Catcher in the Rye

J.D. Salinger’s novel, The Catcher in the Rye, should long be remembered as

an American classic. Although some may not consider it one of the most

eloquently written stories of its time, it certainly captures the reader’s

attention. Salinger is able to incorporate philosophical views throughout the

story in terms of Holden’s ethical code; at the same time, he keeps the

entranced with radical turns of events and Holden’s character.

As far as ethics is concerned, Holden has his fair share of bad moral

judgments. He demonstrates a very negative principle when he decides, “...

I’d get the hell out of Pency-right that same night and all. I mean not
wait till

Wednesday or anything. I just didn’t want to hang around any more” (51).

In this simple action, Holden gives himself away as a man of little

He shows that he has no desire to have his life run by authority, so he packs

up his belongings and leaves at will. A second show of disagreeable morals

is presented in the form of Holden’s drinking habit, “I ordered a Scotch

soda, which is my favorite drink, next to frozen Daiquiris” (85). Drinking

itself does not constitute moral corruption, yet drinking at Holden’s young

age, does. Holden turns to liquor as a scapegoat, and has failed to see the

error in his ways. Although the prior two offenses are large, perhaps the

obvious flaw in character for Holden was his intention to entertain a

prostitute, “I kept hoping she’d be good-looking. I didn’t care too

though. I sort of wanted to get it over with” (93). Whereas drinking is

considered deviant only because of Holden’s young age, the purchase of a

prostitute at any age cannot be condoned. For whatever reason, Holden did

not use sound judgment in deciding to engage in the company of a harlot.

Obviously, Holden needs some ethical guidance, but perhaps not all is lost

with him.

Throughout the novel, Holden finds a way to redeem his own

understanding of right and wrong. Though his intentions might have leaned

toward corruption, his final decision reveals a basis for good principles;

pay you and all, but do you mind very much if we don’t do it” (96)? By

rebuking Sunny, the call girl, Holden shows that he can distinguish right

wrong. He was able to fall back on his ideals and make a sound judgment.

Once again Holden presents virtuous ethics when he encounters two nuns, “

‘I thought if you were taking up a collection, I could make a small

contribution’ ” (109). Seemingly out of nowhere Holden shows a sign of

good heart. Without the slightest bit of hesitation, Holden dishes out ten

dollars and another act of moral good. Though throughout the story, he

seemed to have been well on his way out of New York, Holden makes a very

rational decision in saying “ ‘I’m not going away anywhere. I changed

mind’ ” (207). Holden could ultimately be counted on to make the right

choice. Discerning right from wrong must have taken a great deal out of him,

but Holden was able to do it. Salinger brought together all forms of

ethical thought to create a philosophical view for the reader to dwell into.

Another way Salinger grabbed the readers attention’s was by keeping

them absorbed in the plot, as well as, Holden’s character. An example of

Holden’s crazy actions that was demonstrated well was his attempt to hit

Stradlater, “All I know is I got up form the bed, ... and then I tried to

him, with all my might, right smack in the toothbrush, so it would split his

goddam throat open” (43). Although it may seem cynical, this type of action

keeps readers entertained and interested in the story. Knowing how crazy

Holden can become urges readers to want to follow his progress. Another

character trait that attracts the reader is Holden’s capability to lie, “Then

really started chucking the old crap around” (56). Salinger’s attempt to

humor to the plot with Holden’s frequent lying worked to perfection. Holden

contributes so much more to the story outline by intertwining lie after lie.

compliment Holden’s character, are the radical twists and turns or the

itself, “ ‘Here’s my idea... we could drive up to Massachusetts and

Vermont...’ ” (132). If only Holden acted out half of what he thought up,

story would be an adventure series. The twists that the story takes because

Holden’s ideas capture the reader, and subdues them into submission of

mind to the author. Without Holden as the main character, or Salinger