What are some possible explanations for Holden's lack of motivation in school? Give at least two examples from The Catcher in the Rye.

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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Holden is convinced that life at Pencey Prep, and school, in general, is a reflection of phoniness and inauthenticity.  For Holden, he equates success in school with artificial "buttering up" of teachers and authority figures.  This flies in the face of his own philosophy.  Holden believes that a search for truth is essential.  What he sees as success in school rewards phoniness.  At the same time, Holden fails to really see the "point" in school.  He has not been able to be convinced that what is being taught and assessed in school has meaning in his own life.  Holden fails to see the connection between academic lessons and life connections.  Within this lies another level to his poor performance and lack of motivation in school.  Finally, I would say that motivation requires some level of emotional commitment and connection.  Holden does not feature this.  Holden does not have much in way of "buy in" regarding academic success.  Holden is not someone that really features much in way of connection to what is happening in school.  In this, there is a lack of motivation.  Holden demonstrates a lack of emotional affect or connection and within this, one can see the motivation deficit as almost a conclusion.  In a world where there is constant doubt about material, adults, and his own emotional sensibilities that enable him to "buy into" something real, Holden shows a lack of emotional affect with the concept of school and through this, Salinger shows that some level of academic success can only be found when students have the emotional quotient to embrace, at some level, what transpires in the school or classroom setting.

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The Catcher in the Rye

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