From studying the novel The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger I discovered that Holden Caulfield, the main character in the novel is merely a confused adolescent filled with bitterness and resentment. His attitude towards others around him holds him back in life. He is a self-confessed compulsive liar and makes quick decisions without realising the consequences of his actions. The novel is narrated by him in the most colloquial of styles and it is obvious that his view on things could be an exaggerated truth in reality.
In the novel Holden jumps to the conclusion that he was betrayed by an old teacher Mr. Antolini but taking into account his opinions and actions in the novel I feel that he was incorrect in forming that view for several reasons. Holden would rather drop out of school than associate himself with phonies like his room mate Ward Stradlater or fellow classmate Ernest Morrow. He views life in a most pessimistic manner claiming that it is only worthwhile if you know the right people.
If you get on the same side where all the hot-shots are, then its a game, all right Ill admit that. But if you get on the other side, where there are no hot-shots, then whats a game about it? Nothing. No game.
Holden says this when his ex-headmaster, Dr. Thurmer speaks to him using a game a symbol for life and how to tries to give him tips on how to survive in the world today. Its obvious that the headmaster is worried about his future and what will become of him if he continues to brood in a pool of acrimony. Holden reacts in an immature manner and does not take any criticism constructively in the novel. It seems he is sceptical towards those that try and help him. This is definitely the case when it comes to the incident with Mr. Antolini. Holden can not understand why people would want to help others and the reason for this is perhaps because of his relationship with his parents. I get the impression that Holden has an extremely detached relationship with his parents judging by the amount of schools that he has attended. His parents, although we never meet them in the novel seem distraught and unable to deal with the death of his younger brother Allie when he was thirteen. As a result Holden appears to express himself in an unhealthy manner too. He comes across as an angry teenager that is confused by the actions of his parents and thus represses the memory of his brother Allie.
Hes dead now. He got leukaemia and died when we were up in Maine....Youd have liked him.....They were going to have me psycho-analysed and all, because I broke all the windows in the garage. I dont blame them. I really dont. I slept in the garage the night he died, and I broke all the windows with my fist, just for the hell of it.
Holdens parents should have had him psycho-analysed to help him deal with things but they were equally as embittered and disturbed by the whole ordeal, especially Holdens mother. His parents are conveyed as the type that do not discuss their feelings and bottle things up. They fail to realise that Holden has a problem in life after he gets thrown out of his fourth school. Their only solution to the matter is that they send him away to yet another private school and ostracise him from the family home. In my opinion I think that Holden is merely craving attention and love. However he does not receive the love he is looking for throughout the novel which is why he responds to situations in a resentful and negative form.
Thus Holden becomes adamant that people in general only have one main purpose in life and that is to serve themselves. I assume that he can not accept the fact that someone could want to do a good deed for others and that is why he jumps to the conclusion that Mr. Antolini betrays him. Taking into account previous incidents in the novel, this backs up my beliefs that Holden is a serious misanthropist. This in particular is portrayed when he speaks about a man called Ossenburger, who had the wing of the dorms Holden lives in named after him because he donated money towards the school. Holden dismisses the fact that Ossenburger genuinely might have wanted to do something good for others and also the fact that he is religious. He speaks cynically about the matter and refers to Ossenburger using derogatory terms.
He said he talked to Jesus all the time when he was driving his car. That killed me. I can just see the phoney bastard shifting into first gear and asking Jesus if he can have a few more stiffs.
There is also a hint of jealousy in this remark which fuels his hostile bitterness. Perhaps Holden is so sceptical towards others because they are so well-off in life.
Regarding the incident with Mr. Antolini, I feel that Holden over-reacted to the whole ordeal. Although it was rather strange to wake up to a grown man that wasnt your father patting you on the head, Holden does not take into consideration the fact that Mr. Antolini had drank a reasonable amount of alcohol that night. Holdens reaction strikes the notion that he is not used to receiving any affectionate gestures from others, after all he rarely sees his parents as he lives away from home. However in the whole novel the only other person to display any terms of affection towards him was his younger sister, Phoebe, to which he returned the gesture of a hug. Despite this fact, Holden was used to Phoebes affectionate conduct but he claimed that sometimes shes even too affectionate.
For Holden to jump to the conclusion that Mr. Antolini had betrayed him was a complete over-reaction especially when you take into account the good nature of him. On one occasion Holden speaks about a boy he used to know called James Castle which I feel also contributes to Holdens cheated resentful attitude. James Castle went to Elkton Hills, the school Mr. Antolini taught at and received a lot of abuse for making a comment about a boy in his class so instead of taking it back, he committed suicide. The only person brave and caring enough to take Castle up to the infirmary was Mr. Antolini. He placed his coat over the boy and felt his pulse, this is evident that Mr. Antolini is an affectionate person.
Old Mr. Antolini felt his pulse and all, and then he took off his coat and put it over James Castle and carried him all the way down the infirmary. He didnt give a damn if his coat got all bloody.
Holden also dismisses the fact that Mr. Antolini was thoughtful enough to let him call over to his house in the middle of the night. Mr. Antolini comes across as a welcoming person when Holden does call round. This is suggested by the warm greeting he receives and by the way Mr. Antolini takes his coat.
Holden, mboy! he said.....Lets have that coat. He took my coat off me and hung it up.
He seems more than happy to help but this also calls to mind the fact that Holden, being the fabulous pessimist can not understand why others would like to help those in need. Throughout Holdens stay in the Antolini household, he is shown immense hospitality and Mr. Antolini even gives him advice on how he should sort out his life. This hints at the fact that he worries about Holden and what is to become of him.
In my opinion I think that Mr. Antolini was slightly intoxicated when he patted Holden on the head. After their conversation I sensed that he was worried about Holden and could see what potential was being wasted by the repression and bitterness that is locked within Holden. My explanation of the matter is that Mr. Antolini was simply admiring what could become of the damaged soul if only someone could help him. However when Holden awoke he got the wrong impression.
What the hellya doing? I said.
Nothing! Im simply sitting here, admiring-
Even after this hostile reaction to Mr. Antolini, Mr. Antolini is still more than eager to help him out. He insists that he waits until the morning to get his bags from the station and when Holden refuses he leaves the door on the latch to make sure Holden has a place to stay for the night. It appears that Mr. Antolini sees no wrong in anything that he is done and calls Holden a very, very strange boy when he reacts the way he does.