I have a Literary Analysis Essay to write for my American Literature class on The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger. I had a choice of three different prompts and I ended up picking "How Holden...

I have a Literary Analysis Essay to write for my American Literature class on The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger. I had a choice of three different prompts and I ended up picking "How Holden exemplifies romantic thought." I know it was the hardest one but I'm interested in individuality, especially the Romantic vs Rationalist stuff. Anyways, I'm having trouble finding supporting details and examples from the text that appease my thesis and focus statement. My thesis and focus statement are as goes:

"Holden exemplifies romantic thought in many ways and forms throughout the novel. These forms are valuing the individual rather than society, irrational thought that appeals to emotions, and detachment from reality and a tendency to be unrealistic."

I have already written my first body paragraph on valuing the individual rather than society; however, I'm having trouble finding two supporting details and examples for the "irrational thought that appeals to emotions" and "detachment from reality and a tendency to be unrealistic" arguments. Thank you!

Expert Answers
William Delaney eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I would say that one example of irrational thought is Holden's impulsive decision to go and spend two days alone in Manhattan. This is an example of the things a lot of adolescent males do. Holden has no idea where he is going or why. Naturally he gets into some troubles. It is irrational to have Maurice send Sonny up to his room when he doesn't even like the idea of losing his virginity with a cheap prostitute. One of his most irrational actions is proposing marriage to Sally Hayes in Chapter 17. He doesn't even like this girl. It is not totally rational for him to be inviting her to a Broadway show and then agreeing to go ice-skating afterward when he thinks of her as queen of the phonies. He decides he wants to get married without having any idea what that might entail. And he is only sixteen years old and has no income. Fortunately, Sally has more sense than he does.

A good example of Holden's tendency to be unrealistic is the fantasy that gives the novel its title. He describes it to his little sister Phoebe in Chapter 22.

"Anyway, I keep picturing all these little kids playing some games in a big field or rye and all. Thousands of little kids, and nobody's around--nobody big, I mean--except me. 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 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. I know it's crazy."

It is hard to read that paragraph of dialogue in its semi-romantic, semi-cynical adolescent vernacular without feeling a bit like crying. This is his game plan for the rest of his life! 

Holden's whole excursion to Manhattan is like a montage sequence of irrational, romantic behavior. He even invites the cab driver to have a drink with him. He is all alone in the biggest city in America. He is a lost boy trying to pretend he knows where he is going. Everything he does is done on impulse. Nearly everything he does turns out to have been a mistake. 

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The Catcher in the Rye

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