Is Holden gradually growing from innocence to an experienced young man?

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mstultz72 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Catcher in the Rye is a kind of backwards Bildungsroman, or a coming of age story, in which has already crossed the border from innocence to experience before the novel begins (probably when Allie died), and now he is trying to protect children who are innocent from experiencing the materialism and phoniness of the adult world.  In this way, Holden is trying to move backwards, toward the security and innocence of childhood, which he realizes at the end is an impossibility.

Holden is obsessed with innocence (things frozen in time and child-like things), and he hates all phonies (experienced adults):

A. Things Frozen in Time

1. Allie: died of T.B.

2. Holden has “survivor’s guilt” (feels he should have died instead)

3. Allie’s grave (doesn’t like visiting because of the rain)

4. Museum of Art: never changes

5. Eskimo is mummified forever

6. Frozen pond in Central Park

7. Fish trapped underneath

8. Ducks forced to be moved elsewhere

9. Essay about Egyptians (mummies) written for Old Spencer

B. Child-like Things

1. Jane keeping her kings in the back row (checkers)

2. “Catcher in the Rye”: rescue kids from falling

3. “F#@K”: tries to erase it

4. Elmer Fudd-like hunting hat; red like Allie’s bright red hair

5. Allie’s glove with the poems written all over

6. “Little Shirley Beans” – record he buys Phoebe

7. Carrousel – Holden watches it go round and round (never progresses)

8. Ducks in the lagoon: wants someone to rescue them

9. Kisses Jane all over face, but NOT on the lips

10. Homophobia: calls them “flits”

11. Gender stereotyping of girls, older women obsession

C. “Phonies”

1. Glad-handing adults (headmaster)

2. Over-sexed teens (Stradlater)

3. Pretentious snobs (Luce)

4. Celebrity-obsessed girls (in Lavender room)

5. Materialistic artists (D.B.)

6. All kids are non-phonies: Allie, Pheobe

7. Nuns are non-phonies: talked about Romeo and Juliet

8. Biggest non-phony: James Castle--fell to his death rather than take back “conceited”

a. J. C. (“Jesus Christ”): is Castle Holden’s martyred saint?

b. Antolini carried Castle’s body; protected him from rubber-necks

Read the study guide:
The Catcher in the Rye

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