoughts by imagining things that are almost impossible, to allow him to escape from the crude reality of his situation.
In the book there are several situations in which Holden imagines terrible things that are caused by his depression. First of all, when Maurice punches him in the stomach, he starts imagining that he has been shot in the guts as seen when he says “about halfway to the bathroom, I sort of started pretending I had a bullet in my guts” (Salinger104). This shows the boy’s state of mind and describes how he wants to just escape from reality and thus be freed from his problem. It is like he thinks that death can be the solution to all problems but he does not have the courage to commit suicide as since he describes himself as yellow. Another example of him imagining a situation, in which he practically dies, is when he is walking on the street and at every corner he thinks he will fall in an abyss and will disappear as one can see when he says “every time I came to the end of a block and stepped off the goddamn curb, I had this feeling that I’d never get to the other side of the street” (197). This again shows that he wants to escape reality and in some way solve all his problems in an easy way. Every time he crosses the street and gets back on the sidewalk, he knows that it is not that simple and that it will not happen. At the same time though, the fact that he is scared and asks his dead brother Allie for help as seen when he says “every time I’d get to the end of a block I’d make believe I was talking to my brother Allie,” means that he does actually not want to die either. Just this fact that he really seems to believe that Allie can help him shows how his mental state is not healthy. In these situations it can be seen how he thinks that death or just ending his own existence in any way would help him get out of trouble.
Another important way Holden imagines things, is him having a life he has always wanted. There are several occasions in which he shows this throughout the novel. The first moment in which he imagines himself like this is when he goes out on a date with Sally. He starts imagining himself married to her and how nice that would be as the reader can see when he says “I didn’t even like her much, and yet all of a sudden I felt like I was in love with her and wanted to marry her” (124), but he does not ask because he knows and admits it would be insane. He cannot help to think about it though but it seems to be just a whim and a desperate call for company since he does not even really like her. In fact, later on he tells us that he can actually barely stand her, so a life with her would of course have been impossible to endure. Another moment, in which he imagines a similar situation, is before he meets his sister. In this situation he is thinking about what he will do since he does not want to stay in New York with his parents nor go to a boarding school. Therefore he plans that he will go to the west as seen in the line “I’d start hitchhiking my way out West,”(198) and start working in a gas station, but his thoughts quickly wander away from veridical things and he starts daydreaming about how he will act like he is deaf-mute as we see when he says “I’d pretend I was one of those deaf mutes,”(198) so he does not have to talk to any phony people and he imagines he would marry a deaf-mute girl so that she could not be phony as well and that he would live in a lonely cottage next to the woods. This shows again how he thinks that by escaping or leaving he will find the solution to all his troubles but he does not really realize that this is very unrealistic. He shows that he still does care a little bit about his somebody at least though, as we can see when he says that he will come back sometimes to New York to visit his sister Phoebe. These situations are somewhat similar to the evasion of problems he thinks he would achieve with death, but here he likes the option better since he thinks he would be happy, married, and alienated from the phoniness of the world, but these possibilities are also somewhat unfeasible.
Finally, one of the most important situations he imagines is definitely when it comes to his dream job. When his sister, the only person he practically seems to really care about, is mad at him and they start talking about a song called “If a Body Meet a Body Coming through the Rye” (173), he starts imagining himself doing what he would like most. This is to be “The Catcher in the Rye”. It sounds very important since it is the title of the book as well as his dream job, but when reading what the job consists of; one is left astounded of the silliness of this “profession” Holden longs for. His description for the job appears in the fragment saying “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” (173) This “profession” is of course inane and it is just unimaginable how he came to think about this. Holden is aware of this though, as one can see when he follows his explanation with “I know it’s crazy, but that’s the only thing I’d really like to be. I know it’s crazy” (173). This shows how he is aware of how irrational his idea is, but with this the author wants to express the problems in society in an amusing and surprising way. The little kids playing symbolize the innocence of youth, and over the cliff Holden would be guarding, is the phony world which he criticizes so much. Therefore his job is trying to guard these kids from passing to the other side, and avoid becoming the kind of people Holden dislikes. This shows that even if he does not really care about his own future, Holden wants to actually do something about the world’s phoniness so he wants to uproot it by avoiding children to become phony adults.
It is initially actually not very obvious that Holden has mental problems. In fact he is continuously calling himself crazy and it would be very unusual for a really insane person to be calling himself that all the time. It just seems like he has innumerable problems with society and that he just dislikes most people because of their way of being. Sometimes he might be right when judging some people, but he clearly overdoes it. Some people just do not really have all that phoniness or any other defect that he attributes to them, and sometimes his ways of acting even make him sound hypocritical. His insecurity and inability to solve his problems, lead him to judge and criticize others almost always in awful ways and seek refuge in his thoughts and imagination which give him inane ideas about solutions to what troubles him. As stated before, it is not very clear if Holden really has mental problems or he just has puberty issues. He does have friends, people often like him as a person, he is somewhat funny, he has girls that he likes, he loves his sister, he does not really like school; he just sounds like a normal teenager, but the things that go through his mind are what make him really an odd person. Not necessarily a bad person, since he enjoys helping others such as doing Stradlater’s essay or giving the nuns money, but he seems to not care about anything concerning his own future most of the times. The reason for his way of being can probably be attributed to the fact that his parents were indifferent to him and sent him to boarding school and his brother’s death affected him harshly, so he cannot act like a normal person, leading him to be alienate from society but at the same time desperately looking for company.