Explain why The Catcher in the Rye concludes on a positive note?

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akannan's profile pic

Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

I think that the previous posts were strong.  I do think that the post right above mine might be closer to my thinking.  I do buy that there is a rehabilitative element, but I think that the novel does end on a note that is not entirely positive.  If one wants to claim it to be a "realistic" or "sober" ending, that's fine, but I don't entirely see it as positive.  The idea of not being able to establish human contact for fear of pain of abandonment is something that I get from the closing lines.  It seems that while Holden might be able to make peace with things, there still is a belief that undercuts the hopes of social solidarity and the sense of authentic compassion that is sorely needed throughout the narrative.  The ending lines helps to bring forth the idea that individuals are alone, and that there is some level of isolation from others that is intrinsic to our nature.  Holden is institutionalized and the phonies have remained relatively untouched.  For this, I don't see the positive note, but I suppose I can understand where one would find it in terms of the setting from which Holden articulates his thoughts.

mstultz72's profile pic

mstultz72 | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted on

I'm not sure it does.  About the only positive note is that Holden does not commit suicide like James Castle.  Instead, he moves out to California near his brother to be placed in a "rest home."  Ask any kid: that's not positive.

What's more, Mr. Antolini makes a pass at him, and Holden's parents pass him off to another institution.  Holden regrets telling the reader details of his life.  He says:

"Don't ever tell anybody anything. If you do, you start missing everybody"

So, it's an anticlimactic ending.  A real downer.  He shows regret instead of affirming maturation.  Does Holden ever grow up?  I'm not so sure.

In fact, some critics think Holden's next step will be to join the army and ship out to Korea after this.  Maybe even die there.  Whatever the case, Holden seems destined to live a life of fear and seclusion--just like the author's.

teachertaylor's profile pic

teachertaylor | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

Posted on

The Catcher in the Rye concludes on a positive note to suggest that there is still hope for Holden.  Holden and Phoebe in the last scene of the novel are together and Phoebe expresses her desire to go with Holden wherever he goes.  Holden truly loves his little sister and appreciates the sense of innocence that she has within her.  He knows that if she still sees good in him even though he has done so many questionable things that there must still be good in him somewhere.  It stands to reason that after this scene, Holden has a mental breakdown because he narrates the book from the hospital.  But the hospital is a place for him to be rehabilitated so that he can give life another shot.  Holden's relationship with Phoebe is about second chances (she forgives him for being kicked out of school again), so the novel ends here to suggest that Holden has been given a second chance.

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