A Psychological Interpretation: the Irony of Holden Caulfield’s Inner Conflict with Society

2496 Words Dec 24th, 2012 10 Pages
The Catcher in the Rye, a novel written by J. D. Salinger is a story about a unique yet troubled boy named Holden Caulfield. Salinger masterfully depicts the story’s protagonist as a well rounded character who feels the full range of emotions. Holden is consumed by the desire to live in a world where he can play the hero and surround himself with love and acceptance. Holden’s need for love and belonging, however, creates an irony because it provokes an intense aversion to society that pushes Holden further away from achieving a sense of belonging. While in several ways Holden epitomizes the average teenager, he is also exceptionally unique and shows maturity beyond his years. According to Granville Hicks, Salinger depicts a character …show more content…
An individual on the third level--the need for love and belonging--seeks to overcome loneliness, give love, and receive love in a stable way (47). For example, instead of staying at Pencey until Wednesday, like Holden is supposed to, he attempts to go to New York and escape the loneliness that Pencey brings him. His decision to leave is set off by his argument with Ackley, a boy in the dorm next-door. “I just didn’t want to hang around anymore,” says Holden, “it made me too sad and lonesome” (Salinger 51). Maybe Holden believes that he’ll be able to find a sense of belonging in New York. Carl Strauch infers that Holden’s inability to relate to others and constant rejection drive him to humiliation (506). Since Holden feels Pencey is the source of these painful emotions, it is not surprising that he seeks to reinvent himself somewhere else so that he may have a chance at having a sense of belongingness. Similar to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, Alfred Adler had a theory called the style of life that can be used along with his other theories to assess an individual’s internal conflict. On the authority of Joanne Irving, Adler’s theory of the style of life, formerly called the life plan, comprises the fundamentals of Adlerian psychology. It states that every individual must establish a set of goals with which they can apply their creative self in hopes of succeeding (82). These goals however, can be hindered by many aspects of
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