In The Catcher in the Rye, what are Holden's personality traits (e.g., judgmental)?

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The protagonist of The Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger is Holden Caulfield , a teenager who has just flunked out of another prep school and is undergoing treatment for mental health issues. He is from an upper-middle-class professional family, but despite the prosperity of the family, it...

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The protagonist of The Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger is Holden Caulfield, a teenager who has just flunked out of another prep school and is undergoing treatment for mental health issues. He is from an upper-middle-class professional family, but despite the prosperity of the family, it appears somewhat dysfunctional, in part due to their grieving over the death of Allie Caulfield, Holden's younger brother. Holden describes his parents as emotionally distant.

One obvious aspect of Holden's character is that he is depressed. He appears to be searching for a direction in life but has not really found a sense of purpose.

Another key element of his character is that he is rebellious. He is very much a typical teenager in that rebellion is in part a way of trying to develop his own identity. His failures in school have more to do with rebelliousness than with lack of ability.

Holden is very concerned with authenticity and objects strongly to phoniness. This is, in part, due to his efforts to find his own identity and meaning in life after the death of his brother. He is arrogant and often overestimates himself and underestimates others.

Holden is also very self-centered, far more concerned in most cases with how people and events effect him than with other people, except his sister Phoebe—whom he genuinely cares for.

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I find Holden a flawed but deeply lovable character because his heart is in the right place. Here are five personality traits I appreciate in him:

Hatred of hypocrisy: Holden really dislikes people he considers phonies. His roommate, Stradlater, is an example of a phony. Stradlater puts his best foot forward and projects a false image of who is in order to get what he wants. He is indifferent to who he hurts in the process. This bothers Holden, especially when he realizes Stradlater is going on a date with Holden's vulnerable friend, Jane Gallagher.

Kindness: Holden tries to treat the people around him with kindness—and usually more kindness than they deserve. From protecting the ego of Mr. Spencer, the Pencey history teacher, to helping some lower-class boys in the Metropolitan Museum of Art find the mummies, Holden is constantly aware of the needs of others and helping them.

Generosity: Holden gives generously to others. He, for example, gives to the nuns he meets while eating in a diner. Being kind, he notices that they are eating a meager breakfast while he eats a huge one. He gives them $10 (which was a lot of money at the time). But he also gives of himself, because he enjoys talking to them.

A desire to protect the vulnerable: Holden wants to be the "catcher in the rye," the person catching the children before they get hurt or fall off the edge of the cliff.

integrity: Holden gets himself into a lot of trouble, but he lives by his own lights. If that means failing classes and being kicked out of yet another school, so be it. He is not concerned with getting ahead or being successful. He cares about other people and being true to himself.

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Jaded: Throughout the novel, Holden continually expresses his displeasure with mainstream America. He finds the things many Americans value to be superficial and worthless. In Holden's opinion, adults are lying, competitive, phony individuals with few redeeming qualities.

Immature: Holden is continually joking around and cannot control his emotions. Several characters throughout the novel tell Holden to settle down and grow up. Holden will suddenly break out dancing, wrestle Stradlater, raise his voice, and talk about sensitive subjects at inappropriate times.

Angry: Holden is upset with nearly every character throughout the novel. He harbors deep resentment about the death of his younger brother, Allie, and reveals his anger through his pessimistic view of the world around him. Holden is highly critical of everything he encounters and even physically expresses his anger by lashing out at his roommate.

Depressed: Throughout the novel, Holden continually thinks about his own death and contemplates suicide. His lack of perspective and traumatic experiences have left him depressed and confused.

Lonely: Holden searches for a genuine friend to confide in but continually attempts to satisfy his loneliness by speaking to unsympathetic people. He refuses to meet up with Jane and instead goes on a date with the superficial Sally Hayes. Holden needs a close, understanding friend to help him get through this difficult time in his life.

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In The Catcher in the Rye, Holden Caulfield is a conflicted teenager, struggling with his angst and anxiety of growing up in a world where he sees all adults as "phonies." Holden is hypocritical at times, cynical and sometimes naive. In spite of his cynicism, his dream to be "the catcher in the rye" is naive and it is an idealized concept of being one who protects children. The irony is that this is an adult role, something Holden would have a profound conflict with. In Chapter 22, he tells Phoebe: 

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. I know it's crazy, but that's the only thing I'd really like to be. 

Holden is cynical but he's also a dreamer. He is innocent but portrays himself as wiser than others his age. Holden claims he would like to escape from the world. In Chapter 25, he considers moving out west where no one will know him. And yet, he wants to be the "catcher in the rye," a symbolic position of one who would save the world. Holden is obsessively introspective, which isn't necessarily a bad thing. He is also a typical teenager, fraught with conflicts and he is anxious about becoming a part of the adult world which he has spent most of his teenage years rebelling against. 

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