The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger is a famous novel of teenage loneliness and breakdown. In it, The protagonist Holden is held up in a mental institution. He doesn’t say this directly but it is inferred by his sarcastic and vague remarks. He goes to tell the story of what led up to him being there, but does so in a very roundabout way. He tells of how he failed out of his prep school, Pencey, not because of his lack of intelligence but his refusal to apply himself in any of the subjects he found to be uninteresting, which was all but English. Before he leaves Pencey he is confronted by his roommate Stradlater who is the picture of a perfect American youth, but in reality he is a gross and arrogant boy who takes advantage of Holden’s former girlfriend, Jane. This angers Holden very much and so he leaves the school and runs away to New York City. In New York Holden can not escape the “Phoniness” that he was surrounded with at prep school. The older people he meets in bars do not impress him as he finds them arrogant as well. Through out the book Holden finds himself attracted to things that are innocent and not tarnished by societies rules. His sister, the ducks in central park, and the museum are some of the only things Holden enjoys. About the museum he says, “The best thing though, in that museum was that everything always stayed right were it was.” Another example of Holden’s fondness for innocence is ironically when he has a prostitute called to his room, but when she gets there he only wants to talk and then pay her in an effort to make her leave. He tries to be interested in the societal world but find himself disgusted with it. When he returns home he visits his sister again, and after a few more sign of mental breakdown like passing out and seeing his dead brother, it is assumed that Holden is taken to the mental institution in which he now resides. Holden exemplifies the feelings of unhappiness that most adolescents have with the world around them, however, he is so affected by this that he is driven mad.
1. What would you do if you felt feelings of loneliness and distrust with the world as Holden does? Keep them to yourself or seek help?
2. Do you think Holden is right to be angry about the society he sees around him or should he just put up with it in order to live a happy, though somewhat false life.