The Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger

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How do Sally and Holden contrast to one another in Catcher in the Rye?

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David Morrison eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Sally's different to Holden in that she pretty much accepts life as it is. Breathtakingly shallow and vacuous, she sails through life without a care in the world, unable or unwilling to recognize its darker side. It's difficult to imagine a more contrasting world-view than Holden's. He's acutely aware—too much so, one might argue—of the numerous imperfections of this world and everyone and everything in it. To him, Sally's just the latest in a long, seemingly never-ending line of "phonies," those intensely annoying people who populate Holden's life at every twist and turn.

Having said all that, the fact that Sally's much more grounded than Holden makes her more mature in key respects. For instance, when Holden comes up with a deluded fantasy about their getting married and living together in a remote log cabin, it's Sally who's the grown-up, the one who points out the shortcomings of this crazy scheme. Far from being "phony," Sally's actually behaving like a responsible adult, and it's high time, we might think, that Holden took a leaf out of her book.

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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Fundamentally, part of the reason why Holden and Sally don't connect is that they view consciousness entirely differently.  Holden is trapped between seeking out a vision of reality that is more along the lines of his own hopes and dreams or outright disdain for the setting in which he is immersed.  This complexity is not Sally's perception of being in the world.  She is quite content with operating inside the parameters of what is in front of her.  She does not have any problems thinking about a traditional future, operating within the boundaries of what is expected of her.  Her definition of success is a commonly shared one, and is completely divergent from Holden, who might not have the most cogent vision of success.  In this light, Sally and Holden possess strict points of contrast to one another.

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