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"The Catcher in the Rye"

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The book is written by the renowned novelist, Salinger, J. D. It was, at first, meant for adults but upon its publication it became a highly readable item amongst teenagers, mainly due to the fact that it offered the themes resonating with some pertinent teenage issues such as anger, rebellion, alienation, and confusion.

The book also deals with some highly complex issues of a sense of identity amongst adolescents, the reality of self-imposed or otherwise alienation, the need for connection with others in the society and the unrelenting desire for belongings.

The protagonist in the novel is not the other one than Holden Caulfield, a heroic teenage figure of sorts. Nowadays, since the book’s release, Holden Caulfield is indeed an icon amongst teenagers. More assertions and insights about this character are made in the subsequent sections of this paper.

Apart from the mainly teenage leaning in the book, there are other aspects of the human growth process that lend their ears and words to the main teenage phase. These are the voices of children, adults and even underground voices that all echo and help to develop, enhance or repute Holden’s mental construction of the human society with the actual reality of the same.

Research for the Authenticity Put into Perspective

The research is to study or look into the particular subject matter or phenomenon very carefully by using the systematic methodology while trying to uncover new facts concerning it. Authenticity is a quality or trait of being truthful or just genuine.

Therefore, authenticity for the research is to look at the particular troubling area and being able to discover new perspectives of the same phenomenon, while basing this new discovery of facts as a consequence of the research process.

A Brief Description of Holden Caulfield, a Main Character in the Book

  • Description in Terms of Appearance

Holden Caulfield is depicted in the novel as a native New Yorker who happens to be a bit tall for someone of his age standing at about six feet, with two and a half inches to boot. He is sixteen years of age and remarkably he has already started to grow with some grey hair.

He narrates of his experiences in a cynical manner using the jaded language that is often disparagingly used and infused with potent levels of profanity. He admits to behave like a mere thirteen year old kid.

  • Description in Terms of Personality

Holden Caulfield exhibits both a simplistic and highly complex personality that is extremely difficult to summarize in one paragraph but what is most definite about him that he is extremely cynical. This is shown by his disdain for ‘phoniness.’ This is a cynical term that he developed to describe the persons and situations he thought of as deserving for this highly derogative term due to their extreme level of hypocrisy.

As a direct result of his cynical attitude he begins to distance himself from the society. He, however, exhibits the very same tendencies as he dislikes making him a prime example of a tragic character in the novel.

  • Description in Terms of Relevance to the Plot of the Book

The boy just happens to be a narrator of the book. He is also the main character. He is expelled from his school, Pencey Prep, which is a preparatory school. The school is situated at the Valley Forge Military Academy. He then adopts an underground lifestyle in the city of New York for a period of three days.

Holden places upon himself the impossible burden of fighting ‘phoniness’ in the society. To this end, he is determined to expose it and fight it as best as he can.

  • Description in Terms of Character

Holden Caulfield serves the following purposes in the book. He is a critic of how the society is structured. He takes it upon himself to fight 'phoniness' passiveness, hypocrisy and obscenity. Secondly, he is quite a character that adequately shows the need for the mature and realistic understanding of the world issues and perceptions but wrapped in the air of honesty and integrity. His struggle as he moves from childhood to adulthood correctly depicts what most teenagers face.

Events that Relate to the Research for Authenticity

The research for authenticity here refers to the universal concept which has been elaborated upon and brought out in the literary work of the Catcher in the Rye. Specific instances where this has been shown or brought out in the J. D. Salinger novel are the following ones:

It is clear from the text that Holden Caulfield is incapable of understanding everything around him. He, however, does not want to acknowledge this fact. The incapacity of any person not to comprehend something necessitates a need for the research of it. A lot of things disturb the young mind of Holden Caulfield, and he needs to find out many from his environment to explain him all that he witnesses and why this occurs. Only through such inquiry shall the authenticity of his beliefs and convictions be verified.

In the few instances that Holden Caulfield accepts that he does not know everything is when it comes to sexuality. He admits this in the Chapter 9 of the book when he says, “sex is something I just don’t understand. I swear to God I don’t” (Salinger, 1951)

His perception of sex is naive and ill-informed. It is the mental process and not just the physical one. This is shown when he is in a room with a young prostitute over his bedside, Sunny. Upon seeing that, they are relatively of the same age he freaks out and asks them to conversant instead of getting at it. (Salinger, 1951)

This shows that Holden Caulfield only came to the realisation of the mental component of sex after taking steps and some efforts to explore it. It may be termed as the experimental research but it indeed enlightened him of this feeling, attitude and response to having sex with a lady of his age albeit a prostitute or simply casual sex. He understood that sex is not just about sex; it has both the emotional and mental components.

Another case that sheds light on this theme is that Holden Caulfield also has no solid conceptual framework or understanding of how adulthood really works. It is a phenomenon that scares him, and he invents a rather naive perception and explanation as to what it is. Such perception or explanation can only be refuted by the actual research that will, in the end, lead to the concrete and authentic understanding of adulthood based on reality.

To understand life, one must at times pass through much like to understand the metal breaking point one must put it to test. Passing through life is the research process. It provides nothing but authentic and factual results to inform on the perceptions. This is what happened to Holden Caulfield and his naivety of adulthood. His encounters Phoebe, and Mr. Antolini served to highlight the shallowness of his preconceived ideas.

For instance, his much admired teacher, Mr. Antolini, may have made some suggestive sexual gestures towards him by patting him on his head in an odd manner when he went to see him after leaving his parents’ apartment where he had gone to see Phoebe. (Salinger, 1951) This awakens him to the reality of the possible adult mischief and disillusionment with the existing childhood admiration that may be based on some information asymmetries as to who a person really is, and whether his intentions are really pure.  

The greatest piece of authenticity in his explanation of adulthood and the world phenomenon such as hypocrisy in persons that would properly inform him is lacking for the thing that he refuses to research on himself, on his own actions, and a person. This is where he turns to tragic. He tries to embody the world of morals and virtues when he himself is deficient of morals and virtues. For example, he points out the phonies in so many people but plays a mean prank on Mrs. Morrow while being on the train ride to New York. (Salinger, 1951) In the book, Holden also admits he is less than perfect when he says, “I am the most terrific liar you ever saw in your life.” (Salinger, 1951)

To look introspectively into ourselves is to research upon our own actions, values and principles. It is only then that we are indeed authentic in our perceptions and actions in the human society. How can we claim to be the judges over others when we ourselves are the culprits of the same follies? We are then not truthful to ourselves, and those close to us and the wider society. We are not true. This is the tragic character of Holden Caulfield, the tragic tale of the Catcher in the Rye, and the tragic story of humanity. 

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