What do the various female characters in The Catcher in the Rye reveal about Holden's character?

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accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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There seems to be a huge paradox at the centre of Holden's character. On the one hand he longs for relationships and seems to seek out individuals that he tries to make contact with, however fleeting. This is important as these relationships seem to offer Holden the chance to connect with somebody else and break out of his self-imposed isolation. However, at the same time, relationships seem to represent what Holden finds most difficult to accept about being a grown up, which is the complexity, conflict and unpredictability that are found in trying to reach out to somebody else. Holden's ideal is symbolised in the Egyptian tomb in the museum, where everything is frozen and in stasis:

I was the only one left in the tomb then. I sort of liked it, in a way. It was so nice and peaceful.

The various relationships Holden has or tries to form with women are complicated for him because the women talk back and Holden's own perception of self is challenged as a result. For this reason he (deliberately?) ruins any chances he has of a relationship with a girl, reverting to his standard mode of cynicism to explain why it didn't work out, endlessly searching for another relationship.


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