The Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger is a novel about the life of a troubled teenage boy called Holden Caulfield. He believes that he’s surrounded by phonies. Therefore, Holden spends a few days in a New York hotel in the search of something real in his life. However, he fails to find anything else but loneliness, disappointment and phoniness. There are many themes to this novel, but in my opinion the three main themes are loss of innocence, dealing with death and lack of communication.
These themes describe why Holden’s life is how it is.
The loss of innocence is caused by the environment one is surrounded by and growing up to be an adult. When Holden walked over to the museum of natural history, he remembered the time he went there during school. He examines the difference between innocence and youth. “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… Nobody’d be different. The only thing that would be different would be you.
Not that you’d be so much older or anything. It wouldn’t be that exactly. You’d just be different, that’s all. ” (Salinger 121) Holden makes the point that in a museum nothing would change, but as kids grow up they lose their innocence and join the adult world. Furthermore, Holden loves to spend time with his sister Phoebe because she understands him very well. However, spending a lot of time with Holden changes Phoebe’s attitude. This is seen when their mother comes home and she goes into Phoebe’s room because she saw the lights flicker on and off. “‘Phoebe, have you been smoking a cigarette in here?
Tell me the truth, please, young lady. ’ ‘What? ’ old Phoebe said. ‘You heard me. ’ ‘I just lit for one second. I just took one puff. Then I threw it out the window. ’ … ‘Well. Go to sleep now. How was your dinner? ’ ‘Lousy,’ Phoebe said. ‘You heard what your father said about using that word. ” (Salinger 177) Phoebe was lying to her mother and talked back in a disrespectful tone. This shows the influence that Holden had on her. In addition, Holden doesn’t want children to grow up because he feels that the adult world is corrupt and full of phonies.
This is seen when Holden tries to erase the curse words off the wall of Phoebe’s school. “While I was sitting down, I saw something that drove me crazy. Somebody’d written ‘Fuck you’ on the wall. It drove me damn near crazy. I thought how Phoebe and all the other little kids would see it, and how they’d wonder what the hell it meant, and then finally some dirty kid would tell them- all cockeyed, naturally- what it meant, and how they’d all think about it and maybe even worry about it for a couple of days. I kept wanting to kill whoever’d written it. (Salinger 201) This shows how much Holden cares about the innocence of little kids and doesn’t want it to be lost because then you grow up faster. Dealing with death is very difficult, especially when there’s no closure. Holden loved his brother Allie very much and he displays many feelings that show that he really cared for Allie. This is seen when he tells us how he reacted to Allie’s death. “I was only thirteen, and they were going to have me psychoanalyzed and all, because I broke all the windows in the garage. I don’t blame them. I really don’t.
I slept in the garage the night he died, and I broke all the goddam windows with my fist, just for the hell of it. ” (Salinger 39) This shows that Holden was really depressed and didn’t know how else to show his anger and aggression. Furthermore, Holden later then tells us that he never attended Allie’s funeral because he was at the hospital after hurting his hand. “I wasn’t there. I was still in the hospital. I had to go to the hospital and all after I hurt my hand. Anyway, I kept worrying that I was getting pneumonia, with all those hunks of ice in my hair, and that I was going to die. Then I thought about the whole bunch them sticking me in a goddam cemetery and all, with my name on this tombstone and all. ” (Salinger 155) This shows that he never got to say goodbye to his brother and therefore it’s hard to not live in the past. Additionally, now he thinks about himself dying and how people would react. Since he never got closure from Allie, he talks to Allie and believes that Allie is right there with him. “Every time I came to the end of a block and stepped off the goddam curb, I had this feeling that I’d never get to the other side of the street… Then I started doing something else.
Every time I’d get to the end of a block I’d make believe I was talking to my brother Allie. I’d say to him, ‘Allie, don’t let me disappear. Allie, don’t let me disappear. Allie, don’t let me disappear. Please, Allie. ’ And then when I’d reach the other side of the street without disappearing, I’d thank him. ” (Salinger 198) This shows us how much his desire to talk to Allie keeps increasing and that he just doesn’t want to let go of Allie. In addition, it proves that not saying goodbye to Allie makes him live in the past.
Throughout the novel, Holden finds difficulty with successfully communicating with others because of his lack of communication which makes conversations hard for him. Holden prefers to not communicate unless he is forced to. This is seen when Spencer asks if he has talked to his parents yet. “‘Have you yourself communicated with them? ’ ‘No, sir, I haven’t communicated with them, because I’ll probably see them Wednesday night when I get home. ” (Salinger 9) This shows that he is going to wait until he is forced to communicate with his parents. He won’t take action himself and speak with them right away.
Additionally, Holden comes up with crazy ideas to be able to communicate with somebody. “I started toying with the idea, while I kept standing there, of giving old Jane a buzz–I mean calling her long distance at B. M. , where she went, instead of calling up her mother to find out when she was coming home. You weren’t supposed to call students up late at night, but I had it all figured out. I was going to tell whoever answered the phone that I was her uncle. I was going to say her aunt had just got killed in a car accident and I had to speak to her immediately. It would’ve worked, too.
The only reason I didn’t do it was because I wasn’t in the mood. If you’re not in the mood, you can’t do that stuff right. ” (Salinger 63) This shows Holden’s immaturity with communication because he says that he has to be in the mood to communicate with people sometimes. If he was mature, he would be able to hold a conversation at any time. Furthermore, since Holden doesn’t have much experience in communication, he sometimes says things at the wrong time. “‘How’s your sex life? ’ I asked him. He hated you to ask him stuff like that. ‘Relax,’ he said. ‘Just sit back and relax, for Chrissake. (Salinger 144) This shows how Holden’s lack of communication with others affects him when he does choose to communicate. He starts a conversation with a very personal question, which shows us that he doesn’t know how to hold a simple small talk conversation. In conclusion, The Catcher in the Rye has many themes which can all be supported. However, in my opinion the three main themes are loss of innocence, dealing with death and lack of communication. All three themes explain to us why Holden’s life is full of loneliness, disappointment, and phoniness. What do you think are the three main themes?
Cite this Catcher in the Rye Theme
Catcher in the Rye Theme. (2016, Nov 28). Retrieved from https://graduateway.com/catcher-in-the-rye-theme/