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Struggle With Pain Essay, Research Paper
Struggle with pain in growing-up
J.D. Salinger is one of the most significant post-World War II American novelists, when he published his . The Catcher in the Rye x in 1951, he gained immediately a great reputation, especially among younger intellectuals. Shortly after the publishing, the book becomes assigned reading for a majority of high school and college English course, which proves his success in another way. Holden Caufield, the protagonist in the Catcher in the Rye, became the typical representative of great many young Americans adolescents.
The author himself has a legend life. J.D Salinger was born in 1919 to a rich family in New York City. He attended both public and private schools in Manhattan, and after that, he studied in a military academy in Pennsylvania as a wish of his father. But young Salinger had little interest in it, instead, he was very interested in writing. After graduation from the military academy, he took a short-story course at Columbia University. It was there that he succeeded in publishing his first short story in Story magazine. During the World War II, his career as a writer was interrupted. He was drafted into the Army. But the young Salinger never stopped writing. It was said that he wrote all the time, in hotel rooms during weekends, in tents by flashlight and even in the foxholes. After returning from service in the Army, Salinger resumed to write. He devoted himself entirely to writing, instead of being a businessman what his father expected him to be. In 1948, he wrote . A Perfect Day for Bananafish x, the tail of the suicide of a despairing war veteran. In 1950, .For Esme with Love and Squalor x, which describes an American soldier s encounter with two British children. In 1951, the greatest work .The Catcher in the Rye x. In total, Salinger published thirty-five short stories, which results in 3 books finally.
J.D Salinger, like Holden Caufield and other characters in his books, cannot adapt himself to the real society. When he became famous, he moved away New York to hiding from the public. He lives in a modest home in rural New Hampshire. He planted a fence of trees around his house to hide from public view. He keeps writing but simply choose not to publish. He says it is .vicious, vicious thing. x He has been in exile for more than 40 years, he is indulged in mysterious eastern Buddhist. It is clear that the author himself has difficulty in facing the phony, materialistic society, and wishes to be left alone, isolating himself.
In Salinger s writings, adolescents are always defined as innocent and honest, the outside world as phony and materialistic. The protagonists in his works are often intelligent, sensitive and very aware adolescents or adults. They want to find themselves a right place in the society, but the evil and ugly world always disappoint and threaten them, which made them very sad. They feel difficult in accepting the loss of innocence. The conflicts between two sides result in painfulness in the growing-up. The protagonists in his writings either escape from the outside world through madness or suicide, or reach various stages of hopeful—-painful development.
In the following chapters, I would like to discuss the Salinger s masterpiece .The Catcher in the Rye x. We will see the painful transition of the protagonist from child to adult. The novel tells a seemingly simple story of a 16-year-old boy, Holden Caulfield. He comes from a quite wealth family, and has attended several private preparatory schools, but has been expelled from all of them. In the beginning of the book he has been kicked out of Pencey Prep because he fails in most courses. He does not want to tell his parents yet, so he decides not to go home before his parents receive the terrible news. Instead, he spends 3 days at a hotel, in New York. The whole story is about Holden s three days in New York where he wants to search for some unphony things and people. He met many different people, only to find hypocrites and liars everywhere. Finally, he goes home to see his little sister Phoebe, a genuine and angel-like child. She helps him find the courage to live on in this corrupted adult world. I will discuss the procedure of Holden Caufield s transition from innocence to experience. The discussion is divided into three parts. In chapter one, I will discuss Holden s pure, genuine mind. The chapter two will focus on his fear of the loss of the innocence. In the last chapter, chapter three, he begins to learn and accept the phony world to a certain degree. Through the discussion in the three chapters, I hope to present a clear procedure of the transition in Holden s mind.
Through innocent and naive eyes, children often see the world as an open playground that is full of fun and laughter. But all children must grow up. They are bound to expose themselves to the trickery and deceit of the outside world. During this period, many begin to taste the bitter of the life and lose their innocence. It is really a difficult period for them in their whole life. They begin to learn egotism and materialism, which will be gradually controlling their lives. In this difficult process of accepting the world s evils and learning to connect with others, children often become confused and find it difficult to move on. This leads to a common trend of hopelessness and emotional pain as children struggle to find their place in the wold and connect with their environment.
Holden Caufield sees the adult world in a cynical and scornful way. In the first chapters of the novel, he talks about Mr. Ossenburger, who is a so-called successful man in the society. He boasts himself a loyal believer in God. But actually he is a status seeking and mealy-mouthed person. He gave a lot of money to Pencey, and in return, he got the dormitory named after his name, which would bring him a good fame. From here we can see his purpose of donation is not pure. In Holden s eyes, adult people always mask their true feelings and intentions with a sugar coating of phony smiles and that makes him confused. He can not understand the adults actions. He just feels it funny when he compares to his own behaviors. His thought about the world is totally different from the thought of the adults. From here we can see, it is the root of the pain in his growing-up. Therefore, he misses his childhood and tries to seek haven from the phony adult world. He always memorizes himself and his siblings as children, at that time life were simple, clear-cut and straightforward. In one such recollection, Holden talks about his brother D.B.
. He used to be just a regular writer, when he home. He wrote this terrific book of short stories. The Secret Goldfish, in case you never heard of him. The best one in it was .The Secret Goldfish. x It was about this little kid that wouldn t let anybody look at his goldfish because he d bought it with his own money. It killed me. Now he s out in Hollywood, D.B., being a prostitute. If it s one thing that I hate, it s the movies. x (The Catcher In The Rye, 2)
It is clear that Holden views phoniness with great distaste. Before, D.B. just wrote simple, straightforward and sincere children stories. But now, in Holden s thought, D.B. has .sold out x his writing talent to the media, being a .prostitute x in Hollywood. In a very real sense, Holden is feeling deeply sorry for D.B. s loss of innocence. Therefore, Holden shows his hate for the phoniness of Hollywood.
To Holden, children are beautiful creatures that are honest and sincere. Without any secret motivates. They reach their goals in a very trustful and direct way. Unlike adults, children are able to do this because they do not feel threatened by the world, and thus don t hide their true feelings and emotions. But, Holden, as a sixteen-year-old adolescent, is facing and entering the adult world step by step. The influence or the pressures from the adult world are heavier and heavier on him. It gradually forces the purity out of Holden s mind. To struggle against this influence, Holden does some ridiculous actions, which seems harmful to others. But actually, Holden cherishes the qualities of purity and sensitivity and he dreams of remaining it, he tells his feeling to his little sister Phoebe:
.I keep picture all these little kids playing some in this big field of rye and all. Thousands of little kids, and nobody is around —- nobody big. I mean C 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 C 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. x (Catcher,173)
By saying that he wants to catch all the children that are running and not looking where they re going. He wants to save all the little children from the fake behavior of the adults in the world. He wants to prevent the children from making the mistake of becoming phony.
Holden is pulled apart by two dominating forces in his life. One pulls him into maturity, urging him to grow up and leave behind both his innocence and childhood, while the other keeps him in his past. For any human being, it is impossible to get these two things simultaneous. On one hand, Holden s interest in woman shows he is desired to mature. Through the whole story, he is attracted by all kinds of girls and women, Sunny the prostitute, his old friend Sally, and also has feelings for Jane even though they are far from ideal in his mind. Yet, on the other hand, he is desired to prevent children from entering the phoniness of society. This is apparent as he walks through the halls of Phoebe s school:
. I went down by a different staircase, and I saw anther .Fuck you x on the wall. I tried to rub it off with my hand again, but this one was scratched on, with a knife or something. It wouldn t come off. It s hopeless, anyway. If you had a million years to do it in, you couldn t rub out even half the .Fuck you x signs in the world. It s impossible. x(Catcher, 202)
He realizes that his attempts to rub the words off is vain, but is still very concerned that Phoebe or other children will see them and wonder about their meaning. He is afraid that Phoebe will lose a part of her innocence when she knows the actual meaning.
From there we can see Holden became more tolerant and less judgmental.
When Holden finds it difficult to adapt himself to the outside world, he always put himself in the memory of his beloved little brother Allie. Allie never have a chance to enter the adult world because he passed away from leukemia at ten. (Ten seems to be the watershed for childhood and adulthood, and we have known Phoebe is also ten years old and in her best time.) So he (Allie) represents all that is genuine and not phony. We can see how Holden talks about his brother:
.He was two years younger than I was, but he was about fifty times as intelligent. He was terrifically intelligent. His teachers were always writing letters to my mother, telling her what a pleasure it was having a boy like Allie in their class… He was also nicest, in lots of ways. He never got mad at and body. x (Catcher,38)
From this we come to know that Allie remains a forever-perfect image in Holden s mind. He is a symbol of childhood innocence.
. I slept in the garage the night he died, and I broke all the goddamn windows with my fist, just for the hell of it. I even tried to break all the windows on the station wagon we had that summer, but my hand was already broken and everything by that time, and I couldn t do it. It was a stupid thing to do, I ll admit, but I hardly didn t even know I was doing it, and you didn t know Allie. x(Catcher, 39)
To Holden the world that night suddenly became an evil place where Allie died of leukemia for no understandable reason. He can t understand this. He is afraid, confused and outrages at the injustice and unfairness of the world.
He shows his love and remembrance of his little brother by carrying Allie s old baseball mitt with him wherever he goes. Allie has became a symbol of innocence and purity:
. One thing I like a lot, you mean? I asked [Phoebe], You like a lot All right, I said. But the trouble was, I couldn t concentrate. You can t even think of one thing. Yes, I can. Yes, I can. Well, do it then. I like Allie, I said, And I like doing what I m doing what I m doing right now. Sitting here with you, talking, and thinking about stuff, and- Allie s dead- You always say that! If somebody s dead and everything, and in heaven, them it isn t really- I know he s dead! Don t you think I know that I can still like him, though, can t I? Just because somebody s dead, you don t just stop liking them, for God s sake- especially if they were about a thousand times nicer than the people you know that re alive and all. x(Catcher, 171)
Holden holds his view of Allie. Because through death, Allie did remain forever in the field of rye Holden tries to protect. As an adolescent, Holden is hoping to remain in his field of rye, catching the innocent children for the rest of his life. He doesn t realize the only way to stay within the field is to die. We can also find his fondness toward the past when he recollected his elementary school years at the museum.
. … they all looked like they were really flying south, and if you bent your head down and sort of looked at them upside down, they looked in an even bigger hurry to fly south. The best thing, in that museum was that everything always stays right where it was. Nobody d move. You could go there a hundred thousand times, and that Eskimo would still be just finished catching those two fish, the birds would still be way south, the deers would still be drinking out of that water hole, with their pretty antlers and their pretty, skinny legs, and that squaw with the naked bosom would still be weaving that same blanket. Nobaby d be different. The only that would be different would be you. x( Catcher, 121)
. Certain things they should just stay the they are. You ought to be able to stick them in one of those big glass cases and just leave them alone. x (Catcher,122)
Like Holden s memory of Allie, the museum never changes yet and always remains an image of a part of Holden s past. As a result of his inability to cope with the world and society. Holden is always obsessed with death. For example, he is constantly concerned about the ducks in the pond and think about the unfairness of Allie s death. It is .death of his innocence x. As he walks across the streets in New York, he talks aloud to Allie, begging him not to let him disappear.
. This symbolizes Holden s wish not to disappear into society as another cog in the great machine, and his wish not to lose what little of himself he feels that he has … His name also provides a clue: Holden- Hold on. x (Magill, 2329)
We can see Holden s fear of change and the loss of innocence when his roommate, Ward Stradlater, announces he is going on a date with Jane Gallagher, a good childhood friend of Holden. And when Stradlater says he might .give her the time x. Anger breaks out in Holden because Jane is a sweet pure girl in Holden s mind. Holden remembers their happy experiences together. When they play checkers, Jane .wouldn t move any of her kings, what she d do, when she d get a king, she wouldn t move it. She d just leave it in the back row. She d never use them. She just liked the way they looked when they were all in the back row. x Holden wants to preserve his image of her innocent childhood beauty.
. I sat there for about a half hour after he left. I mean I just sat in my chair, not doing anything. I kept thinking about Jane, and about Stradlater having a date with her and all. It made me so nervous I nearly went crazy. I already told you what a sexy bastard Stradlater was. x (Catcher, 34)
Although he wanted to say hello to Jane, who was just a few steps away in the foyer. Holden is frightened by the thought that Jane would really want to comply with Stradlater s sexual desires. This would signify a loss of innocence and would destroy Holden s childhood memories of the . good times. x Thus, his fear that Jane is no longer sweet and innocent keeps him in his dormitory. Except for his refusal to face the fact that Jane might have entered adult world, Holden also refuses to mature as a person. His obsession with his dead brother Allie and desire to resist change makes it difficult for him to be sociable everywhere. He becomes disgusted with the corrupted society around him.
Another example of Holden s fear of the change and loss of innocence, can been found in his talk with the cab driver. He asks the driver where the ducks go in winter. Because he is worried what the duck will do when the lake is going to freeze. He wants to know what happens to the ducks—- they leave away or die. In Holden s mind, the ducks is like him, and the lake in its winter is just like the out world where he lives. When everything around him changed, he was worried of what would happen to him since he couldn’t change along with the world.
Holden s innocence is taken away through a twisted chain of events. While he is waiting for Sally Hayes, an old friend of his, he has an sudden urge to go into a museum that he visited while still a child in school in order to bring back memories of his childhood. However, when he finally reaches the museum, he decided not to. .The funny thing happened. When I got to the museum, all of a sudden I would not have gone inside for a million bucks. It just didn t appeal to me… x(Catcher,122) This shows that Holden is becoming an adult. He don t want to enter the museum because he realizes that he is too old to take part in such an activity.
After two day s aimless wandering, he goes to meet Mr. Antolini, his old teacher. In his discussion with Mr. Antolini, his old teacher explains to him:
.Among other things, you ll find that you re not the first person who was ever confused and frightened and even sickened by human behavior. You are by no means alone on that score, you ll be excited and stimulated to know. Many, many men have been just as troubled morally and spiritually as you are right now… If you get along with [an academic education] any considerable distance, it ll begin to give you an idea what size mind you have. What it ll fit, and maybe, what it won t. After a while, you ll have an idea what kind of thoughts your particular size mind should be wearing… if you have something to offer, someone will learn from you. It s a beautiful reciprocal arrangement. x(Catcher, 189-190)
Through the wise advice of Mr. Antolini, Holden begins to understand that the loss of innocence is the mature of the world and a part of growing-up. Holden also begins to realize that he cannot hope to become the catcher in the rye like he dreams to be. By becoming his own person, He will learn to grow and mature, he will find his won foothold in the society step by step and reach his goals. He will finally overcome his isolation by connecting with his surroundings. He will have a chance to talk with other intelligent adults such as he who have the same problems in his growing-up.
Holden s thought of wanting to save the children from adulthood, begins to change when he sees the .Fuck you x on the wall of Phoebe s elementary school.
.It drove me damn crazy. I thought how Phoebe and all the other kids would see it, and how they d wonder what the hell it meant, and then finally some dirty kid would tell all cockeyed, naturally what it meant, and how they d think about it even worry about it for a couple of days. I kept wanting to kill whoever d written it. x (Catcher,201)
Because the .Fuck you x was carved on the wall, Holden cannot erase or cover it up. Holden feels that if the children were to see these dirty words, they would lose a little of their innocence. After realizing that he cannot protect all the little children from the society s harsh elements, his dream of shielding all the innocent children from maturity is ruined.
Holden s attitude completely changes as he watches Phoebe ride on the carousel.
. All the kids kept trying to grab for the gold ring, and so was old phoebe, and I was sort of afraid she d fall off the goddamn horse, but I didn t say anything or do anything. The thing with kids is, if they want to grab for the gold ring, you have to let them do it, and not say anything to them. x(Catcher,211)
It is at this point that Holden sees that he cannot stop children from growing up and therefore losing their innocence. They will eventually have to experience a fall. It is one part of growing-up. The carousel symbolizes life, and the constant journey of childhood into adulthood. The golden ring are symbols of the corrupted world which always .wears x a shiny surface to hide its evil. Although few children do reach the ring without falling, the majority of the children will fall off the carousel into the phony world when striving to reach the golden ring. Holden finally believes that all children, including him, will eventually lose their purity and virtue. Through his little sister Phoebe, who is going to face the same problem, Holden knows how ridiculous and useless it is to stop the coming of age and the loss of innocence. He learns that no matter how beautiful childhood is, eventually the music will stop and the children will fall.
His three-day journey has brought him from innocence to knowledge, ignorance to perception, and isolation to connection. In the close of the novel, Holden says: . 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. x He realizes that he does need people to whom he can relate. He cannot escape from the society.
The catcher in the Rye tell us a story of death, rebirth and growth of spirit, not of body. The pain in growing-up is the pain in the transition of the mind. The Catcher in the Rye was published in 1951. During the period of 50s, American society was undergoing quick and drastic changes. The economy had already recovered from the Great Depression and America became the richest country in the world. The living standard in America was raised steadily. The number of the Middle Class increased quickly. People, especially the youth enjoyed as many benefits as possible that the new wealth had brought to them. But the abundant wealth could not cover up the emptiness of the spirit of the society. Egotism and materialism began to overwhelm the whole society. The whole world was full of corruption and phoniness. All these had a great influence on the young people. Salinger, in his The Catcher in the Rye, successfully creates a confused adolescent, Holden Caulfield and presents his emotional frustration, the moral perplexity and the psychological growth during the period of entering the adult world. Holden is a typical character of the modern society, not only in America but also in the other part of the world.
As a character, Holden is an honest, sincerity youngster. His belief in human relationship is the relationship that is not spoiled by self-motivation and commercial interests. When he finds himself surrounded by all kinds of phony people and things both in Pencey and in New York, he feels very frustrated and longs for going back to his childhood. Furthermore, he wants to be a protester of all the good values he and other children preserve. Therefore, he takes some sort of rebellious actions, such as evading school, fighting with Stradlater etc. But all these efforts fall into a failure. He begins to learn how to face the phony world of the adults. He realizes he lives in a real society, not in his fantasy. He cannot change it but accept it.
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