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Holden Caulfield's Quest

Holden Caulfield's quest term papers undoubtedly point to Salinger himself calling Holden Caulfield’s adolescent journey a “quest that takes him outside society, yet the grail he seeks is the world and the grail is full of love”.  Salinger’s description explains why Caulfield appears so intolerant and subsequently alienated from the world in Catcher in the Rye.  There is little doubt that Holden Caulfield’s language bespeaks a man much older.  He seems entirely dissatisfied with the life he is confined to and would appear to blame much, if not all, of that discontent on what he deems to be the phoniness of the adult world. 

Holden Caulfield's Quest

Salinger concedes that Caulfield’s endeavor to expose the inadequacies of the adult world and to preserve the innocence of the as yet untouched would have been acceptable by a much younger child.  The angst that is exhibited by Caulfield is marked by the predictable rebellious behavior of youth and yet it has a depth that should be reserved for the much older or those who have experienced and had to deal with the world’s problems first hand.

Nevertheless, Salinger maintains that Holden Caulfield does none of his complaining about adults and their “adulteries” with genuine hate.  While he appears far more tolerant of the obvious inadequacies of his youthful peers, he ultimately demonstrates that he has a true compassion for the adults that he has systematically ridiculed throughout.  Salinger offers what may be the most concise demonstration of Holden’s “capacity for love” and a resolve for his true destination into adulthood through his final words in the psychiatric ward: 

"If you want to know the truth, I don't know what I think about it. I'm sorry I told so many people about it. About all I know is, I sort of miss everybody I told about."

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