The Catcher in the Rye

In A Nutshell The Catcher in the Rye, a novel narrated by main character and hero Holden Caulfield, is the story of Holden's life in the few days after being expelled from his Pennsylvania prep school. Published in 1951 by J.D. Salinger, The Catcher in the Rye has been banned more times than you want to count by zealous parents and educators. Not that anybody's surprised by this (because of the profanity, sex, alcohol abuse, prostitution – need we go on?), but interestingly, it's also frequently used as part of high school English classes. With more than 60 million copies sold to date, it's one of the world's top sellers (accordingly, it's been translated into many languages, including Russian, Spanish, German, and Japanese). The Catcher in the Rye is close to J.D. Salinger's heart; he has never allowed it to be produced as a film. A lot of mystery and controversy surrounds J.D. Salinger. It seems he stopped publishing his work just when he was peaking as an author, and since then has been essentially a social recluse, granting no interviews and making no public appearances whatsoever. Some people think he's sort of a Holden Caulfield himself. The Catcher in the Rye ended up as an emblem of counterculture in the 1950s and 60s – a symbol of alienation and isolation for the disillusioned and restless post-war generation. Salinger's own isolation from society only amplifies the mystery and allure of this important book.

The Catcher in the Rye Theme of Innocence

The narrator of The Catcher in the Rye is an adolescent obsessed with saving children from the dirtiness he sees in the adult world. The novel deals with innocence in many forms, but focuses often on the sexual. Because the narrator sees sex in any form as dirty, he feels the need to sequester children (and himself, somewhat) from it, instead of easing into it as a natural step to becoming an adult. Although Holden is obsessed with topics like sex, he betrays a childlike innocence
in the way he looks at the world. Holden is actually wise beyond his years; this makes his desire to protect the ignorance of youth an ironic one.

The Catcher in the Rye Theme of Mortality

The Catcher in the Rye explores that traumatic effects that first-hand experiences with death can have on an individual. The narrator, seventeen-year-old Holden Caulfield, lost a younger brother to leukemia four years before the story is told. He was also witness (at least by ear) a young boy's suicide at prep school. These events leave him – and therefore, the story he narrates – plagued with nearly constant thoughts of death and mortality. The Catcher in the Rye is riddled with symbols of death and disappearance, which Holden often focuses on to avoid interacting with the real and living world around him. Holden's obsession with certain symbols, along with his
fantasies about disappearing, indicate that he has a death wish. Although Holden is indeed obsessed with death and mortality, it is only because he cherishes life so much.

The Catcher in the Rye Theme of Youth

and kindhearted. The Catcher in the Rye also includes mention of possible childhood molestation. The Catcher in the Rye Theme of Sadness Sadness permeates The Catcher in the Rye. and connect. and alienate with the need to meet. caring. The Catcher in the Rye Theme of Isolation Isolation in The Catcher in the Rye refers to the personal. however. The novel explores the tension between the desire to observe. The conclusion is left up to the reader. seventeen-year-old Holden Caulfield. converse. a seventeen-year-old boy. Children are genuine. Main character Holden Caulfield finds nearly everything depressing. social." The conclusion drawn. from receiving gifts to hearing people say "please. The Catcher in the Rye Theme of Wisdom and Knowledge The Catcher in the Rye implicitly gets at the question of knowledge vs. He presents the point of view that sexuality is inherently degrading for a woman. quite depressing. whereas adults are "phony. we of course have to challenge the bias inherent in this perspective. The Catcher in the Rye Theme of Lies and Deceit ." Because the story of told from the point-of-view of a disillusioned seventeen-year-old. wisdom. that there is an inherent value to knowledge and learning that formal education is a necessary step by which to avoid squandering native talent. unfortunately. and examines the way in which such events affect young adults as they try to understand their own sexuality. The difficulty comes from the fact that escaping this isolation is a battle in itself – one that can often be. judge. and generally "bastards.The Catcher in the Rye presents a clear distinction between the world of children and that of adults. How relevant is formal education as compared to the experiences one gains by simply living life? Several points of view are presented within the novel: that institutional education is only intended to teach kids how to make money. is that isolation and alienation from others is the greatest source of unhappiness. and therefore cannot reconcile acting sexually toward a woman that he respects. We constantly see the desire to reach out mitigated by hesitation and passivity. from the rest of the world." self-centered. The Catcher in the Rye Theme of Sexuality and Sexual Identity Sexuality is a big concern for narrator and protagonist Holden Caulfield. and mental isolation of one individual. The novel examines the grey area between these two worlds – namely adolescence – and the painful process of transitioning from one to the other.

and children everywhere." This refers to anything and everything from pretense to social snobbery to language to appearances – all elements of the adult world as opposed to the world of phoniness. at his unceasing desire to protect his family. He irritates people all the time. characteristics like honesty (Holden is a perpetual liar). Disgusted with this falsity. The Catcher in the Rye Theme of Madness The big question in The Catcher in the Rye is whether or not the central character is crazy. Holden seeks to escape what he sees as the prescribed path of education. creative. with mentions of his having come "out here" to "rest up. To the seventeen-year-old narrator. Look at the compassion he expresses in the way he views Sunny (as a person. the biggest problem with religion is the social barriers that religion creates (which he directly compares to the social barriers created by money). not a prostitute) and the nuns . he actually shows an extraordinary amount of respect for God and for religious people he runs into. and money-making. There may be an intrinsic value to it. Some have suggested that Holden is an anti-hero – he lacks the noble characteristics that most heroes have. who’s ugly? Protagonist Holden Caulfield Holden is the main character as well as the narrator. The Catcher in the Rye Theme of Religion The Catcher in the Rye treats religion much the same way as it does education.Deception in The Catcher and the Rye takes the form of what narrator Holden Caulfield calls "phoniness. but the conclusion is left up to the reader. Holden's desire to protect innocence suggests an acute awareness of guilt. The story begins with a seventeen-year-old Holden Caulfield telling his own story of a year earlier. He worries his parents. jobs. or funny. He isn't particularly good-looking. Although Holden Caulfield claims most of the religious people he runs into are phonies. Holden is indeed an anti-hero. his theological musings about Jesus and forgiveness are offered to suggest Holden's desire for redemption. courage (he admits to being yellow). Holden is also one of literature's favorite characters. sure. but it's been ruined by institutions and the people that run them. But. Holden's feelings about religion exactly parallel his feelings about education The Catcher in the Rye Character Roles Who’s good. and decisiveness (Holden is plagued by passive inaction). and although he claims to be an atheist." What is normal adolescent behavior. Look at Holden's nobility. in this respect. who’s bad. and what is psychotic? This novel explores that very question. so this is a pretty easy role to assign. and clearly. this is for a good reason. So. He mopes around. Jane. strength (he says he's a pretty weak guy).

he's able to draw a conclusion about the inevitability of growing up.(who he recognizes never get to go to swanky lunches). Also. George from Andover. his one life ambition – to be the catcher in the rye – is one of the most heroic (if implausible) goals we've ever heard. Thurmer the headmaster. Lillian Simmons – basically everyone he meets is phony in one way or another. Holden is motivated and spurred to action (or sometimes. She helps him in little ways. we as the reader can see that Holden himself is his own antagonizing force. "phony bastards" are clearly his – and the world's – antagonist. when he watches her reach for the gold ring on the carousel. she asks him important and incisive questions (as in. Foil Everyone Holden Tries Reaching Out To In His Narrative . by covering for him when their mom comes home. she's incredibly adept at guiding him through his toughest times (like when she puts her arm around his shoulder while he cries). Seeing the majority of the world's population as an antagonist can be an isolating perspective. Antagonist Holden's Judgmental Cynicism Come to think of it. it's possible that she wants to take care of him as much as she wants to run away. and he chooses to be alone. Dr. First. Guide/Mentor Phoebe Caulfield For being a little kid. seeing everyone in the world as an antagonist is not only isolating – it's indicative of a clear character flaw. Holden is his own worst enemy. and though she's younger than he is. Phoebe understands Holden in a nuanced and sophisticated way. Phoebe is one sharp cookie. He chooses to judge everyone he meets. and she acts as a guide for Holden in a variety of ways. "You don't like anything. But more important than these gestures are what they represent. he chooses to alienate. inaction) by individuals who are affected and false. So Phoebe Caulfield: the greatest ten-year-old mentor ever. She also teaches her brother a lesson. so we're not exactly surprised that Holden spends most of The Catcher in the Rye alone and alienated. if unintentionally. and putting the red hunting hat on his head when it starts raining. Not to mention. sure. lending him money. So while Holden sees everyone else as the antagonist. check out "Booker's Seven Basic Plots Analysis" to see that Phoebe also fits the role of the "heroine or small child" that "rescues" the "hero" from a "dark power" at the end of the story. Name one thing you like a lot"). Antagonist Phonies In Holden's opinion. When you look at it this way. When she brings a suitcase because she wants to run away with Holden.

Holden is wronged. Horwitz). Foil Mr. one near to the end." a "moron. cab driver #2 (a. we're talking about Ackley. we sort of expect the same thing. But being foils and all. Holden judges the person to be a "phony. is threatened. but at the same time is lonely and needs to forge personal connections with others. Spencer. Antolini it's the physical contact between the two characters. This is quite a conundrum.As we identify in the "Classic Plot Analysis.k. To be specific. too. We're surprised to see that he actually has some real insight into Holden's character – and some real advice to offer him. it's Holden's visceral awareness of the man's body and its appearance. Marty. Romantic Interest Jane Gallagher . Are the two teachers very different. Valencia. 2) Often. one at the very beginning. Foil Stradlater and Maurice To take a specific example of the principle. we're talking more about the scenes with these characters than the characters themselves." or a "pervert. forces the issue. 4) The person refuses. cries. the secretary at Phoebe's school.a. given an opportunity to back down from a much stronger opponent. In each instance. and with Mr. Antolini Again. All the people Holden attempts connections with are similar in this way. We think these two scenes are getting at Holden's self-destructive tendencies. and we see the same scene play out over and over: 1) Holden meets a person. Valencia's piano-player. insults the much stronger opponent's intelligence. Spencer's lecture is an alienating and actually rather annoying rant." one main conflict in The Catcher in the Rye is that Holden judges and decides he hates nearly everyone. so to speak. usually by asking them to have a drink with him. Spencer and Mr. When Mr. Bernice. so they're all foils for one another. nameless cab driver #1. The Holden-Spencer conversation and the Holden-Antolini conversation mirror each other structurally – they're the book-ends to the novel. Mrs. the two nuns. or has Holden evolved over the course of the novel so much that he's now able to hear and accept help instead of rejecting it – and therefore presenting it to us – as phony and irritating? Good question. and ends up getting socked. Carl Luce. Or maybe just his inability to let sleeping dogs lie. Mr. the scenes that play out between Stradlater and Holden and then later between Maurice and Holden are foils for each other. Sunny. Antolini starts talking. Morrow. Both revolve around a strange physicality: with Mr. Faith Cavendish." 3) Holden tries to reach out to that person anyway. Sally. but not always. there are some differences. and countless others. Laverne. Both feature a former teacher berating Holden for not taking education seriously. the little girl with the skates. the hat-check girl.

who’s bad. and everyone dislikes him. and this seems to be a source of insecurity for him. Characterization in The Catcher in the Rye Character Clues: How does the author let us know who’s good." This is how Holden describes his initial interaction with Sunny and how he tries to talk to women." and . accordingly. Given the nature of The Catcher in the Rye's narration. Speech and Dialogue Mock-Deference We already know what Holden's real speech sounds like – it's the voice he uses in his narration to us. that the movies are phony." "How do you do. or adults in general that he wants to impress. that getting a job and being an adult sounds like just about the worst racket he's ever heard. As such. not on the physical. Ackley is pimply and un-hygienic. in fact. Holden is defined by his impressions – and the way he presents those impressions to us. he always tries to act older." Sure. much of what he says about other people is really as much of a commentary about himself as it is anything else. Holden says things like that all the time. Stradlater is big. Direct characterization is when the text just gives you information. Holden is small for his age. but Holden is a character himself." "Suave as hell. and good-looking. this makes perfect sense.Although we never actually see Jane on stage (meaning in direct action in the narrative). Direct or Indirect Characterization This is tricky. Phoebe is cute adorable and she's a joy to be around. He thinks Jesus' disciples were useless. and tries his best to placate and please. that most girls are dopey but still attractive. boy." holds himself back from digressions. there's just Holden. Holden tries to present an older persona by using what he considers socially adept phrases ("Allow me to introduce myself. Holden is basically in love with her. So much so. or bartenders. Spencer. and who’s ugly? By the time you’re through with Character Clues. but I don't feel like going into it. There is no unbiased and omniscient narrator to give us direct characterization. See a pattern here? Thoughts and Opinions The single best tool of characterization we have with regards to Holden is the endless stream of his thoughts and opinions. He says "sir. he's a player. such as "Jack is a jerk. But check out how he speaks when he's talking to people like Mr. etc. His descriptions of their relationship are touching – clearly their interactions were based on mutual respect and emotion. so any information we get through him is actually indirect – it passes through his filter and comes out fictional. Physical Appearance Physical descriptions are a pretty good indication of character in The Catcher in the Rye. athletic. that Holden has a difficult time thinking about having a sexual relationship with her at all. you’ll be a regular Sherlock Holmes. That's a far cry from "You'll probably want to know *…+ all that David Copperfield kind of crap. We get to hear what Holden thinks about everything.

"Come in. going to a bar. when one of the two "bruddas" asks where the "toons" are. But he gets points for trying. there’s more to Lit than meets the eye. He admits it's "corny. yelling "Sleep tight. so as not to look suspicious"). we're not sure how convincing he is. won't you?"). which "kills" him. not only is she giving back to Holden. So we know he's feeling particularly vulnerable at the time. that's not really news to us. Spencer for being the kind of old guy that "can get a big bang out of buying a [Navajo] blanket. but actually. At first it just seemed a little ridiculous. Holden just berated Mr. Little Kids Holden definitely has an ear for little kids' speak. we didn't really know what to do with it. So while he's all about the hat in private. but she's demonstrating that she loves him as the individual that he is – corny red hunting hat and all. Then we had to look at certain specific key passages. etc. starting with the first time we see the hat. He puts the hat on at important moments – writing the composition about Allie's baseball mitt. Take a look at when Holden wears the hat. Holden understands exactly what the kid's saying. Imagery & Allegory Sometimes." It's a people shooting hat. Given the reaction of the women in the Lavender Room. the hat hints that Holden has the same characteristics he judges in others. But at this point. When he's wearing it. he can be as insular and tough and as unique as he wants. I knew I wouldn't meet anybody that knew me"). and the start of Chapter Twenty-One ("I'd already taken off my hunting hat. we noticed that this red hat kept cropping up. We're looking in particular at the scene in the museum in Chapter Twenty-Five. staring at himself in the mirror and pretending to be tough after Stradlater punches him. he declares. though Holden would never admit to such a state as vulnerability. There's definitely more hidden in this hat. which reinforces what we already knew about Holden and his ability to interact with children. We even get hints to this at the start of Chapter Thirteen ("I took my red hunting hat *…+ and put it on – I didn't give a damn how I looked"). . After all. in hotel lobbies. Holden tells us (towards the beginning of Chapter Three) that he bought the hat in New York that morning after he left all the fencing equipment on the subway and pissed off the entire team. The Catcher in the Rye Symbolism. That's why it's such a big deal when Phoebe puts it on his head at the end of the novel. and when he doesn't. the end of Chapter Sixteen ("I took my old hunting hat out *…+ and put it on." but he personally "like[s] how it look[s]. He takes it off when he's on the train. the hunting hat becomes an important part of the way Holden sees himself." and here he is a few chapters later admitting that he himself gets "a big bang out of that hat. ya morons" down the corridor." At least on this level. But despite his embarrassment. and so forth. Holden's Red Hunting Hat The first time we read The Catcher in the Rye. he's embarrassed or lacking confidence to wear it in public.

and Other Wildlife Holden is always worried about where the ducks go when it's winter. Holden does not. he's actually incredibly scared by the thought (hence the sweating and difficulty breathing and so forth). and say the mummies aren't so much an uplifting example of preservation after death. Fish. but rather than get depressed by the obvious morbidity of the subject matter. but are more about lifeless shells – bodies without spirit. That means all these things are related. it's December. he doesn't really want to die. When Holden crosses the street and begs Allie not to let him disappear. . But you might have some difficulty arguing this. but they don't disappear. this Holden is more concerned about the ducks dying than he is excited as the prospect of them returning. Of course. and that's why he's so into the mummies. The mummies die. The Mummies On the other hand. or the Quaker student that he knew at school) or romanticized logic (like the cab driver who insists that. and then ruminates on Allie? Exactly. he's in a way asking not to die. While others may find solace in religion (like the two nuns. his thoughts about the atomic bomb). obviously. What happens to them? Do they leave? Do they freeze to death? In one sense.Ducks. the ducks might symbolize resurrection – they always return in the spring. this could be more to do with his desire for unchanging and perpetual youth than with his obsession with mortality. He explains the process of mummification to two younger boys with enthusiasm. so spring isn't really on anyone's mind right now. you could argue that Holden draws a distinction between death and disappearing. mother nature would take care of the fish – and the ducks). Maybe this is even how Holden sees himself. You could also go in another (and perhaps darker) direction. If Holden indeed expressed a death wish earlier (he mentioned jumping out the window. Holden is plagued with thoughts of death. Holden is fascinated by the thought that some things stay as they are. then this scene is the counter to that. It isn't just that Allie's dead. frozen physical forms. As a boy who has experienced death on a personal level more than once (with both Allie and James Castle). and then starts thinking about his own death. You know the scene where Holden goes to the lagoon and looks for the ducks. mummies are blatantly representative of death. More likely. and also. What seems to bother him so much about mortality is that he equates death with disappearing. As much as he might drop the suicide thought in moments of anger and pain. it's that he's disappeared under the ground. even if you want to talk about the mummies. much like the fish (as Horwitz sees them) stuck in the frozen lake and absorbing nutrients through their pores. so you can still argue death = disappearing. we can work the mortality angle here to explain Holden's obsession.

Holden says that while the displays stay the same. you'll really a lot from reading what he has to say on the subject (the last four paragraphs of Chapter Sixteen). the wealthy alumnus Holden discusses in Chapter Three. Antolini's Quote. Holden emphasizes that it's not aging that bothers him – it's the changes one . and More About Death Well. and the boy is wearing Holden's turtleneck sweater at the time. he jumped out the window.D. But he makes the point that it's not so much about getting older as it is about becoming different. Antolini connection. Mr. since Holden fears dying. James Castle.Ossenburger. Sounds like he died nobly for an unworthy cause – exactly what Holden has to be careful not to do. we might have been tempted to make the connection that. But the James Castle incident is far more interesting because of the Mr. a person is different every time he comes back to visit. Salinger helped us out by explicitly connecting James Castle with Mr. and More About Death To be fair. since Mr. death is everywhere. Before we read this. Since Holden is so straightforward about the connection. J. This stuff is everywhere. During his conversation with/lecture to Holden. For Holden especially. Holden digresses in Chapter Twenty-Two about James Castle. the latter is simply a fear of getting old. That'll make mortality really hit home. especially for someone in Holden's shoes (that is. He's making a rather explicit connection here between the Indian Room at the museum (where the displays always stay the same) and the children (who are always changing) who visit on field trips. It seems that James insulted a (deserving) guy by calling him conceited. Just another reminder that in Holden's world. this is another instance where death has come close to Holden – he hears the body hit the ground. he sees the "teeth and blood" all over the place afterwards. "Certain things *…+ you ought to be able to stick *…+ in one of those big glass cases and just leave them alone. a classmate of his that killed himself at Elkton Hills. Also. someone who lost a brother at such a young age). Mr. speaking of death. he doesn't like that everything has to change. Even we're depressed by the fact that Pencey built buildings out of money earned by a chain of bargain funeral parlors. Antolini. this is a source of depression. But this passage here prevents us from drawing that conclusion. Antolini makes a big deal (he even writes down a favorite quotation) out of warning his former student not to die nobly for an unworthy cause. We're talking about old Ossenburger. Yet." he says. there is one interesting (and less straightforward) aspect we'd like to at least address. OK. right down to the money that paid for his dormitory at Pencey Prep. Antolini is the one to carry the dead body away? The Museum (And the Indian Room) Let's get away from this mortality business and talk instead about the inevitable passing of time and the changes that it brings. but what does this have to do with James? Check out the passage where Holden explains his death. that everyone has to grow up. and instead of taking it back when threatened and/or abused. and he also fears getting older. we've got one more base to cover. it's not like Holden's obsession with death is entirely unwarranted. On the surface.

While Holden calls essentially everyone in the book a "phony" at some point or another (with the exceptions of Jane Gallagher.goes through in order to become an adult. and." But what does he like so much about it? Take a look at it. Why is Holden into a record that sounds Dixieland and whorish. Holden. and his sister Phoebe).1) Point of view is HUGE in The Catcher in the Rye. but not before we suggest that you think about at what point in the novel the record breaks. I'm liable to say I'm going to the opera. especially since he's buying it for his little sister and is troubled by the thought of sexuality invading the world of children? Good question. he describes her singing it as "very Dixieland and whorehouse *… not+ all mushy." which is sort of a dead giveaway. What makes it so much fun is that we're never sure how much to trust him. or seeing a gasoline puddle – these are examples of awareness. Just look at his list of examples – hearing parents fight. as well. we're interested in what Holden thinks of the events/people/places/weather/dead mummies and how he presents them to us – a. Though We All Thought That Wasn't Possible Before Holden wakes Phoebe up. He never tells the truth to people who ask. his brother Allie. because it lacks this sort of pretense. he himself is a constant liar.) Anyway. even. Holden figures that most people. and Even More About Holden's Narrative Technique." and adds that he could "read that kind of stuff *…+ all day and all night long.. to which we'll be addressing soon. if singing a record for little children. The Catcher in the Rye Narrator: First Person (Central Narrator) Who is the narrator. It might not be . of mental growth." as he thinks a white girl would have done. The record is clearly intended for children – it features a little kid that's embarrassed about having lost her front teeth. and what Phoebe does when Holden reveals the broken pieces. Much like Phoebe's notebook. he sits down and reads through her school notebook (check this out – it's not too far from the start of Chapter Twenty-One). his point of view. this sounds rather odd. When he talks about the singer. (Also. (3. *…not+ cute as hell. Oh. If I'm on the way to the store to buy a magazine. Holden prefers Estelle's rendition. more than the events themselves. not of physical aging. and somebody asks me where I'm going. We think this is about avoiding phoniness. more importantly. can she or he read minds. much like the reader. it's called "Little Shirley Beans. make it cute. Holden's perspective on matters is the substance of the novel. So he's talking more about the intangible qualities of youth and innocence than he is about the physical ones. finds it endearing. Phoebe's Notebook. states that "kids notebooks kill [him].a. and phony because they think that's what little kids are into. so we aren't sure if he's snowing us. The Little Shirley Beans Record Holden's interest in the Little Shirley Beans record for his sister is intriguing. would cheese it up.k. Estelle Fletcher. can we trust her or him? First Person (Central Narrator) I'm the most terrific liar you ever saw in your life. mushy. At first.

[He] swear[s]" (24. the style of the novel is the same as the style of his own language. Maybe they're nice and more intelligent than described. he says he only threw up because he made himself. He talks directly to you. and the only things better than little children are little children who are singing." He's definitely got that "time is running out" attitude (just check out his conversation with Sally towards the end of Chapter Seventeen). in part because Holden is a fan of little children. it makes him feel not so depressed. but he's convinced himself (and so tries to convince us) because he wants to think he can hold his liquor." He'll tell us he's never waited anywhere so long in his "goddamn life. like Adventures of Huckleberry Finn before it. In this case. You'll hear him describe places and people all the time as "corny" or "phony. In fact. (Think about when he tells us about how he puked that night at the Whooton school after indulging in a bottle of scotch. Which reminds us – the language doesn't seem all that offensive to us (PG." which is apparently synonymous with "adult." Momentarily. What’s Up With the Title? What's up indeed. "If a body catch a body coming through the rye. first of all. 97). we can't be sure about him or the people he describes as moronic phonies. not just in dialogue. The Catcher in the Rye Writing Style Slang and Otherwise Frowned-Upon Language Since Holden is narrating his own story. which is colloquial and distinctive. So that's all well and good until several chapters later when Holden's sister Phoebe corrects him. is one of few books to feature this language in the narration itself. The first mention we get of this mysterious catcher in this mysterious rye is when Holden overhears a little kid singing. At the time. The Catcher in the Rye. Holden has already lost much of his innocence and is desperately trying to avoid turning into a "phony. The Catcher in the Rye Genre Coming-Of-Age The Catcher in the Rye shows the main character's movement from a position of so-called "innocence" to one of knowledge. it's not a song. as in "You'd have liked [Allie]. maybe).an entirely conscious snowing – he's certainly not sitting back and trying to deceive us – but putting spin on everything seems to be a real part of his persona.100). but at the time (1951) it raised a few more eyebrows.) Because we're confined to Holden's point of view. this was both unusual and important – not just as a new literary style." and second of all. it's "if a body meet a body. He's not trying to lie to us. but also as a way to study the vernacular of a particular time period. Here's the poem itself: . not because he had to." He uses italics to make the words read with the same emphasis as spoken word ("He's my brother and all"). or that he's sweating "like a bastard" (24. he doesn't seem to trust anyone over the age of 30(-ish). it's a poem by Robert Burns.

She draiglet a' her petticoatie Coming thro' the rye. he can't get sexy with someone he cares about.e. either. but he's not so comfortable with that. Gin a body kiss a body Need a body cry? Gin a body meet a body Coming thro' the glen."Coming thro' the Rye" (1796) Coming thro' the rye. Jenny is out in the rye with a wet body. Need she cry (i. the fun in the rye is more about sex than it is about preserving childhood innocence. Oops. dragging her petticoat – and she "meets" (has sex with?) someone. innocent songs about…casual sex. Jenny's seldom dry. Coming thro' the rye. In other words. we'll translate for you. it seems. Casual sex is then his only option. or treat her like an object. Even more ironic is that Holden says he wants to be the catcher in the rye – he wants to be "catching" all those little children. and "ken" = know. since he thinks that to get sexy with a girl is to degrade her. then casual sex is OK. poor body. and to hang out with little kids and listen to them sing cute. "wat" = wet. Holden's not so sure about sex in general. She draiglet a' her petticoatie Coming thro' the rye. what is all this about? Since you probably don't speak 18th century Scottish either. is to avoid sex altogether. Gin a body meet a body Coming thro' the rye.. O. namely. So that's what the poem's asking – is casual sex OK? So…casual sex? Isn't that a huge deal in The Catcher in the Rye? Why yes it is. "Draiglet" = drags. but clearly from the poem. Therefore. Jenny's a' wat. poor body. In his mind. This is rather . "Gin" = when. Gin a body kiss a body Need the warld ken? Now you're probably thinking the same thing we are. get emotional) about it? Need the world know about it? If not. this is protection. The solution.

in kids' songs. Holden exists in a world that is steeped in sexuality. .sad. and possibly even tragic. across from his window in the hotel. It's on the school walls. and even in his seemingly innocent fantasies.

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