The Relationship Between Holden In Catcher In The Rye (Essay Example)


The coming of age stories of Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye, and Río’s The Secret Lion, focus on realizations about society or themselves that occur due to lost innocence. Holden deals with the expulsion from his school by wandering New York. He encounters many instances that deprive him of innocence, causing him to crave such feelings again. The narrator experiences events that drain him of his escaping childhood innocence. The loss of innocence found in youth causes Holden and the narrator to cope in differing ways. 

As Holden’s youth slips from his grasp, he copes by seeking and preserving the innocence found in children. While talking to Phoebe about his desires, Holden states, “I keep picturing all these little kids playing some game in this big field of rye. Thousands of little kids... What I have to do, I have to catch everybody if they start to go over the cliff…. I have to come out from somewhere and catch them….that’s the only thing I’d like to do” (191). Holden seeks such innocence as he desires to be surrounded by “little kids”. In this novel, kids are often associated with innocence, yet to be contaminated by the adult world. The kids are depicted as “playing some game”, which could refer to the imaginative freeness found in youth. In this passage, the cliff represents the fall into adulthood. Holden wishes to preserve the innocence of the kids by catching them before they fall off into the cruelties of adult life. This desire of Holden is important because throughout the book Holden is never quite sure what he wants, however in this passage he states that it’s “the only thing he’d like to do”. While visiting The Museum of Natural History, Holden states, “You ought to be able to stick them in one of those big glass cases…. I know that’s impossible, but it’s too bad anyway” (136). Holden seeks innocence by going to a museum filled with incorrupt memories from his childhood. He wishes to preserve such innocence by sticking his memories from youth in “glass cases”. While visiting Phoebe’s school Holden sees that “Somebody’d written ‘F**k you’ on the wall…. I thought how Phoebe and all the other little kids would see it….I rubbed it out” (221). Holden seeks the innocence of Phoebe and her classmates as he visits her school. When Holden sees that someone wrote words of the cruel adult world in a school filled with naivete, he imagines Phoebe and her classmates undergoing a loss of innocence. Holden preserves such innocence by wiping out the vulgar words. 

When the narrator’s youth gets compromised, he succumbs to the idea that he will never feel such innocence and happiness again. While recalling the golf-course incident, the narrator states that “Something got taken away from us that moment. Heaven. We grew up a little bit, and couldn’t go backward… They told us about heaven. And it went away” (126). When the narrator’s idea of heaven gets destroyed, his innocence gets destroyed as well. Once he understands the reality of the adult world, he will never be able to perceive it as he once did when he had his innocence. When the narrator refers to “something” as “heaven” he recognizes that his innocence allows him to discern heaven in a bleak world. He succumbs to the idea that once it “got taken away”, he will not be able to see or feel the emotions brought to him by “heaven”. While talking about the grinding ball the narrator states, “We loved it, and when we buried it we knew what would happen. The truth is, we didn’t look so hard for it…. Things get taken away” (126). In this short story, readers could associate the grinding ball with innocent memories of childhood. Once his innocence got taken away, he buried the ball indicating that such memories he once experienced will never happen again. The narrator succumbs to the fact that he will never experience such gleefulness allowed by his unrestrained imagination, by stating that he “didn’t look so hard for it”. This allows him to recognize that his innocent childhood symbolized by the grinding ball, is now lost, buried, and unreachable. The narrator also acknowledges that “things get taken away”, accepting the idea that “things” such as innocence will eventually go away. The narrator explains that “We buried it because it was perfect. We didn’t tell my mother, but together it was all we talked about, till we forgot.” (126). From his imagination, he believed that his life was “perfect”, and now that such things are ruined, he buries it. The narrator succumbs to the adult world by allowing himself to forget feelings of childhood innocence and happiness. 

The loss of innocence that both Holden and the narrator encounter forces them to cope with such loss in distinctive ways. Everyone goes through a loss of innocence; whether ready or not, it happens. Readers may associate with Holden, trying to chase and preserve innocence found in objects or people. Others may associate with the narrator, realizing that the innocence and happiness found in youth will never occur again. Readers may relate to both characters, acknowledging that their childhood is gone before they can grasp the happiness they once felt. The fall into adulthood is oftentimes painful, allowing people to see such characters as mirrors of themselves trying to navigate the world. Stories such as these are immensely important to many because it speaks to readers, conveying that the emotions of pain, hurt, and grief accompanying lost innocence is not uncommon. Coming-of-age stories allow us to feel less alone in a seemingly uncaring and bleak world. 

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