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The Tragedy of Holden Caulfield Is That He Cannot Accept the Adult World He Is Too Old to Continue the Innocent Life of a Child

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The Tragedy of Holden Caulfield Is That He Cannot Accept the Adult World He Is Too Old to Continue the Innocent Life of a Child

The main concern of the novel The Catcher in the Rye is not only that the protagonist is trapped between childhood and adulthood, but also the alienation and regression caused by grief when the sufferer does not address their loss properly. Holden Caulfield's nervous breakdown is largely due to the death of his younger brother. It is because of this that he fears change and maturity so much, specifically the loss of innocence. Holden cannot accept the complexities of the world; instead, he uses "phoniness" of as an excuse to withdraw into the world of children.

Holden has experienced two great traumas connected with death. First, he has lost a loved and valued sibling, Allie. Secondly, he has witnessed the suicide of his classmate. Although he did not know the latter well, it is because has not come to terms with Allie's death that this loss is so painful. It is Allie's death that has contributed most to Holden's fragile mental state. Since he could not attend Allie's funeral, he finds it hard to grieve. Research suggests that a ceremonial farewell plays an integral part in coping with loss. Holden has not yet let Allie go. Like the parent who keeps their child's room as they left it, he carries Allie's baseball mitt with him. When Phoebe asks Holden what he likes and when he is walking around New York, it is revealed that he cannot even acknowledge that Allie is indeed dead. Holden experiences many things typical of someone who is grieving. At various stages of the novel, he experiences panic, guilt and hostility, all of which are symptomatic of a grieving person. Holden's return to sanity and normal life is largely due to his realisation that maturation and loss of innocence, like change, is necessary and unavoidable.

One of the recurring themes of The Catcher in the Rye is the difficulties experienced during adolescence. For Holden, it is particularly problematic. He feels a great desire to preserve his innocence partly because Allie never fulfilled his, and partly because during his transition into adult life he has experienced many disturbances. Holden has many child-like characteristics, for example, his curiosity, naпve view of sex, the way he categorises the people he meets and his attitude towards school. Like most things in his life, however, he is both intrigued and repelled by adulthood. Underlying his fear lies his enormous fear of change. Three parts of the novel best illustrate this. First, Holden's encounters, or lack of them, with Jane Gallagher show that he fears meeting with her because she may have changed from the child he knew. Also, Holden spends so much time trying to find the whereabouts of the ducks in the Central Park lagoon because he does not like the idea that they, like Allie, could simply vanish. Finally, Holden's visit to the Museum of Natural History proves to be an important insight into his character.

"The best thing, though, in that museum, was that everything always stayed right where it was. Nobody'd move. You could go there a hundred thousand times…Nobody'd be different. The only thing that would be different would be you."

Innocence, and the loss of it, plays an integral part in The Catcher in the Rye and in many of Salinger's other works. Holden's fantasy about being "the Catcher in the Rye" shows that Holden not only wants to protect children and live in their world, but also illustrates his morbid fascination with death, particularly in children. Finally, however, Holden realises that he cannot protect all children from adolescence. He, like Phoebe, realises that growing up is necessary and unavoidable. Salinger uses Holden watching Phoebe on the carousel as a symbol of this.

"All the kids

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