Book Essay: The Catcher in the Rye

Holden Caulfield wants to be a catcher in the rye. In chapter 16 there’s a reference to the title: ‘If a body catches a body coming through the rye.’ He describes a kid who is singing, how pure and not phony he his. Holden hates his peers and his parents; he’s convinced that adults lost their purity, that they’re phony and liars. So, he sees himself at the edge of a cliff, trying to catch all the kids who are running over the cliff to somewhere they don’t know. Trying to rescue those children. Holden doesn’t want to accept the truth about growing up.

What are the main themes?

Major themes in catcher in the rye are growing up, depression and ‘phoniness.’ As I wrote above; Holden wants to rescue children from growing up. He just doesn’t understand adults, and he doesn’t want to understand them. Holden often says that something drove him crazy. But as a reader you just think ‘crazy’ is the typical teenage ‘crazy,’ you don’t think that he’s going insane. Or when he says he’s depressed or wished to be dead, on first sight you think he just says it to make his ‘teenage’ emotions more intense. As the book progresses you figure out that those thoughts are driving him insane and not in an innocent way, but that he’s thinking about killing himself because he can’t deal with the world he’s living in. Holden often uses the word ‘phony’; it’s the way he thinks about others. He sees others as hypocritical and fake. Characters as Ackley or Stradlater are often phony. So yes, he’s right about that, but he doesn’t see that he is also phony. He doesn’t want to see that because in his ideal world there is no such thing as ‘phoniness.’ Mr. Antollini wants to make clear to him that everyone’s phony, it makes them human. So, Holden’s ideal world, without fake people, is inhuman.

When and where does the story take place? How important are time and place in this novel? Does the writer use flashbacks/fla…

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