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The Catcher in the Rye

by J. D. Salinger

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What is Holden's self-perception in The Catcher in the Rye?

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Holden Caulfield, the protagonist of J.D. Salinger's The Catcher in the Rye, has a remarkably unique perception on his world. Truthfully, Holden's main talent lies in his ability to criticize others. In Holden's viewpoint, most people he encounters are bastards, phonies, morons, liars, and so on. This raises the interesting question as to how Holden views himself.

Holden's hasty criticisms of friends, acquaintances, and strangers often seem wholly misanthropic. His tolerance for negative character traits is practically nonexistent, and he occasionally applies his own high standards to himself.

For one thing, Holden certainly seems aware of his own mental instability. After spontaneously asking an old romantic flame, Sally Hayes, if she wants to get married, he reflects on his impulsive action: "I don't even know why I started that stuff with her . . . I swear to God I'm a madman" (134).

Holden is embarrassed about his academic shortcomings; when confronted by Mr. Spencer about a mediocre essay that he had written on the Egyptians, Holden cringes and becomes uncomfortable. He seems to view himself as an intelligent boy that is capable of better work, which is further suggested by his excessive criticism of others.

He also considers himself to be weak and passive. He does not necessarily believe in violence—apart from roughhousing with Stradlater—and he describes himself specifically as a "pacifist." Holden also admits to being a "terrific liar," a trait that he certainly loathes in others.

Holden Caulfield does not necessarily have tremendous self-esteem, which could possibly be caused or affected by his misanthropy. In many ways, his hasty criticisms act as a defensive shield to avoid getting hurt by others. His dismissal of everyone as a "phony" brings about the question as to whether or not he views himself as phony. As a whole, it seems as though his self-awareness is so keen that it cripples him; in other words, as seen in his interaction with Sally Hayes, he becomes conflicted in his feelings. By fearing hypocrisy—or becoming like one of those he holds contempt for—he is not able to act sincerely toward others. He asks Sally Hayes to marry him but then retreats into his protective shell. Holden aims to stay sincere but consequently struggles to find his identity.

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Holden Caulfield is one of literature's most famous unreliable narrators and continually contradicts himself throughout the entire novel. As a teenage boy struggling with the traumatic death of his younger brother, Holden has a difficult time transitioning into adulthood and is depicted as an extremely moody, unstable, jaded young man. Holden is a hypochondriac who struggles to make friends, has a difficult time speaking to women appropriately, and behaves awkwardly in social settings.

At times, Holden has an elevated view of himself and carries himself with confidence. Holden refers to himself as being "quite sexy," says he's a "pacifist," and thinks he is "pretty healthy." However, Holden contradicts these statements by mentioning that he is a virgin, demonstrates his violent nature by punching Stradlater, and continually smokes cigarettes. One of Holden's most memorable statements illustrating how he perceives himself takes place when Holden tells the reader,

I'm quite illiterate, but I read a lot. (Salinger, 10)

The majority of the time, Holden has a negative self-perception and tells the reader that he is a "moron," a "liar," and a "very weak guy." Despite the many adjectives that Holden uses to describe himself, the most telling comment he makes regarding his self-perception is when he tells the reader, "I'm a madman" (Salinger, 81). One could argue that one of Holden's biggest vices is his lack of self-perception. As an adolescent transitioning into the competitive world of adults, Holden struggles to accurately define himself, which results in his extremely inflated confidence as well as his low self-esteem.

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Holden Caulfield is a 16-17 year-old boy who attends college preparatory schools. (Schools is plural because he's been kicked out of three of them.)He's also been through a lot in his young life, such as losing his little brother Allie to leukemia, and he's not functioning very well because of it. In an effort to cope with life, Holden lies:

"I'm the most terrific liar you ever saw in your life. It's awful. If I'm on my way to the store to buy a magazine, even, and somebody asks me where I'm going, I'm liable to say I'm going to the opera. It's terrible" (16).

The above passage is so ironic because Holden is also very critical of other people who he views as phonies. Usually phonies are adults, but he points out many others throughout the book as well. What's ironic, is he never figures out that he's probably one of the greatest hypocrites, too. At least he knows he's a liar, right?

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In The Catcher in the Rye, what are Holden's personality traits (e.g., judgmental)?

The protagonist of The Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger is Holden Caulfield, a teenager who has just flunked out of another prep school and is undergoing treatment for mental health issues. He is from an upper-middle-class professional family, but despite the prosperity of the family, it appears somewhat dysfunctional, in part due to their grieving over the death of Allie Caulfield, Holden's younger brother. Holden describes his parents as emotionally distant.

One obvious aspect of Holden's character is that he is depressed. He appears to be searching for a direction in life but has not really found a sense of purpose.

Another key element of his character is that he is rebellious. He is very much a typical teenager in that rebellion is in part a way of trying to develop his own identity. His failures in school have more to do with rebelliousness than with lack of ability.

Holden is very concerned with authenticity and objects strongly to phoniness. This is, in part, due to his efforts to find his own identity and meaning in life after the death of his brother. He is arrogant and often overestimates himself and underestimates others.

Holden is also very self-centered, far more concerned in most cases with how people and events effect him than with other people, except his sister Phoebe—whom he genuinely cares for.

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In The Catcher in the Rye, what are Holden's personality traits (e.g., judgmental)?

I find Holden a flawed but deeply lovable character because his heart is in the right place. Here are five personality traits I appreciate in him:

Hatred of hypocrisy: Holden really dislikes people he considers phonies. His roommate, Stradlater, is an example of a phony. Stradlater puts his best foot forward and projects a false image of who is in order to get what he wants. He is indifferent to who he hurts in the process. This bothers Holden, especially when he realizes Stradlater is going on a date with Holden's vulnerable friend, Jane Gallagher.

Kindness: Holden tries to treat the people around him with kindness—and usually more kindness than they deserve. From protecting the ego of Mr. Spencer, the Pencey history teacher, to helping some lower-class boys in the Metropolitan Museum of Art find the mummies, Holden is constantly aware of the needs of others and helping them.

Generosity: Holden gives generously to others. He, for example, gives to the nuns he meets while eating in a diner. Being kind, he notices that they are eating a meager breakfast while he eats a huge one. He gives them $10 (which was a lot of money at the time). But he also gives of himself, because he enjoys talking to them.

A desire to protect the vulnerable: Holden wants to be the "catcher in the rye," the person catching the children before they get hurt or fall off the edge of the cliff.

integrity: Holden gets himself into a lot of trouble, but he lives by his own lights. If that means failing classes and being kicked out of yet another school, so be it. He is not concerned with getting ahead or being successful. He cares about other people and being true to himself.

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In The Catcher in the Rye, what are Holden's personality traits (e.g., judgmental)?

Jaded: Throughout the novel, Holden continually expresses his displeasure with mainstream America. He finds the things many Americans value to be superficial and worthless. In Holden's opinion, adults are lying, competitive, phony individuals with few redeeming qualities.

Immature: Holden is continually joking around and cannot control his emotions. Several characters throughout the novel tell Holden to settle down and grow up. Holden will suddenly break out dancing, wrestle Stradlater, raise his voice, and talk about sensitive subjects at inappropriate times.

Angry: Holden is upset with nearly every character throughout the novel. He harbors deep resentment about the death of his younger brother, Allie, and reveals his anger through his pessimistic view of the world around him. Holden is highly critical of everything he encounters and even physically expresses his anger by lashing out at his roommate.

Depressed: Throughout the novel, Holden continually thinks about his own death and contemplates suicide. His lack of perspective and traumatic experiences have left him depressed and confused.

Lonely: Holden searches for a genuine friend to confide in but continually attempts to satisfy his loneliness by speaking to unsympathetic people. He refuses to meet up with Jane and instead goes on a date with the superficial Sally Hayes. Holden needs a close, understanding friend to help him get through this difficult time in his life.

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In The Catcher in the Rye, what are Holden's personality traits (e.g., judgmental)?

In The Catcher in the Rye, Holden Caulfield is a conflicted teenager, struggling with his angst and anxiety of growing up in a world where he sees all adults as "phonies." Holden is hypocritical at times, cynical and sometimes naive. In spite of his cynicism, his dream to be "the catcher in the rye" is naive and it is an idealized concept of being one who protects children. The irony is that this is an adult role, something Holden would have a profound conflict with. In Chapter 22, he tells Phoebe: 

And I'm standing on the edge of some crazy cliff. What I have to do, I have to catch everybody if they start to go over the cliff--I mean if they're running and they don't look where they're going I have to come out from somewhere and catch them. That's all I'd do all day. I'd just be the catcher in the rye and all. I know it's crazy, but that's the only thing I'd really like to be. 

Holden is cynical but he's also a dreamer. He is innocent but portrays himself as wiser than others his age. Holden claims he would like to escape from the world. In Chapter 25, he considers moving out west where no one will know him. And yet, he wants to be the "catcher in the rye," a symbolic position of one who would save the world. Holden is obsessively introspective, which isn't necessarily a bad thing. He is also a typical teenager, fraught with conflicts and he is anxious about becoming a part of the adult world which he has spent most of his teenage years rebelling against. 

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In The Catcher in the Rye, what is Holden Caulfield's character?

The Catcher in the Rye is considered J.D. Salinger's magnum opus, and on publication in 1951 caused a great deal of controversy over its language and themes.

Holden Caulfield, the protagonist, is 17 years old and in the grip of a passionate hatred for "phonies," or people who, in his view, act publicly in a way designed to win them approval from peers. Holden's beliefs are all predicated in his loathing of worldly things and topics, and he is arrogant, selfish, and immature. Throughout the book, he tries to connect with people, but his distrust of real motives and outward appearance acts as a barrier. The only person he feels he can talk to is his little sister, Phoebe, and even in dealing with her Holden is crude, short-tempered, and generally angry:

"Anyway, I like it now," I said. "I mean right now. Sitting here with you and just chewing the fat and horsing--"

"That isn't anything really!"

"It is so something really! Certainly it is! Why the hell isn't it? People never think anything is anything really. I'm getting goddam sick of it."

"Stop swearing. All right, name something else. Name something you'd like to be. Like a scientist. Or a lawyer or something."

"I couldn't be a scientist. I'm no good in science."
(Salinger, The Catcher in the Rye,

His anger extends into his own self-doubt; he cripples his ambitions because he believes himself to be incapable of changing. In a typically juvenile fashion, Holden believes himself to be as mature and grown-up as he will ever be; he cannot conceive of maturing further, and so he channels his frustration into anger at everyone around him, who he believes to be as undeveloped as he is, but willing to present a "phony" front for the sake of others.

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Can you explain Holden's personality in The Catcher in the Rye?

Holden is a 16 year old boy who is confused about growing up.  He resists the process of growing up and taking responsibility for his life, because he would rather remain a child.  Holden does not like change. 

He lost his younger brother, Allie and is grieving for his loss.  He has no friends, the girl he likes Jane Gallagher, he never calls her, although he says he wants to, then he gets mad when his roommate, Stradlater goes out with Jane. 

Holden is afraid of life, he is indifferent, acts like he doesn't care.  He does not do well in school, not because he is stupid, but because he doesn't care, he just doesn't do any work.  He has been kicked out of several schools, and feels like an outsider.  At his last school, Pencey Prep, Holden did not have any friends. 

His roommate, Stradlater just puts up with him, his neighbor, Ackley, also an outsider, sometimes hangs around with Holden, but he does not really like Ackley.  Holden finds fault with everyone.  He believes that all adults are phonies, including his teachers and especially his parents.

When Holden leaves school without permission, and does not go home, his character or personality can be defined as reckless and unstable.  He longs to go home, but is terrified to face his parents.

He loves his little sister, Phoebe, the only person in the book that Holden really communicates with and believes is sincere.

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Who is Holden in The Catcher in the Rye?

Holden Caulfield is a fictitious character who is used by his creator to express J. D. Salinger's views of humanity, just as Huckleberry Finn was used by Mark Twain to express not-too-dissimilar views of humanity in the novel to which The Catcher in the Rye has often been compared. Salinger wrote a number of stories about geniuses. One of the earliest was "Teddy," included in the anthology titledNine Stories. Seymour Glass and the other children in the Glass family, including Franny and Zooey, all had genius I.Q.s. Seymour committed suicide in "A Perfect Day for Bananafish" because of his negative view of humanity, including his own airhead wife. Salinger himself was undoubtedly a genius. He was notorious for his reclusiveness. He lived in a house surrounded by a high wall, never gave interviews, and fled from reporters. No doubt his own view of humanity was mostly negative. This can be noted especially in his two long stories, "Franny" and "Zooey," published together in a single volume.

Salinger does not indicate that Holden Caulfield is a genius--but he hardly has to do so when the entire book is supposedly being written by a sixteen-year-old boy. How many sixteen-year-old boys could writeThe Catcher in the Rye? Holden's biggest problem is that he is a genius, and this makes him a misfit, a rebel, an outsider. When he decides to leave school and go to New York, he stops for a last look down the corridor in the dormitory and then yells, "Sleep tight, ya morons!"He doesn't realize how truthfully he is describing them. If he has an I.Q. of, let us say, 160, then people with average I.Q.s of around 100 are relatively morons. The "morons," unfortunately, are in the majority, as can be seen on the bell-shaped curves in psychology textbooks.

The Catcher in the Ryeis full of brilliant observations and what the French call apercus. That is what makes the novel such delightful reading, and re-reading. Out of many examples, here is one that shows Holden's uncanny perceptiveness and prophetic prowess:

"You're a dirty moron," I said [to Maurice the bellboy]. "You're a stupid chiseling moron, and in about two years you'll be one of those scraggy guys that come up to you on the street and ask for a dime for coffee. You'll have snot all over your dirty filthy overcoat, and you'll be--"

Holden is hardly the first person who sees the shortcomings of humanity. Here is an example from the great German philosopher Schopenhauer, who had such a strong influence on so many creative writers:

O for an Asmodeus of morality who for his minion rendered transparent not merely roofs and walls, but also the veil of dissimulation, falseness, hypocrisy, grimace, lying, and deception that is spread over everything, and who enabled him to see how little genuine honesty is to be found in the world and how often injustice and dishonesty sit at the helm, secretly and in the innermost recess, behind all the virtuous outworks, even where we least suspect them. 

John the Baptist, like a lot of other prophets in the Bible, had a rather jaundiced view of his contemporaries. He greeted the Pharisees and Sadducees with the words

"O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come?"  (Matthew 3:7)


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Who is Holden in The Catcher in the Rye?

Holden Caulfield is the protagonist of J.D. Salinger's well-known novel published in 1951, The Catcher in the Rye.

Reflective, bright, but in a state of despair, Holden Caulfield is presented as a portrait of a boy becoming a man and resisting the process every step of the way.

Critics have understood Holden's reluctance in a number of ways, some of which find deep flaws in the character's psyche and others in the world he is thrust into. 

Commented the great American novelist William Faulkner, who praised Salinger's novel, "When Holden attempted to enter the human race, there was no human race there."

Holden is a young man, a teenager, who flunks out of a prep school at the opening of the book and spends a few days in New York City, alone though his family lives there, trying to avoid telling his mother and father that he has been kicked out of yet another school.

Holden's choice to fend for himself in the city is in keeping with his character.

Holden Caulfield is a deeply troubled sixteen-year-old boy who is totally alienated from his environment and from society as a whole.

Over the course of the story, Holden reminisces about his younger brother who died of leukemia and reflects on his experiences with the people he has known in his life. While in New York, Holden also goes on a date, meets up with his younger sister Phoebe, and has a meeting with another friend from the past. Various adventures befall Holden along the way, including two negative sexual encounters (or psuedo-sexual encounters).

For reasons that remain open to interpretation, Holden feels that he must rebel against the falseness of society that he sees around him. He wishes to protect the innocence of his sister Phoebe, as well as his own sense of innocence. 

Often, Holden rails against the "phonies" he sees in the world around him and espouses a distinct preference for the companionship of children. He is a complex figure, full of turmoil and bearing a "bleeding heart", struggling to find some semblance of salvation for himself though we (the audience) cannot know the exact nature of the demons that haunt him. 

We only know what Holden, as the first-person narrator, tells us. 

Holden Caulfield is both tragic and funny, innocent and obscene, loving and cruel, clear-sighted yet viewing the world from a warped perspective, an expert in identifying phonies and the greatest phony himself. 

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