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Holden's primary ambition is to become the catcher in the rye. Is this goal realistic?

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umlovely | Student | eNotes Newbie

Posted February 11, 2009 at 8:44 AM via web

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Holden's primary ambition is to become the catcher in the rye. Is this goal realistic?

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cybil | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator

Posted February 13, 2009 at 7:28 AM (Answer #1)

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Holden's notion of "catching" children playing in a field of rye before they fall off a cliff is not realistic in the least. The entire idea is completely imaginary, based on the song he hears the little boy singing. Holden's need, however, to protect those he perceives as innocent and vulnerable, such as the ducks and Phoebe, stems from his feeling of helplessness because he was unable to save Allie. He could not prevent a young child's death. As a result, Holden wants to protect all children from the dangers of the world in any way he can. For instance, he seeks to eliminate the obscene language he finds at Phoebe's school.

Eventually, though, Holden realizes that his goal is unrealistic. While he watches Phoebe on the carousel when she reaches for the gold ring and worries that she may fall, he understands that he has to let her experience her own failures. If she falls, she falls; he has to let her. Holden cannot protect her forever, and he finally accepts that fact. He sees his desire to be the catcher in the rye as unreachable and unrealistic.

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pmiranda2857 | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted February 14, 2009 at 4:17 AM (Answer #2)

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Holden's desire to become a catcher in the rye is not a realistic goal, it is part of his fantasy life, something that he must leave behind if he is to have a stable, successful life.

Holden's biggest problem is that he won't recognize reality, he rejects everything based on a mistaken belief that he can create his own truth.  Holden believes that if he views adult behavior as phony then he does not have to engage in responsible behavior because he refuses to engage in phony behavior.

This is a misconception on Holden's part, grouping all adults as phonies, therefore, resisting growing up.  Putting aside the fact that I believe that Holden is suffering from clinical depression and unresolved grief, it is easy for him to hide behind his outrageous opinion and imagine this fantasy job as catcher in the rye. 

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