Catcher in the Rye Essay: The Innocence of Holden

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The Innocence of Holden in The Catcher in the Rye


In J. D. Salinger's novel The Catcher in the Rye, Holden Caulfield, the protagonist, spends several days wandering around New York. During this time, he learns many things about himself. He seems to have some sort of mental problem, but this problem fortunately begins to be less serious by the end of the story. But more interesting that the things he knows about himself are the things he does not know about himself. Holden is constantly holding children on a pedestal and dismissing adults as "phonies." Holden, though he does not know it, subconsciously protects the innocence of childhood within his mind.


In the book, Holden constantly reminisces about Jane
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Holden also reminisces about his younger brother, Allie, who has passed away. He views his brother, at times, as a god. When he is walking down Fifth Avenue, he is afraid that he will fall off the curb every time he reaches the end of a block and will die, so he prays to Allie:


Then I started doing something else. Every time I'd get to the end of a block I'd make believe I was talking to my brother Allie. I'd say to him, "Allie, don't let me disappear. Allie, don't let me disappear. Allie, don't let me disappear. Please, Allie." And then when I'd reach the other side of the street without disappearing, I'd thank him. (198)


This quote shows how Holden feels about Allie. Holden views his brother as an image of perfection, since he is dead and Holden cannot see any of Allie's flaws. Allie died at the age of ten, and Holden thus sees him as dying while he was still an innocent child. Since Holden has no contact with children other than his sister Phoebe, who herself has an urgent desire to become an adult, Holden idolizes Allie. He protects his brother as an image of innocence that he will forever be able to remember.


Finally, Holden remembers the times in his childhood that he spent at the Museum of Natural History. He thinks of the many trips that he took there with his class in elementary school. He remembers how the museum was always the same every time he
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