The Catcher in the Rye

Steven Boldis January 7,1999

In The Catcher in the Rye, Holden views the world as an evil and
corrupt place where there is no peace. This perception of the world
does not change significantly through the novel. However as the novel
progresses, Holden gradually comes to the realization that he is
powerless to change this.

During the short period of Holden's life covered in this book,
"Holden does succeed in making us believe that the world is crazy".
Shortly after Holden leaves Pencey Prep he checks in to the Edmont
Hotel. This is where Holden's turmoil begins. Holden spends the
following evening in this hotel which was "full of perverts and
morons. (There were) screwballs all over the place." His situation
only deteriorates from this point on as the more he looks around this
world, the more depressing life seems.

Around every corner Holden sees evil. He looks out on a world
which appears completely immoral. The three days we learn of from the
novel place a distressed Holden in the are of Manhattan. The city is
decked with decorations and holiday splendor, yet, much to Holden's
despair "seldom yields any occasions of peace, charity or even genuine merriment. "Holden is surrounded by what he views as drunks, perverts, morons and screwballs. These convictions which Holden holds waver very momentarily during only one particular scene in the book. The scene is that with Mr. Antolini. After Mr. Antolini patted Holden on the head while he was sleeping, Holden jumped up and ran out thinking that Mr. Antolini was a pervert as
well. This is the only time during the novel where Holden thinks twice
about considering someone as a pervert. After reviewing Mr. Antolini,
Holden finally concludes that maybe he wasn't making a "flirty" pass
at him. Maybe he just like patting guys heads as they sleep. This is
really the only time in the novel where Holden actually considers a
positive side. This event does not constitute a significant change. As
Holden himself says, "It's not too bad when the sun's out, but the sun
only comes out when it feels like coming out. "The sun of course is a
reference to decency through the common association of light
and goodness. His perception of the world remains the same.

The one conviction that does change during the novel is Holden's
belief that he can change the world. On his date with Sally, Holden
reveals his feelings. "Did you ever get fed up?... I mean did you ever
get scared that everything was going to go lousy unless you did
something..."Holden goes through several plans. Holden at one point
contemplates heading out west where he will pretend to be a deaf-mute
and live a quiet life. At another point Holden proposes to Sally to
escape this world with him. It is finally to his younger sister Phoebe
that Holden reveals his ultimate plan. Although Holden describes the
situation in a very picturesque and symbolic manner he essentially
tells Phoebe that he wants to prevent children from growing up. He
blames the world's corruption on adults and believes that when he
stops the children from growing up he will preserve their innocence
and save the world.

It takes most of the book before Holden begins to realize that he
is helpless to stop this corruption. Finally, he realizes that not
only is there nothing that he can do, but there is nowhere he can go
to hide from it. Holden takes awhile to comprehend these concepts. One
good example is when Holden is delivering the note to his sister.
He encounters a "fuck-you" written on the wall. Holden careful rubs
this off with his hand so as to protect the innocent children from
reading it. Later on he finds "fuck-you" scratched into the surface
with a knife. He discovers that he can't efface this one. Even in the
timeless peace of the Egyptian tomb room at the museum there is an
unerasable "fuck-you." This incident is the beginning of Holden's
realization that his dreams are infeasible.

Strangely enough, it is one of the "innocent" children that he is
trying to protect who helps him come to terms with this realization.
It is Phoebe who challenges his plan to escape out