??????????? Holden Caulfield’s Perception and Gradual Acceptance of the “Real” World. InThe Catcher in the Rye, Holden views the world as an evil place where thereis no peace.
This perception of the world does not change significantlythroughout novel. However, as the novel progresses, Holden gradually comesto the realization that he is powerless to change this corruption. During theshort span of Holden’s life covered in this book, Holden does succeed inmaking us perceive that the world is crazy.
Shortly after Holden leaves PenceyPrep, he checks in to the Edmont Hotel. This is where Holden’s turmoil begins.Holden spends the following evening in this hotel, which was “full of pervertsand morons. There were screwballs all over the place.
” His situation onlydeteriorates from this point forward as the more he looks around this world, themore depressing life seems. Around every corner Holden sees evil. He looksout on a world which appears completely immoral and unprincipled.
The threedays we learn of from the novel place a distressed Holden in the vicinity ofManhattan. The city is decked with decorations and holiday splendor, yet, muchto Holden’s despair, “seldom yields any occasions of peace, charity or evengenuine merriment.” Holden is surrounded by what he views as drunks,perverts, morons and screwballs. These convictions which Holden holds wavermomentarily during only one particular scene in the book. The scene is thatwith Mr. Antolini.
After Mr. Antolini patted Holden on the head while he wassleeping, Holden jumped up and ran out thinking that Mr. Antolini was a pervertas well.
This is the only time during the novel when Holden thinks twice aboutconsidering someone as a pervert. After reviewing Mr. Antolini, Holden finallyconcludes that maybe he wasn’t making a “flitty” pass at him. Maybe he justliked patting guys’ heads as they sleep. This is really the only time in the novelwhere Holden actually considers a positive side.
This event does not constitutea significant change. As Holden himself says, “It’s not too bad when the sun’sout, but the sun only comes out when it feels like coming out.” The sun is areference to decency through the common association of light and goodness.His perception of the world remains the same. The one conviction that doeschange during the novel is Holden’s belief that he can change the world.
On hisdate with Sally, Holden reveals his feelings. “Did you ever get fed up?…
Imean did you ever get scared that everything was going to go lousy unless youdid something…?” Holden goes through several plans. He at one pointcontemplates heading out west where he will pretend to be a deaf-mute andlive a quiet life. At another point, Holden proposes to Sally to escape this worldwith him.
It is finally to his younger sister Phoebe that Holden reveals hisultimate plan. Although Holden describes the situation in a very colorful andsymbolic manner, he essentially tells Phoebe that he wants to prevent childrenfrom growing up. He blames the world’s corruption on adults and believes thatwhen he stops the children from growing up, he will preserve their innocenceand save the world.
It takes most of the book before Holden begins to realizethat he is helpless to stop this corruption. Finally, he realizes that not only isthere nothing that he can do, but there is nowhere he can go to hide from it.Holden takes a while to comprehend these concepts.
One good example iswhen Holden is delivering the note to his sister. He encounters a”*censored*-you” written on the wall. Holden careful rubs this off with hishand so as to protect the innocent children from reading it.
Later on, he finds”*censored*-you” scratched into the surface with a knife. He discovers that hecan’t efface this one. Even in the timeless peace of the Egyptian tomb room atthe museum, there is an un-erasable “*censored*-you.” This incident is thebeginning of Holden’s realization that his dreams are unattainable. Ironicallyenough, it is one of the “innocent” children whom he is trying to protect whofinally helps him come to terms with this realization.
It is Phoebe whochallenges his plan to escape out west. As he is telling Phoebe that she can notrun away, he discovers that he too can not run away. “You can’t ever find aplace that is nice and peaceful because there isn’t any.” The final break-downcomes near the end of the book when he is watching Phoebe on the carousel.”All the kids kept trying to grab for the gold ring, and so was old Phoebe, and Iwas sort of afraid she’d fall off the goddam horse, but I didn’t say anything ordo anything. The thing with kids is, if they want to grab for the gold ring, youhave to let them do it, and not say anything.
If they fall off, they fall off, but it’sbad if you say anything to them.” Becoming “the catcher” becomes obviouslyunrealistic. The gold rings are ironically not gold but really brass-plated iron.The gold rings are symbols of the corrupted world which always “wears” ashiny surface to hide its evil. It is at this point that Holden sees that he can notstop children from growing up and therefore losing their innocence. They willfall if they fall; there is nothing that can be done.
Shortly after this point, Holdenhas his nervous breakdown. His breakdown is due to this depressing realizationthat the world is corrupt and filled with evil. He knows now with a sickeningcertainty that he is powerless to stop both evil and maturation. As a matter offact, it is “bad” to do so.