What is Holden's view of women/girls in The Catcher in the Rye?
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Holden's view of women in general is not too kind. He doesn't feel that they are smart, nor hold any depth of character. He believed that women would just be driven by instinct and just go out with guys for the money. He felt this way mainly because that was the sort of women he was hanging with, and because he tends to generalize.
An example of Holden's issue with women is illustrated in the following paragraph on Ch. 13
I mean most girls are so dumb and all. After you neck them for a while, you can really watch them losing their brains. You take a girl when she really gets passionate, she just hasn't any brains.
Nevertheless, he holds a very intense respect and love for his little sister, Phoebe. She acts almost like an opposite to him, since she appears to be more sociable and people-friendly than him. He is quite attached to her and separates her from the rest of the world. She is the only person that Holden is connected to psychologically.
When tackling this question we must first recognize that Holden is a lost, confused, and immature teenage boy.
Like most everyone else in society, Holden sees women as phony. He believes they are only interested in superficial materialism and image. For example, when Holden takes Sally on a date, he is disgusted with her when she goes to talk to another boy. He assumes she only does so because he is "ivy league":
Then all of a sudden, she saw some jerk she knew on the other side of the lobby. Some guy in one of those very dark gray flannel suits and one of those checkered vests. Strictly Ivy League. Big deal. He was standing next to the wall, smoking himself to death and looking bored as hell. Old Sally kept saying, "I know that boy from somewhere." [...] The jerk noticed her and came over and said hello. You should've seen the way they said hello. You'd have thought they hadn't seen each other in twenty years. You'd have thought they'd taken baths in the same bathtub or something when they were little kids. Old buddyroos. It was nauseating. The funny part was, they probably met each other just once, at some phony party [...] The worst part was, the jerk had one of those very phony, Ivy League voices, one of those very tired, snobby voices.
Holden believes Sally's only motivation in going to talk to this boy is his social status. He believes she is drawing attention to herself so other people in the room will see that she is speaking to a desirable man.
This is just one of many examples. You may also want to consider:
- Holden's interactions with the 3 women at the bar in chapter 9
- The beginning of chapter 17 as Holden sits in the hotel lobby
- His opinion of Sunny, the prostitute in chapter 13
- Also, don't forget about Jane. However, do note, she is the exception, not the rule.
Hope this helps!
I agree with both of the answers above. But I would like to add that he likes to see women as people, he doesnt like the objectification of women as he mentioned:
"I think if you don't really like a girl, you shouldn't horse around with her at all, and if you do like her, then you're supposed to like her face, and if you like her face, you ought to be careful about doing crumby stuff to it, like squirting water all over it. It's really too bad that so much crumby stuff is a lot of fun sometimes."
He thinks girls should be admired and loved. One of the main reasons he shies away from the idea of sex, as it is an act of objectifying women.
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