Catcher In The Rye Environment
In a perfect world, everyone would be happy with the way they are and everyone
would accept the differences of others. Unfortunately, the world we live in is
not perfect and not everyone accepts who they are . Is there a reason why people
cannot be content with their lives or with the differences of other people? The
answer is yes, and the reason for the discontent is society. With society
telling the masses what is, and is not acceptable, it is no wonder that people
seem "lost", and are desperately searching out their place in the sun. This
search for identity seems to be the case in JD Salinger’s novel, The Catcher
in the Rye. Through settings in the novel and symbolism, Salinger illustrates
that while the main character, Holden Caulfield, needs the support of the
environment around him, the environment also needs Holden as a person. Holden

Caulfield is out of place in any environment in which he is placed. At Pencey,
his school, Holden gets excluded from the activities of his classmates. At the
very beginning of the novel, Holden becomes expelled because his grades are not
up to Pencey’s standards and also because he does not feel like he belongs
there. Holden separates himself from his classmates for the most part by not
becoming involved in the school. Although Holden is the equipment manager of the
fencing team, he distances himself from his companions by losing the equipment,
showing that he does not fit in, and he really does not want to. As he reflects
back on his final day at Pencey he says: " They kicked me out. ...I was
flunking four subjects and not applying myself at all. They gave me frequent
warnings to start applying myself...but I didn’t do it" (Salinger 4). The
school is throwing Holden out because he is not what they want to represent to
potential students. They want to show examples of fine, upstanding young men,
instead of giving off the image of the failing, confused young man. Salinger
uses Pencey as a mock society of some sorts. Holden does not fit in at Pencey,
and he most definitely does not fit in as seen in the later settings of the
novel. A second example of Holden’s isolation from his classmates can also be
seen when he stands alone on the top of the hill during the "big game".

During the football game Holden perches himself above the football field where
he can hear the cheering, but he cannot see the crowd. Holden says that he hears
the yelling because "practically the whole school except me was there" (Salinger

2). Holden’s isolation from his classmates may be his own doing to some
extent, however there is another force at work here. The high standards of good
grades and involvement in other activities separate Holden from the rest of his
school. Holden never really makes the effort to fit in at Pencey because he
knows that it is just a made up society, and that it, like the other settings in
the novel is just another place that he does not belong. The Pencey setting in
the novel rejects Holden because of his mistake of letting his grades slip. Just
as Holden’s school casts him out for being different and not making the grade,
society casts him out because he is different. After Holden leaves his school,
he travels to New York City. Holden is again singled out and stumbles across the
feeling that he does bit belong there either. When Holden is on his way up to
his hotel room in New York , the elevator operator offers him a prostitute for
five dollars and Holden accepts. The next day, Maurice, the elevator boy comes
after Holden, saying he did not pay enough for the services. After a scuffle,
where Holden gets hurt, Holden leaves the hotel he is staying in. Holden feels
that he cannot go back to that same hotel, but he will not go and search for
another one. He says, "I had no place to go. It was only Sunday and I
couldn’t go home till Wednesday- or Tuesday at the soonest. And I certainly
didn’t feel like going to another hotel and getting my brains beat
out"(Salinger 106-107). Holden feels as though he cannot go back and he is
very reluctant to go forward and find another room for fear that the same thing
would happen to him again. Holden is again unable to make a decision. He does
not want to move