Catcher In The Rye

J.D. Salinger uses Holden Caulfield’s anti-heroic characteristics to develop
the theme of innocence and childhood. Holden is afraid of growing up and would
prefer to remain an innocent child. He seems unable to face the responsibilities
that come as one gets older. His continued flunking at school shows this.

"They kicked me out. I wasn’t suppose to come back after Christmas vacation,
on account of I was flunking four subjects and not applying myself at all."
(Page 4). School is normally where young children learn to become responsible
adult members of society, but Holden rejects the values at Pency just as he did
the other schools from which he was expelled. Flunking school is a way Holden
can hold on to his innocence and childhood, instead of growing up. Holden’s
relationship with Jane Gallagher also reveals his fear of growing up. Nostalgia
and fond childhood memories are pleasant for Holden. His relationship with Jane
was innocent, even though they kissed; Holden informs us it wasn’t on the
mouth! "Then she really started to cry, and the next thing I knew, I was
kissing her all over-anywhere-her eyes, her nose, her forehead, her eyebrows and
all, her ears-her whole face except her mouth and all. She sort of wouold not
let me get to her mouth."(Page 79). Jane represents a symbol of innocence in
the eyes of Holden. Throughout the novel Holden thinks of phoning Jane, but is
unable to talk to her, probably because he is afraid of spoiling this innocence
and childhood he feels with her. Again this shows his fear of growing up. The
second anti-heroic characteristic of Holden that develops the theme of Innocence
and childhood is his childlike qualities. Holden’s innocence and childlike
qualities are exposed when he tries to act out his perceptions of adult
behaviour. For example his initial attempts to get alcohol are unsuccessful and
when he finally does get served he gets drunk and breaks his sister’s present.

"Then something terrible happened just as I got in the park. I dropped old

Phoebe’s record. It broke into about fifty pieces. It was in a big envelop and
all but it broke anyway." (Page 154). The record represented the bond he had
with his sister, which was pure and innocent. It was the language of music,
which also bonded his memories of their childhood. His experience with the
prostitute shows his innocence regarding sex. "Ya got a watch on ya?" she
asked me again, and then she stood up and pulled her dress over her head. I
certainly felt peculier when she did that. I mean she did it so sudden and all.

I know you’re supposed to feel pretty sexy when somebody gets up and pulls
their dress over their head but I didn’t. Sexy was about the last thing I was
feeling. I felt much more depressed than sexy.