In Catcher in the Rye, what connections to people and places has Holden experienced that strengthen his sense of belonging?
Holden connects mainly to childlike people (Phoebe, Allie, Jane) and places (museums, zoo, carousel) and to things that remain the same (unchanged by time):
- Things Frozen in Time
- Allie: died of T.B.
- Holden has “survivor’s guilt” (feels he should have died instead)
- Allie’s grave (doesn’t like visiting because of the rain)
- Museum of Art: never changes
- Eskimo is mummified forever
- Frozen pond in Central Park
- Fish trapped underneath
- Ducks forced to be moved elsewhere
- The carousel (goes round and round)
- The zoo (animals trapped)
- Child-like Things
- Jane keeping her kings in the back row (checkers); Kisses Jane all over face, but NOT on the lips
- “Catcher in the Rye”: rescue kids from falling
- Elmer Fudd-like hunting hat; red like Allie’s bright red hair
- Allie’s glove with the poems written all over
- “Little Shirley Beans” – record he buys Phoebe
- Carrousel – Holden watches it go round and round (never progresses)
- Ducks in the lagoon: wants someone to rescue them
All of these people and places show that Holden once connected to the world (when he was a child, before Allie's death). Since then, as a teenager, he is disconnected because of a loss of innocence and phony materialism and hypocrisy.
I think that the previous posts were strong. I would like to engage in a different train of thought on the question. I think Holden has a connection to Pencey Prep. It is a bad connection and one that is unhealthy, but it is a connection. I think that a great quality of the book is how Salinger is able to display how not all connections are positive. Holden is bound to a certain extent to the experiences he has at Pencey. On one level, they serve to remind him of everything that he should not be nor represent. On another level, Holden's own hypocrisy might be a result of his connection to Pencey. On some level, Pencey might have imprinted itself onto him and might be a subterranean cause of his own hypocrisies. If this is accepted, then the point that Salinger is making is a real powerful one in that we as human beings cannot afford to hold a great deal of hated or detest towards an entity, for this can eat away at us and become a part of us and our own recognition in the world.
Holden's deepest connection that makes him feel a sense of belonging is to his sister Phoebe. Holden appreciates the sense of innocence that his little sister still has, so he feels especially connected to her. Even while he is away at school, he feels connected to home through Phoebe. In addition, after he leaves Pencey Prep and his relationship with his parents becomes even more strained, his connection to Phoebe still makes him feel like he belongs to someone somewhere. Near the end of the novel, the two go to Central Park and Phoebe rides on the carousel. While Holden watches her, he thinks about the idea of taking risks and learning through one's own mistakes. Holden has done just that throughout the novel, and his experience watching Phoebe take her risk on the carousel in part symbolizes all that Holden has learned. So, Holden's relationship with Phoebe strengthens his sense of belonging.