Why does Holden like the museum in The Catcher in the Rye?

Holden likes the museum because nothing ever changes inside the glass cases, and the exhibits remain the same throughout the years. Holden's feelings about the museum reflect his fondness for the past and reveal his desire to remain an adolescent. Holden's biggest fear is growing up, and the museum represents his untainted childhood, which he desperately clings to throughout the story.

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Holden Caulfield has experienced several traumatic events as an adolescent, and throughout the novel, he struggles to cope with his difficult feelings. Holden is particularly afraid of growing up and becoming an adult. He views every adult as a "phony" and desperately desires to remain an adolescent. Holden's fear of...

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Holden Caulfield has experienced several traumatic events as an adolescent, and throughout the novel, he struggles to cope with his difficult feelings. Holden is particularly afraid of growing up and becoming an adult. He views every adult as a "phony" and desperately desires to remain an adolescent. Holden's fear of the future enhances his fondness for the past, and he reminisces about his pleasant experiences as a child visiting the Museum of Natural History. As Holden remembers his enjoyable childhood experiences at the museum, he says,

The best thing, though, in that museum was that everything always stayed right where it was.

Holden's comments reveal his attachment to the past, which is connected to his relationship with his deceased brother, Allie. Holden has never properly coped with Allie's death and struggles to move on with his life. His fondness for the past is directly associated with his feelings for his younger brother and fear of entering the adult world. Holden expresses his desire to remain in the past, where everything stays the same and is untainted, by saying,

Certain things they should stay the way they are. You ought to be able to stick them in one of those big glass cases and just leave them alone. I know that's impossible, but it's too bad anyway. Anyway, I kept thinking about all that while I walked.

Overall, Holden enjoys the fact that the exhibits in the Museum of Natural History remain the same and never change, which is how he wishes life worked. Holden inherently desires to remain an adolescent and never change, like the permanent exhibits inside the glass cases; he fears the future and wants to remain young and innocent.

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Two famous New York museums play a part in The Catcher in the Rye: the Museum of Natural History and the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Holden has happy memories as he anticipates visiting the Museum of Natural History. He often went there as a child. It was a point of stability for him, because nothing ever changed. The dioramas of Eskimo and Indian life were always the same every year, as was the film about Christopher Columbus. Holden associates the museum with his secure childhood before his brother's death. He ruminates that:

Certain things they should stay the way they are. You ought to be able to stick them in one of those big glass cases and just leave them alone. I know that's impossible, but it's too bad anyway.

However, when he arrives at the museum, he decides not to enter. It's very likely that he doesn't want to risk having his pristine childhood memories ruined:

Then a funny thing happened. When I got to the museum, all of a sudden I wouldn't have gone inside for a million bucks. It just didn't appeal to me--and here I'd walked through the whole goddam park and looked forward to it and all. If Phoebe'd been there, I probably would have, but she wasn't. So all I did, in front of the museum, was get a cab and go down to the Biltmore.

Later, he tells Phoebe to meet him at the "museum of art." From the description he offers, he means the Metropolitan Museum of Art. While waiting for Phoebe, he helps two boys who are playing hookey from school find the "mummy" exhibit, which involves walking through the reconstructed walls of a pyramid. The boys get frightened and run off, but Holden continues. He is disillusioned, however, when he notes someone has written an obscenity on a wall: this is the kind of shock he no doubt wanted to avoid by not entering the Museum of Natural History.

Museums represent safety, childhood, and happy memories to Holden, which is why he likes the Museum of Natural History. But as he finds out at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, even museums, like so much else, can force him to confront a loss of innocence.

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In chapter 16, Holden Caulfield walks toward the Museum of Natural History alone and enjoys thinking about his experiences as a child visiting the museum during school field trips. Holden says that he remembers every exhibit in the museum from his numerous field trips and recalls walking through the Indian Room to get to the auditorium, where there is a long Indian war canoe. After describing several of the museum's exhibits, Holden gives the reader insight into what he likes most about the Museum of Natural History by saying,

"The best thing, though, in that museum was that everything always stayed right where it was. Nobody’d move. You could go there a hundred thousand times, and that Eskimo would still be just finished catching those two fish, the birds would still be on their way south, the deers would still be drinking out of that water hole, with their pretty antlers and their pretty, skinny legs, and that squaw with the naked bosom would still be weaving that same blanket. Nobody’d be different" (Salinger, 72).

Holden's explanation for why he enjoys the Museum of Natural History corresponds to his affinity for childhood and his desire to remain an adolescent. As a jaded, cynical teenager, who struggles in nearly every facet of life, Holden fears entering the competitive world of adults. In Holden's perspective, adulthood is uncertain and unpredictable, unlike the exhibits in the museum. Similar to his affinity for the museum, which never changes, Holden fears the change he will experience when he becomes an adult.

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"The best thing, though, in that museum was that everything always stayed right where it was. Nobody'd move."

Holden likes the static nature of the museum.  He likes the fact that the exhibits stay the same.  It feels comfortable and familiar to him.  He likes the unchanging nature of the museum, because it is so different than what he is experiencing on a personal and real life level.  His happy childhood is no longer, because he is growing up.  His brother died years before, and Holden's entire family dynamic has changed.  School is changing for Holden too.  Classes are getting tougher, and he just can't seem to stay in school.  Holden is scared by all of the change that he sees happening around him, and he wishes that life could be more like the museum.  Static, predictable, unchanging, and comforting.  I have to admit, while I don't like Holden that much through most of the book, I sometimes completely agree with Holden's attitude on this one.  

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