The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger tells a story that’s familiar to many teenagers–learning to connect with people beyond childhood, and entering adulthood. Holden Caulfield’s idea of “phoniness” leads him to fail at connecting with another, which only reinforces his disgust with society, but makes him relatable at the same time, and someone readers can identify with. It’s hard to find people who are truly authentic, especially in a changing society that is growingly online.
Holden appears to be narrating his experiences from a mental hospital, leaving the audience wanting to know what he’s gone through. This usage of flashbacks especially drew me in while reading, as I could relate the events from his past to his determined fate. It also brings up reflections on childhood, and why we protect our inner child. Holden’s idea of being a catcher in the rye demonstrates his desire to protect his own inner child and others from the hardships of adulthood. This aspect of his ideology is especially relatable, speaking to how I perceive and think about my own childhood. I sometimes imagine meeting my younger self, and wonder what she would think of me. Growing up can be terrifying, and time passes faster and faster before you realize it.
I think the setting of Manhattan is also incredibly fitting for Holden to go on this journey; the uniform buildings and concrete city represent Holden’s confusion and his being stuck between youth and growing up. He tries to shield an idealized childhood while refusing to confront reality. I really enjoyed this part of the plot because the surrounding NYC externalizes Holden’s perception of himself and the world he’s navigating on his own. I often associate nature, lakes, and green open fields with childhood, due to my dad’s love of gardening and my own love of seeing the pastures at the barn. My own perception of childhood highlights the bleakness of Holden’s, and his trying to hold onto it.
Salinger does a brilliant job of capturing the bumpy transition to adulthood, and the frantic attempt to preserve childhood. The final scene, no longer a flashback, of Holden watching Phoebe on the carousel perfectly portrays authentic childhood innocence, with Holden realizing it’s time for him to finally mature.