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Why does Holden have feelings for Jane Gallagher in The Catcher in the Rye?In chapter...

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mohammadruman... | Student, Grade 10 | eNotes Newbie

Posted November 6, 2009 at 8:15 PM via web

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Why does Holden have feelings for Jane Gallagher in The Catcher in the Rye?

In chapter 16, Holden tried to call her a couple of times when he had nothing to do. He thought about her and when she didn't answer, it led to him thinking about why girls are so complex.

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

Posted November 6, 2009 at 9:06 PM (Answer #1)

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There are six kinds of girls in the novel:

1) Girls younger than him that he likes: Pheobe

2) Girls same age as him that he likes: Jane

3) Girls older than him that he likes: the nuns

4) Girls younger than him that he dislikes: Sonny

5) Girls same age as him that he dislikes: Sally

6) Girls older than him that he dislikes: his mother

Jane is about the only girl his age that he likes, but as the novel begins, he's not sure if he likes her any more because she is going out with Stradlater.  He likes the "old" Jane because they were intimate: not sexually, but emotionally--with secrets.

He may be one of the few who knows about Jane and her stepfather, that he physically abuses her.  In receipt of this secret, Holden kisses her all over the face: everywhere except the lips.  This is a sweet thing to do, but it's also very childish.  As you know, Holden is a conservative, fixated on the past and childhood things.

He also likes the way Jane keeps her kings in the back row.  This too is a conservative, child-like strategy; it is a way of never winning or losing.  It's quirky.  If you think of the kings as Jane's adulthood, or even her sexuality, Holden wants her never to grow up, or never to lose her sexual innocence.  You can say that Holden runs away from Pency because of Jane's potential sexual awakening as much as anything else.  Why else would she date a "player" like Stradlater?

Holden is deeply upset at Jane for this, whether he wants to admit it or not.  Which other girl does he run to in the subsequent chapters?  His little sister.  She is a younger version of Jane.  He tries to protect her too: from the word "Fu@k."  He wants all young girls to spin on that carousel: protected, never growing older.

It's not so much that girls are so complex.  He is not complex enough for them.  Holden is so immature that he doesn't come close to understanding them, mainly because of his conservative denial of their maturity.

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