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Identity in The Catcher In The Rye Essay


Summer Reading Paper

One of the hardest things in life is to discover your true identity and figure out what you want to do with your life. Some people have figured it our since early stages in their lives, but its not that easy for everybody. There are people who have to wait until they are grown-ups, or there are even some persons who dont figure out all their lives. In the novel The Catcher in The Rye, by J.D. Salinger, the main character is going through a process of self-discovery, but in his case he needed only some days to reveal his true identity.

The main character and in the same time the narrator is Holden Caulfield. Even from the beginning of the book the reader doesnt know much about him. If you really want to hear about it, the first thing youll probably want to know is where I was born, and what my lousy childhood was like, and how my parents were occupied and all before they had me, and all that David Copperfield kind of crap, but I don't feel like going into it, if you want to know the truth (2). He is different by caring about stuff that really matter and not paying so much attention to details. What the narrator is trying to point out throughout the novel, is the change he goes through and the things that lead to those changes, so the other details about his childhood he considered unnecessary. The point where he starts the story is at a football game on a Saturday. Where I want to start telling my story is the day I left Pencey Prep (2). He got kicked out of school for failing most of the subjects, except English class. So he was supposed to return home, but as his parents didnt know about it, he decided to return home on Wednesday, the day he was normally supposed to return. These couples of days were a life changing experience, even though he wasnt realizing it.

There are some things that are different about Holden. He didnt care about most of the stuff, not even about getting kicked out of school. Also he had some specific characteristic in speaking. "I also say "Boy!" quite a lot. Partly because I have a lousy vocabulary and partly because I act quite young for my age sometimes. I was sixteen then, and I'm seventeen now, and sometimes I act like I'm about thirteen. It's really ironical, because I'm six foot two and a half and I have gray hair. I really do. The one side of my head the right side is full of millions of gray hairs. I've had them ever since I was a kid. And yet I still act sometimes like I was only about twelve. Everybody says that, especially my father. It's partly true, too, but it isn't all true. People always think something's all true (15). He was also the most terrific liar you ever saw in your life. Its awful (16). He cursed a lot; he hated everybody at his school; he smoked cigarettes; in other words he was a typical teenager who goes through a time in his life where he doesnt know what to do. As he mentioned to his history teacher, Mr. Spencer: "Look, sir. Don't worry about me," I said. "I mean it. I'll be all right. I'm just going through a phase right now. Everybody goes through phases and all, don't they " (15)?

This is how Holdens character was. But until the end of the novel it changed. Wondering what changed him, there are some possible events that might have lead to it. In those days, after leaving the school and wasting time in New York, he met his old history teacher, had a fight with hiss roommate, went to old Ernies place, had a meeting with a prostitute at the hotel, met with his friend Sally. But all these didnt influence him much. It was just depressing him and they lead to his change, but they didnt represent the reason of his change. He was still lost. One of the symbols that illustrates that Holden feels lost is his frequent question: Well, you know the ducks that swim around in it? In the spring time and all? Do you happen to know where they go in the wintertime, by any chance? (12). This reflection of his might be taken as a symbol of being lost and not knowing where hes going and what hes doing with his life. But he changes. And the person who made him change is his little sister, Phoebe. You should see her. You never saw a little kid so pretty and smart in your whole life. She's really smart. I mean she's had all A's ever since she started school. She's only ten. She's quite skinny, like me, but nice skinny (67). As we can see throughout the novel she is the person Holden really loves (except his brother Allie) and always cares about her. She is the first person who makes him think about what he likes. When he went to his house just to see and talk to her, they had a conversation that made him depressed and in the same time made him question what is what he likes. You don't like anything that's happening. You dont like schools. You dont like a million things. You dont (169). So she made him name one thing that he liked. And that gave him even more trouble. Then she made him think of something he wanted to do. And finally he came with an answer. I keep picturing all these little kids playing some game in this big field of rye and all. Thousands 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 I mean if they're running and they don't look where they're going I have to come out from somewhere and catch them. That's all I'd do all day. I'd just be the catcher in the rye and all. I know it's crazy, but that's the only thing I'd really like to be. I know it's crazy (173)." This was his first moment of self-discovery. His little sister made him questioning who he was and what he liked. Another touching moments that illustrates his love for his sister and his graduate character change was when she borrowed him some money. Then, all of a sudden, I started to cry. I couldn't help it. I did it so nobody could hear me, but I did it. It scared hell out of old Phoebe when I started doing it, and she came over and tried to make me stop, but once you get started, you can't just stop on a goddam dime (179). After that night with Phoebe he started to think what he wants to do. Finally what I decided Id do, I decided Id go away (198). He thought about a job at a filling station somewhere, pretending to be a deaf-mute. But he had to say goodbye to Phoebe. So when he went to her school to leave her a message, something really interesting happened. He saw on a wall written some bad words. Holden cursed a lot, but thinking about these children reading the curses, he felt really bad and rubbed it off the wall. This situation shows Holdens character and represents one of his changes towards self-discovery. And the last circumstance that made Holden discover himself was the time spent in the park with Phoebe. I felt so damn happy all of a sudden, the way old Phoebe kept going around and around. I was damn near bawling, I felt so damn happy, if you want to know the truth. I don't know why. It was just that she looked so damn nice, the way she kept going around and around, in her blue coat and all. God, I wish you could've been there (213). And after that he returned home. That's all I'm going to tell about. I could probably tell you what I did after I went home, and how I got sick and all, and what school I'm supposed to go to next fall, after I get out of here, but I don't feel like it. I really don't. That stuff doesn't interest me too much right now (217).

Thats how the story ends. Holden went to a life changing experience without even knowing that. He grew up in some days, while others are in search for a self-discovery half of their lives. And the most important influence had his little sister, Phoebe, who made him think about his life and discover his true identity. D.B. asked me what I thought about all this stuff I just finished telling you about. I didn't know what the hell to say. 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. Even old Stradlater and Ackley, for instance. I think I even miss that goddam Maurice. It's funny. Don't ever tell anybody anything. If you do, you start missing everybody (217).

Works Cited Page

Salinger, J.D. The Catcher In The Rye. Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1951.

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