Holden Caulfield Character Analysis
Start writing a post

An Analysis of Holden Caulfield's Murky Character

It's more than just teenage rebellion and angst.

1567
Pexels

Madness seen with a discerning eye unveils hidden character, as manifested by J.D. Salinger's The Catcher in the Rye. Holden Caulfield's madness magnifies his masked empathy for others emphasizing his own hesitance and ignorance to display emotion.

Allie Caulfield's death deeply affects Holden's behavior throughout the course of his journey as it shapes his emotional outlook on life. While reminiscing the death of his brother, Holden confesses, "I was only thirteen, and they were going to have me psychoanalyzed and all, because I broke all the windows in the garage... I slept in the garage the night he died, and I broke all the goddam 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...It was a very stupid thing to do, I'll admit, but I hardly didn't even know I was doing it, and you didn't know Allie. My hand still hurts me once in a while" (Salinger 37). By revealing that Holden deals with loss with an indignant attitude, Salinger shows that Holden is angry about Allie's death. Rather than being depressed about his brother's death, Holden chooses to mourn by creating a barrier between himself and his reactions. This shows that he is afraid of sharing his vulnerabilities in a healthy manner. Holden's reaction to Allie's death contradicts his respect for his brother's presence and personality; despite his respect for Allie, Holden uses anger to reveal information about his love for Allie. In the big picture, Allie's death affects Holden's depression and loneliness as his journey progresses; Holden is unable to cope with the negative feelings of isolation, which later leads him to life-threatening situations.

Furthermore, Holden's empathy is also highlighted by the recurring wonder about the Central Park ducks in the wintertime. At first, his thoughts on the ducks seem irrelevant to this journey of self-discovery. Yet, Holden continues to inquire about these ducks until someone listens; Horwitz, the old cab driver, is one of the few people that answer Holden's question, ("The ducks. Do you know, by any chance? I mean does somebody come around in a truck or something and take them away, or do they fly away by themselves – go south or something?" (Salinger 54), huffing, "How the hell should I know?" (Salinger 122). Salinger stresses the motif of ducks to emphasize the importance of family---specifically Holden's family. Holden wonders where the ducks go and how they survive in the wintertime; because the ducks come to Central Park every year, they provide comfort to Holden due to their regular trips. In fact, the ducks' endurance to wrestle the harsh winter serves as an example for his own battles. Holden's empathy is masked because he acknowledges his feelings towards his broken family by contemplating the ducks' connections; he is unable to directly face his parents' and siblings' expectation, which he brings to light by wondering about the ducks.

Holden Caulfield's madness arises from his twisted empathy, which contradicts his stoic, secluded ability to express emotion. By shielding himself from his emotions, Holden uses various methods to demonstrate that is capable of empathy; primarily, he uses anger and wonder, both of which reveal his hidden importance for family. Salinger teaches the audience the importance of accepting and coping with one's feelings and using them to harvest joy rather than sadness.

All in-text citations are from J.D. Salinger's Catcher in the Rye.



Report this Content
This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
Featured

It Is July Already?

When you realize we're half way through summer and you did nothing fun

53

Well, the Fourth of July has passed and now you suddenly realize that summer is practically over, and you didn’t do half of the epic fun things you thought you were going to do. For many of us, summer vacation is anything but a “vacation”. Between the hustle of internships and seasonal jobs, we’ve forgotten to have a little fun too. But it’s not too late! With only a few more weeks left of summer vacation, here are five more ways you can take advantage of the rest of what summer has to offer.

Keep Reading... Show less
Featured

Every "Scrubs" Fan NEEDS To Know These Dr. Cox Quotes

Dr. Cox may be the most sarcastic, snarky, and nasty person to ever cross television screens.

656
Every "Scrubs" Fan NEEDS To Know These Dr. Cox Quotes

Dr. Cox may be the most sarcastic, snarky, and nasty person to ever cross television screens. His long-winded commentary and ability to destroy just about anyone made him terrifying and hilarious. Once you broke through his tough persona, Dr. Cox was genuine, caring and dedicated. He wanted the best for his patients and his interns. Here are some of funniest, most sarcastic and downright mean lines that Dr. Cox has said during his stint on Scrubs.

Keep Reading... Show less
Featured

Patriotism doesn't end with Independence day

If you can be proud of your country on he 4th of July, you can be proud all year long.

5990
Patriotism doesn't end with Independence day
Photo by Rob Martinez on Unsplash

I'm the child of a Marine Veteran. He may have been out of the service by the time I was born, but the Patriotic Pride he lived by has been my family's life line. I grew up with the American Flag hanging in my front porch. My dad has the "Proud to be a Marine" license plate in the front of his car. And red, white, and blue is a completely acceptable way to decorate your living room. But it doesn't end with just that. You need to know why we celebrate freedom.

Keep Reading... Show less

According to Katy Perry, "Baby You're a Firework." I don't know if she was referring to the Fourth of July when she was referencing fireworks, but this song has allowed this generation to rejoice. The song "Firework" allows people of all ages to appreciate the lyrics, as the song brings forth a positive state of mind. Unfortunately, just like the song, not every knows what the Fourth of July is actually for. Many just assume it is that one time of year you get to spend time barbecuing and see fireworks light up the sky. Even though many are not aware of the American historical significance, this holiday has annually encouraged people to come together happily, which could very much be the importance of it.

Keep Reading... Show less
Featured

Why Fourth Of July is America’s Biggest Frat Party

It’s the celebration of our great nation, and you’re all invited.

4240

It’s the celebration of our great nation, and you’re all invited.

Keep Reading... Show less

Subscribe to Our Newsletter

Facebook Comments