In The Catcher in the Rye, how do Holden's feelings for women compare to his feelings for men?

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gmuss25 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Holden has complex feelings regarding women and is depicted as treating them with respect, while other times he treats them with contempt. Holden is also inexperienced in the areas of sexual intercourse and relationships with females, which is one reason he is apprehensive around them. Holden's confession regarding his virginity indicates that he respects women more than his classmates and does not treat them as objects. Holden's feelings regarding Jane Gallagher reveal that he is sympathetic, compassionate, and caring towards them. He also acts as Phoebe's protector and guardian, which once again illustrates his sensitive nature towards females. Unlike many of the men Holden associates with, he shows a genuine respect for women and demonstrates that he values them. However, Holden's respect for women is limited to his affection for them. For example, Holden calls Sally Hayes a "pain in the ass" and ends up ruining their date. Holden's attitude and behavior towards Jane Gallagher and Phoebe are in stark contrast to how he treats Sally Hayes.

In regards to Holden's feelings towards men, he views them as sexual deviants, who treat women like possessions and have ulterior motives while dating them. Holden views the majority of men he meets as superficial phonies, who selfishly attempt to manipulate others to improve their social status. Holden is intimidated by men, which explains his odd social interactions with them. He also does not have any close male friends and remains relatively isolated throughout the novel. Holden's lack of masculine traits and social skills adversely affects his relationships and interactions with men.

jeff-hauge eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Holden perceives men as sexual deviants, annoying bores or as phonies. He projects his insecurities about himself onto every male person he meets. His roommate, classmates and teachers are all used as projection devices for himself. He lumps them together into broad categories and dismisses them. The common theme of all these attributed qualities is that men should not be trusted around females. The one male person in his life that escapes his condemnation is, interestingly enough, his father.

Holden then views females as objects to adore and protect. Although he is cruel to some women, he is generally chivalrous towards the women he meets, regardless of social station. Whether it is Jane Gallagher or Phoebe, Holden feels women should be kept safe. This completes the earlier projected feelings about men. He then is unable to let himself have a real relationship with any female, except Phoebe, since that would violate rule number one, men should not be trusted with women.

renelane eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Holden has trouble connecting with either sex. It appears he is struggling with sexuality issues. The women he encounters, as well as his sister, are all strong and vocal. While he has dated, he does not maintain any real relationships. Women seem to be merely sex objects to him.

Men are regarded much more negatively than women. Holden had a strong aversion to the stereotypical tall, rugged, and handsome man. He hated football players form school, his good-looking roommate, and sport-stars. He viewed most men as either idiots or perverts.

kimleee | Student

He doesn't trust men because he was molested by one as we found out in the book.  That's why with Mr. Anatolian who was nothing but nice to Holden, Holden flipped when he patted him on the head.He Can't have a relationships for women unless he is close to them in some way.Jane and Holden were both molested and Phoebe and Holden were siblings and close at that.Also with sally and him she is nothing to him but someone to go to when he is feeling down.

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The Catcher in the Rye

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