When one day Phoebe inquires Holden what he would like to do, he replies that most of all he wants to become a “catcher in the rye” to save children from falling off the cliff. This aspiration of the young man manifests his desire to help the innocent. He believes that one can find purity only in a small innocent child. Therefore, he wishes to rescue Phoebe and other children from misfortune. In the meantime, Holden believes that his own innocence has been lost and he can do nothing to save himself. For this reason, he dreams about saving children in the rye field and protecting them because their lives have not been marred by phoniness, graffiti, and death. By doing this, he thinks that he can preserve the purity in this world.
It is obvious by studying the reviews of The Catcher in the Rye that most critics enjoy picking apart the character of Holden Caulfield, studying his every action and the basis for that action. Reviewers of the novel have gone to great lengths to express their opinions on Salinger’s main character. Some consider Holden to be considerate, others consider him arrogant, but a large majority of them find him completely entertaining.
Holden has strong feelings of love towards children as evidenced through his caring for Phoebe, his little sister. He is protective of her, erasing bad words from the walls in her school and in a museum, in order that she not learn from the graffiti. His fondness for children can be understood when he tells her that, at some time in the future, he wants to be the only grown-up with "all these little kids playing some game in this big field of rye and all." He’ll stand on the edge of a cliff and catch anybody who starts to fall off the edge of the cliff. He got this image from his misinterpretation of a line from Robert Burns poem, "if a body catch a body comin’ through the rye."
The book, Catcher in the Rye, has been steeped in controversy since it was banned in America after its first publication. John Lennon’s assassin Mark Chapman, asked the former Beatle to sign a copy of the book earlier in the morning of the day he murdered Lennon. Police found the book in his possession upon apprehending the psychologically disturbed Chapman. However, the book itself contains nothing that might have lead Chapman to act as he did. It could have been just any book that he was reading the day he decided to kill and as a result, it was the Catcher in the Rye, a book describing a nervous breakdown, that caused the media to speculate widely about the possible connection. This gave the book even more recognition. The character ponders the thoughts of death, accuses ordinary people of being phonies, and expresses his love for his sister through out the novel. So what is the book Catcher in the Rye really about?
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Superficially the story of a young man getting expelled from another school, the Catcher in the Rye is, in fact, a perceptive study of one individual’s understanding of his human condition. Holden Caulfield, a teenager growing up in 1950’s, New York, has been expelled from school for poor achievement once again. In an attempt to deal with this he leaves school a few days prior to the end of term, and goes to New York to take a vacation before returning to his parents’ inevitable irritation. Told as a monologue, the book describe Holden’s thoughts and activities over these few days, during which he describes a developing nervous breakdown. This was evident by his bouts of unexplained depression, impetuous spending and generally odd, erratic behavior, prior to his eventual nervous collapse.
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