Illustration of a man smoking a cigarette

The Catcher in the Rye

by J. D. Salinger

Start Free Trial

In The Catcher in the Rye, what regressions and progressions did Holden experience?

Expert Answers

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

A major progression that Holden makes in terms of his attempts to connect with others comes at the end of the story when he watches Phoebe go around on the carousel. His happiness and the joy he experiences as he watches Phoebe on the carousel shows the only moment in the novel when he is able to experience pure joy and happiness that is untainted by any other emotion. Note how this is expressed at the end of Chapter 25:

I felt so damn happy all of a sudden, the way old Phoebe kept going around and around. I was damn near bawling. I felt so damn happy, if you want to know the truth. I don't know why.

It is important to realise what has triggered this feeling of happiness. In this chapter, Holden realises for the first time the effects of his actions on others, as he realises that Phoebe is going to be hurt and abandoned if he runs away and leaves her. This represents a massive step for him as it is a mark of true maturity, and also can be seen to symbolise Holden beginning to emerge from his shell and to care for others around him. After Holden decides to stay and Phoebe forgives him, she returns his hunting hat to him. This is the only action in the play that represents free generosity and reciprocal interaction. Throughout the play Holden meets characters that want to take things from him. Those that offer him something, such as Mr. Antolini, offer things that Holden does not want to accept. This moment represents a huge progression for Holden as he is able to experience the intimacy and honesty that Holden has been craving the entire novel, and can be seen to trigger the happiness and euphoria Holden experiences as he watches his sister on the carousel.

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Approved by eNotes Editorial