The Catcher in the Rye Questions and Answers
by J. D. Salinger

The Catcher in the Rye book cover
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Holden's inability to communicate reflects a larger issue that he has. What issue is this?

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A strong case can be made in support of this statement. However, Holden is able to communicate with some people; a problem arises because the number of people that he believes can understand him is very small. One of the most poignant features of his quest to make genuine human connections is that he has built thick walls around himself so that through the course of the novel he fails more often than he succeeds in connection with others. It is at the point when he realizes that he trust only his sister that he can begin to make progress toward fuller social inclusion.

Holden’s most immediate pressing issue is the ongoing weight of grief and mourning for his brother. This is compounded by being a member of a dysfunctional family: neither of his parents has made positive progress in recovery from losing Allie, and therefore are unable to help their son. An outgrowth of that problem was their sending him off to prep school, where he lacks an appropriate support network to help him through his grief. Holden’s reaction has been to withdraw into himself and judge others (the “phonies”) for their inadequacies although most of them are unaware of the tragedy his family has endured.

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