In J. D. Salinger's The Catcher in the Rye, Holden Caulfield is portrayed as a young, troubled individual. He tells us his story from the mental institution where he is currently residing. Holden refuses to acknowledge his emotions in regard to the death of his brother Allie. In reaction to Allie's death, Holden hides from himself, his true feelings about change, death and relationships with other people. He does not realize that his
Allie died of leukemia three years before this story takes place. Holden speaks highly of his brother. He discusses how Allie was younger than him but fifty times as smart. Holden also tells us that Allie was much more mature for his age then he should have been. This is the basis of Holden's fear of growth and change. The more you grow, the closer to death you find yourself and death is the ultimate change.
Reveling in innocence, perfectness, and being untouched by change is the most comfortable pattern of living for Holden:
"In chapter 5 when Holden is waiting for Ackley to get
ready to go to town, he looks out of the window of his
room, opens it, and packs a snowball from the snow
on the window ledge. He begins to throw it at a parked
car, but doesn't because the car "looked so nice and
white". Then he aims at a fire hydrant, but stops again
because that also looks "too nice and white". Finally
he decides not to throw it at anything and closes the
window...What Holden sees through the window is for
him a visual embodiment of what he unconsciously
seeks: a state of Being which is distinct from the flux
of this world of Becoming, with its corruption, violence,
noise, decay and death." (Burrows 84)
When Holden talks to us about how much he loves the museum, he says that the museum is great because everything just stays behind a piece of glass and does not change. Some things should not change. He is really saying that he doesn't want to change the way Allie changed. Also, he says that the only thing that is different when he goes to the museum is himself and he can't stand it. He does not want to go inside. This shows that he does not want to see how much he has grown. He does not want to see how much he has grown apart and different from Allie. He won't admit that his feeling towards change has to do with Allie so that he wont have to deal with it. He just keeps on going and never stops to think about it.
His lack of ability to communicate and deal with people is Holden's worst problem. Throughout the book we see how hard it is for Holden to admit to himself that he likes someone or how hard it is for him to have a normal conversation. It is so difficult for him because if he begins to get close to someone he thinks he will lose them just like he lost his brother. He can't talk about himself to people because he will open up to them and then trust them and become vulnerable to being hurt. Ackley is the only person that Holden can be friends with. "He was a virgin if ever I saw one. I doubt if he ever gave anybody a feel" (Salinger 37). Since Holden is so convinced that Ackley is as innocent as he himself is to the world, Holden trusts him the most out of all his friends but will not admit this. He likes talking with Ackley. Everybody else has experienced more than Holden and is less innocent and more mature, more like Allie was. Holden will not let himself get close to anyone.
Holden fear of death is his fear of the most ultimate change. Allie's death was the most ultimate change in Holden's life so far. The less innocent and pure he gets, the closer to death he thinks he becomes. When he says that he wants to be "the catcher in the rye" and save the kids from falling off the cliff, he is really saying that he wants to stop them from falling down from innocence to adulthood. He wants to stop