Hello, is Salinger There?J. D. Salingers only published full-length novel, The Catcher in the Rye, has become one of the most enduring classics of American literature. The novels story is told in retrospect by the main character, Holden Caulfield, while staying in a psychiatric hospital in California. This is a coming of age tale that is wrought with irony. Holden Caulfield, Mr.
Antolini, and Phoebe are the main symbols of irony. The first and most obvious subject of irony is the novels protagonist, Holden Caulfield. His hatred for anything phony is ironic because he to is deceitful. He is constantly performing by taking a new identity for each new situation he is in.
For example, in the train scene he makes up stories about one of his classmates in order to delight his classmates mother. He not only initiates a new identity for himself, but he also spawns a whole new fictional account of life at Pencey Prep. He even admits that he is an impressive liar. Because of his hatred for anything artificial, he searches for something real. In his nave and desperate way he is searching for anything which is innocent and sincere (Parker 300).
He fantasizes about removing himself from society and becoming a reclusive deaf mute. Regardless of his independent personality, he clearly demonstrates how severely he needs companionship. His thoughts are always of his sister, Jane Gallagher, and additional people. Another fantasy of Holdens is to be the catcher of childrens innocence. Holdens fantasy elaborates his obsession with innocence and his perhaps surprisingly moral code (Walters 1009).
However, it is clear that his real desire is to be salvaged from the emptiness of his negativism. This is realized when he telephones Mr. Antolini and when he admits that he almost hopes that his parents will catch him as he sneaks out of the apartment. The Catcher, in fact, wants to be caught, the saviour saved (Engle 45). Mr. Antolini is the subject of irony because he is actually a catcher, even though he is a different kind of catcher from the one Holden imagines.
Holden believes that he has already fallen over the cliff into the dissatisfaction that automatically goes together with adulthood. He felt the world has let him slip trough the cracks alone and unassisted.Therefore, one of the reasons he wants to catch the children is because no one was there to catch him.
However, it is evident that Holden has not yet fallen, but is only beginning his downward spiral, and Antolini is the one playing the role of the catcher. Holden seems to believe that he does not have any innocence left during his journey. In spite of this, he is still much like a child, and it is Antolini that sees this. Mr. Antolini knows that Holden is headed towards a great fall, and warns him about it. I have a feeling that youre riding for some kind of terrible, terrible fall. But I dont honestly know what kind (Salinger 186).
The fact that Mr. Antolini is trying to prevent Holden from a fall clearly corresponds with Holdens image of the catcher in the rye. However, the type of fall he describes is different from the one Holden pictures in his fantasy. It is perhaps Antolini, above the several other flawed people he meets, who embodies the moral emptiness and irrelevance of Holdens world (Rollins 301). The most significant irony in the novel is the role that Phoebe plays. Holden believes that children are the only ones that are not corrupted by the dishonest society in which they live. The main reason Holden wants to be a protector is to keep children from growing up and becoming phony and fraudulent as he feels most adults have become.
Holden’s sister, Phoebe, is his connection to children, and he does not want her to change. Holden believes that he could be the one to rescue Phoebe when it is her turn to fall. Ironically, she is the one that forces Holden to realize that he must grow up, and that the world is to be loved. His refusal to allow Phoebe to accompany him and his anger with her for even wanting to go shows that he is not as alienated from his world as he supposes. He tells her that she cannot go with him, and that she has to go back to school. In this scene, it is evident that Phoebe is now behaving like him and taking on his role.
This forces Holden to act like a combination of Mr. Antolini, and Phoebe as she had been on pervious nights. When tested, his love for his sister and his longing to protect her purity is far more superior to his abhorrence for the world and his determination to desert it. His love of good is stronger that his hatred of evil. Thus, paradoxically, he is saved through saving. The person he most wants to catch catches him. The theme of irony can be found throughout J.
D. Salingers The Catcher in the Rye. Holden, Mr. Antolini, and Phoebe symbolize this theme.
This coming of age story is easily becoming one of American literatures greatest classics. In a passage from the novel, Holden states: What really knocks me out is a book that, when youre all done reading it, you wish the author who wrote it was a terrific friend of yours and you could call him up on the phone whenever you felt like it (Salinger 18). J.D. Salinger is not available for phone conversations, but generations of readers have felt that the book alone provides that kind of close connection with its author (Guinn).
Works citedEngle, Steven, ed. Symbolism in The Catcher in the Rye. Readings on The Catcher in theRye. San Diego: Greenhaven, 1998. 44-50.Guinn, Jeff. Rye relevance 50 Years Ago.
Fort Worth Star Telegram. 5 August 2001.Parker, Peter, ed. The Catcher in the Rye. A readers Guide to the Twentieth Century Novel.
New York: Oxford, 1995. 299-300.Rollins, Jill. The Catcher in the Rye. Cyclopedia of Literary characters Revised Edition.
Ed. Magill, Frank M. Pasadena: Salem, 1998. Vol. 1.
301.Salinger, J. D. The Catcher in the Rye.
Boston: Little, Brown, 1991. Walters, Gordon. The Catcher in the Rye. Masterplots Revised Second Edition. Ed. Magill,Frank N.
Pasadena: Salem, 1996. Vol. 2. 1008-1009.Words/ Pages : 1,136 / 24