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The Catcher In The Rye

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"I swear to God I'm crazy. I admit it." It is very easy to automatically assume that Holden Caulfield is crazy. It's even a logical assumption since Caulfield himself admits to being crazy twice throughout the course of the book. However, calling Holden Caulfield crazy is almost the same as calling the majority of the human race crazy also. Holden Caulfield is just an adolescent trying to prevent himself from turning into what he despises the most, a phony. Most of Caulfield's actions and thoughts are the same as of many people, the difference being that Holden acts upon those thoughts and has them down in writing.

Holden Caulfield is a teenager growing up in New York in the 1950s. He has been expelled from school for poor achievement and "was flunking four subjects and not applying myself and all." He decides to leave school a few days than what he is supposed to in an attempt to deal with his current situation. "Besides, I sort of needed a little vacation. My nerves were shot. They really were." Caulfield goes to New York to take a vacation before having to face his parents' inevitable wrath. During this time, he experiences a nervous breakdown that was characterized by his sudden unexplained depressions. "What I really felt like, though, was committing suicide." "I felt so lonesome, all of a sudden." Before his eventual nervous collapse he experienced impulsive spending and generally odd, erratic behavior. "All I had was three singles and five quarters and a nickel left - boy, I spent a fortune since I left Pencey. Then what I did, I went down near the lagoon and I sort of skipped the quarters and the nickel across it, where it wasn't frozen." "About halfway to the bathroom, I sort of started pretending I had a bullet in my guts."

During Caulfield's psychological battle, life continues around him. His condition is being ignored which arises the thought whether society chooses to ignore the emptiness that can be shown in humans. "..but people never notice. People never notice anything." As Caulfield's condition deteriorates, he declares the world is full of phonies and that people are out there for their own gain. He is aware that most people are phonies but is not as critical of them towards the end.

One aspect of Holden's personality is his criticism toward the phony things in society. Holden considers the movies and anything having to do with it phony, including theatrical performances. "I don't like any shows very much, if you want to know the truth. They're not as bad as movies, but they're certainly nothing to rave about. In the first place, I hate actors. They never act like people. They just think they do. Some of the good ones do, in a very slight way, but not in a way that's fun to watch. And if any actor's good, you can always tell he knows he's good, and that spoils it...If an actor acts it out, I hardly listen. I keep worrying about whether he's going to do something phony every minute." He finds the theater phony because instead of demonstrating reality as it is, the emphasis is placed on polishing it theatrically. Holden feels anger towards his brother because "he's out in Hollywood, D.B., being a prostitute." He considered that D.B. was selling himself to Hollywood, which is why he called D.B. a prostitute. He considers the movies phony and hates them so much that "... I don't think I could ever do it with somebody that sits in a stupid movie all day long" when Sunny the prostitute was in his room. When he dances with Bernice Crabs/Krebs, he considers her a moron partially because she was on the lookout for actors at the bar because she had seen an actor the previous night. Also, it depressed him that they were planning on waking up early the next day to see the first show at Radio City Music Hall. Holden's criticism towards the phony things in society is the most important part of his personality because it shows that for him it is very important to be real and honest and not phony.

Another aspect of Holden's personality is his perception that laws or rules are child's play for the strong and a difficult struggle for the weak. His understanding is that rules were meant to serve for the strong and since he considers himself part of the weak people, he ignores them completely. Holden's favorite author besides his brother is Ring Lardner. There is one story that "kills" him that shows his understanding of laws. "...this one story about a traffic cop that falls in love with this very cute girl that's always speeding. Only, he's married, the cop, so he can't marry her or anything. Then this girl gets killed, because she's always speeding. That story just about killed me." There are two types of laws being broken here. The policeman fell in love with another woman while he was married which is the breaking of a social law. Then the girl was always speeding so she broke traffic laws. Holden enjoys this story so much because there was no direct punishment for the breaking of the social law. The girl died because of speeding but nothing happened to the policeman who also broke a rule or law. Holden also sees that rules are applied to life depending on who you are and that life really isn't a game. His history teacher, Mr. Spencer tells him, "Life is a game, boy. Life is a game that one plays according to the rules." He tells his teacher that he agrees but his thoughts are really, "Game, my ass. Some game, if you get on the side where all the hotshots are, then it's a game, all right- I'll admit that. But if you get on the other side, where there aren't any hotshots, then what a game about it? Nothing. No game." Caulfield considers himself to be on the side without game, rules, and hotshots. But there is a contradiction with this aspect of Holden's personality. He doesn't accept the rules set before him by phony adults. He believes that rules are only for the strong, yet he makes rules for himself although he never keeps them. "I'm always setting myself rules about sex and I immediately break them."

The final aspect of Holden Caulfield's personality is his respect for others. He can't stand people who don't respect or listen to what others have to say. He also thinks it is important to listen to people and respect their privacy. This is shown when he is willing to stop in the middle of a sexual act at the request of the girl which is something that not a lot of teenagers would do. Holden's respect for others is also evident in the respect he shows towards the nuns. "They didn't seem to know what the hell to do with their suitcases, so I gave them a hand."




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