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Catcher in the Rye Analysis

J.D. Salinger’s 1951 novel The Catcher in the Rye tells the story of a young, disillusioned Holden Caulfield, A 16-year old boy who has been expelled from yet another school. He is a lost, uninspired individual who just moves from action to action without any real plan or purpose. He longs for a sense of connection with another person, and seeks it in prostitutes, former teachers, and young women with whom he has nearly nothing in common. For young people, Holden’s story is one they can often connect with as a result of his feelings of isolation and his sense of abandonment by the institution of education.

Points to Analyze in Catcher in the Rye

Catcher in the Rye AnalysisHolden sees everyone he meets as shallow or phony in one way or another. He agrees to complete an assignment for a friend who is going on a date, but the two-faced nature of the other boy becomes apparent to Holden when he realizes the girl he is dating is someone he himself was interested in previously. He dances with women in the Edmont Hotel; he is unable to converse with the women, though, finding them far too shallow. His visit with his former English teacher leads Holden to see the man’s true nature. Throughout the course of the story, Holden’s sense of isolation and his feelings that no one truly understands him or his experiences are elements that easily resonate with the reader.

The story is the perfect example of the growing youth culture of the 1950s.

  • Holden’s experiences mirror that of countless young people struggling to find their own sense of identity in a society that is rapidly changing around them.
  • Trapped between the traditional era of the 1940s and the revolutionary times of the 1960s, the setting of The Catcher in the Rye is the perfect manifestation of the internal and external turmoil faced by those coming of age in the 1950s.

Example of a First Personal Analysis of Catcher in the Rye

Below is a portion of a first person analysis of Holden Caulfield:

I really appreciate that Holden says he enjoys the conversation he has with the nuns over breakfast at the train station. It seems like it’s pretty rare for him to enjoy a conversation. He says he would have enjoyed it more if he hadn’t been worried about them asking him if he’s a Catholic. I could relate to this because I know that I always have a strange curiosity about nuns when I see them. It makes me wonder, why are all the nuns so old, do they keep the younger nuns locked in the nunnery? And how does a person become a nun, anyhow?

When Holden walks to the Museum of Natural History, he starts to reminisce about his visits to the museum when he was a child. I could really visualize the big, long hallway and the whispering children he describes, and how he always had a partner that wanted to hold his hand. This made me think about field trips to museums when I was in school, and how everyone was so nice to each other because they were excited to get out of class for a day, but when we got back to school, the popular kids went back to being stuck-up to everyone else.

On Pages 151-200 Holden’s creative story telling really makes me laugh. It seems like he is always making up a physical ailment to get what he wants, and in this case he creates a story about a bad leg so he can get the elevator boy to let him in the building. Once he gets in he finds Phoebe asleep in D.B.’s bed and watches her sleeping. I like that he makes a comparison between how children look when they sleep and how adults look when they sleep, and that children can be drooling in their sleep and still look beautiful, whereas an adult sleeping doesn’t really have the same finesse. I thought it was cute that Holden always refers to his little sister as “Old Phoebe.”

I was worried when I read this part about what would happen if and when Holden’s parents woke up and saw him talking to Phoebe. It seemed like the worst scenario always came to pass for him, so it was a tense passage to read. It made me feel something that when Phoebe asks Holden to tell her something he really likes, the first thing he remembers is the nuns from the train station.

The description of what happens when Holden’s parents get home reminded me of sneaking around my own parents and trying to get away with whatever it was I was up to. When Holden took Phoebe’s Christmas money and then started crying in her room, in the dark, I felt like my suspicions about his goodness had been right.

On Pages 200-214  I liked how Holden made sure to get a note to his sister while she was at school, and that when he got there and saw profane graffiti on the wall, it upset him to think that she might see it. While he’s at the museum waiting for Phoebe to meet him, he’s talking about how it might be the last time he sees her or any of his family for a long time. For some reason, I’m really wondering at this point whether he’s actually going to end up going west at all.  I thought it was great that Phoebe is so courageous that she shows up with a suitcase, ready to go away with her big brother.

So in the end I was right, Holden makes and keeps his promise to Phoebe that he’s not going anywhere. It seemed pretty obvious to me that he was too depressed to go anywhere in the first place, because he was passing out and feeling like he was going to vomit. At the end, he describes how he misses everyone, even the people who treated him poorly like Stadlater and Maurice. I felt like I could relate to him, in the way that I sometimes feel sentimental toward the people from my past who caused me harm, and wish I could see them again and change something about what happened between us.

After finishing this book, I feel like the story parallels so many of the situations in my own life. Holden goes through all of these things, and he does his best, which isn’t perfect at all. He has a hard time of it, but pulls it all together.

Related Research Paper Topics

Salinger Franny and Zooey research papers discuss and explain the story of Franny and Zooey.

Holden Caulfield's Quest research papers look at J.D. Salinger's portrayal of Caulfield's quest in Catcher in the Rye.

Holden Caulfield as a Saint research papers examine the possibility that Salinger meant his main character in Catcher in the Rye to be better than man.

Character Analysis of Phoebe in Catcher in the Rye - In The Catcher in the Rye Phoebe Caulfield complicates the rather simple narrative that her brother gives.

Symbolism in Catcher and the Rye - As a quintessential piece of American literature, Catcher in the Rye has been studied time and time again, looking at themes, setting, characterization, and, most importantly, symbolism.

Themes in Catcher in the Rye - Throughout the novel The Catcher in the Rye there are numerous themes to consider, each of which add increasing levels of depth to the story as a whole.

Motifs in Catcher in the Rye - The themes in the novel The Catcher in the Rye provide the reader with considerable depth and understanding, but it is the motifs that enhance this knowledge.