The Tragedy of Holden Caulfield Is That He Cannot Accept the Adult World He Is Too Old to Continue the Innocent Life of a Child

1033 Words Apr 4th, 2006 5 Pages
The main concern of the novel The Catcher in the Rye is not only that the protagonist is trapped between childhood and adulthood, but also the alienation and regression caused by grief when the sufferer does not address their loss properly. Holden Caulfield's nervous breakdown is largely due to the death of his younger brother. It is because of this that he fears change and maturity so much, specifically the loss of innocence. Holden cannot accept the complexities of the world; instead, he uses "phoniness" of as an excuse to withdraw into the world of children.

Holden has experienced two great traumas connected with death. First, he has lost a loved and valued sibling, Allie. Secondly, he has witnessed the suicide of his classmate.
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Like most things in his life, however, he is both intrigued and repelled by adulthood. Underlying his fear lies his enormous fear of change. Three parts of the novel best illustrate this. First, Holden's encounters, or lack of them, with Jane Gallagher show that he fears meeting with her because she may have changed from the child he knew. Also, Holden spends so much time trying to find the whereabouts of the ducks in the Central Park lagoon because he does not like the idea that they, like Allie, could simply vanish. Finally, Holden's visit to the Museum of Natural History proves to be an important insight into his character.

"The best thing, though, in that museum, was that everything always stayed right where it was. Nobody'd move. You could go there a hundred thousand times…Nobody'd be different. The only thing that would be different would be you."

Innocence, and the loss of it, plays an integral part in The Catcher in the Rye and in many of Salinger's other works. Holden's fantasy about being "the Catcher in the Rye" shows that Holden not only wants to protect children and live in their world, but also illustrates his morbid fascination with death, particularly in children. Finally, however, Holden realises that he cannot protect all children from adolescence. He, like Phoebe, realises that
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