Catcher In The Rye

Although J.D. Salinger has only one novel to his credit, that novel, The Catcher
in the Rye, is recognized as an exceptional literary work. The key to the
success of The Catcher in the Rye is the main character, Holden Caulfield. There
are many different critics that view Holden in many different ways. Some believe

Holden to be a conceited snob, while others see Holden as a Christ-like figure.

It is my opinion, however, that Holden is somewhere in the middle. Holden

Caulfield is a character who has a definite code of honor that he attempts to
live up to and expects to as abide by as well. Since the death of his brother

Allie, Holden has experienced almost a complete sense of alienation from the
world around him. This alienation is evident in every part of his life. Holden
is unable to relate to anyone at the three prep schools he has attended. While
standing on Thomsen Hill, Holden cannot help but feel isolated when he observes
the football game, "you were supposed to commit suicide or something if Old

Pencey didn’t win" (Salinger 2). Not only does Holden feel isolated at the
schools he has attended; he has this feeling when it comes to his family as
well. Upon his return to New York City, Holden does not go home. Instead, he
chooses to hide out from his family. According to Ernest Jones, "with his
alienation go assorted hatreds – of movies, of night clubs, of social and
intellectual pretension, and so on. And physical disgust: pimples, sex, an old
man picking his nose are all equal cause for nausea" (Jones 7). Holden feels

Previts 2 as though all of these people have failed him in some way or that they
are all "phonies" or "corny" in some way or another. It is Holden’s
perception of those around him as "phonies" and again according to Jones;

"Holden’s belief that he has a superior moral standard that few people, only
his dead brother, his 10-year-old sister, and a fleeting friend [Jane] can live
up to" that make him a snob (7). Presenting Holden as "snobbish" hardly
does him justice. Critics such Frederick L. Gwynn, Joseph L. Blotner, and

Frederic I. Carpenter view Holden as a character who is "Christ-like in his
ambition to protect children before they enter the world of destruction and
phoniness" (Carpenter 24). Holden’s experiences throughout the course of his
life have created a desire in him to preserve the innocence of those he
considers to be innocent. He attempts to physically overpower Stradlater when he
realizes that Stradlater may have "screwed around" with Jane Gallagher, whom

Holden considers to be innocent simply because she "plays checkers with more
regard for the symmetry of the pieces on the board than for the outcome of the
game"(Gwynn 13). Along with Jane Gallagher, Holden wishes to protect his
sister Phoebe, who is very much like Allie in that she has a mix of youthful
innocence and generosity that overwhelms Holden. The best example of this
generosity is when Holden is moved to tears because Phoebe gave him all of her

Christmas money. Simple acts like this motivated Holden to want to be

Christ-like. Holden’s desire to be Christ-like is best evidenced in the
following quotation: "Anyway, I keep picturing all these little kids playing
some game in this big field of rye and all. Thousand of little kids, and
nobody’s around- nobody big, I mean, except me. And I’m standing on the edge
of some crazy cliff. What I have to do, I have to catch everybody if they start
to go over the cliff..." Previts 3 Not only is Holden Christ-like in his
desire to protect those who are "innocent" but he, like Jesus, truly"loves his neighbors, especially the poor in goods, appearance, and spirit"
(Gwynn 14). Not only does Holden give ten dollars to the nuns in the station,
but he is also depressed by their meagre breakfast and the fact that they will
never be "going anywhere swanky for lunch" (Salinger 110). He also worries
about the ducks freezing in Central Park, sympathizes with the ugly daughter of

Pencey’s headmaster and even Sunny the prostitute (Carpenter 24). Perhaps the
quality that is most Christ-like in Holden is his ability to "forgive like

Jesus with his Judas, he [Holden] forgives Stradlater and the bellboy Maurice
who have betrayed and beaten him" (Gwynn 14). Because of his compassion and
ability to forgive others, Holden can also be viewed as a Christ-like figure.

While there is evidence to support Holden as both a