What is Holden's attitude toward other guys?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

In The Catcher in the Rye, Holden acts two different ways toward males, depending on their ages.  While he venerates children, he is passive-agressive to those who are his age and older.

Holden compares every male to his dead brother Allie.  Allie was his idealized male figure--uncorrupted, smart, artistic. All other males--including his father, his brother, and himself--pale by comparison.  He mentions his father only in passing, and he calls his older brother an artistic "prostitute."  Most others are deemed "phonies."  Holden wears his red hunting hat to honor Allie (who had red hair).  In terms of gender, Holden feels inferior to his brother, obvious signs of survivor's guilt.

Holden sets himself up to fail with males who are his age and older.  He verbally instigates fights with Stradlater and Maurice, who beat him up because he asks for it.  Although he calls himself a "pacifist," Holden likes to feeling victimized by these stronger, more macho males.

Holden is either extremely jealous of other, heterosexual males or he is paranoid and homophobic of other homosexual males. He hates Stradlater because he openly brags of his sexual promiscuity before his date with Jane, and he hates "flits" (homosexuals), especially after Mr. Antolini makes a pass at him (or so he claims).  Regardless, Holden has sexual identification issues.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

The narrator of J. D. Salinger's novel, Catcher in the Rye, Holden Caulfield doesn't think too highly of any of his classmates--or most people in general. He has few friends; perhaps his closest is his dead brother, Allie, who Holden still talks to as if he was alive. He has a distant relationship with his older brother, D. B., who he considers a sell-out because he is more interested in making money than pursuing his artistic talents. He doesn't get along with his dormmate Robert Ackley, who aggravates Holden because of his unclean habits. Holden is jealous of his roommate, Ward Stradlater, who is a bit of a playboy but who seems to take advantage of Holden. Holden is so lonely before leaving Pencey that he goes to visit his favorite teacher, Mr. Spencer, but Holden considers him "pathetic" because of his age and his pajamas. One student Holden admires, Carl Luce, can't find the time to spend with him. Even Holden's former English teacher, Mr. Antolini, who invites him to spend the night, surprises him with what appear to be sexual advances; later, Holden is not so sure. For the most part, Holden thinks very little of the people that he meets.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team

We’ll help your grades soar

Start your 48-hour free trial and unlock all the summaries, Q&A, and analyses you need to get better grades now.

  • 30,000+ book summaries
  • 20% study tools discount
  • Ad-free content
  • PDF downloads
  • 300,000+ answers
  • 5-star customer support
Start your 48-Hour Free Trial