A sense of meaning is needed in humans or else we become discouraged and lost and can even end up looking for meaning in harmful ways. People who cannot find in meaning in their life are susceptible to cults and manipulation from others as well as depression. In J. D. Salinger’s novel the catcher in the Rye, The main character (Holden) is having difficulty finding the meaning of life. Everyone is bound to spend some time in their life searching for meaning. Holden does not make an effort to do well in school nor does he make an effort to fit in with others.
He looks at others as phonies merely trying to imitate each other and questions all social norms that are pressured upon him. Today is no different from Holden’s time when it comes to finding the meaning of life; the media often suggests that the meaning of life is seeking pleasures such as sex, drugs and money, Parents drive the children to focus on their education and their worth in society. Holden does not pursue sexual conquests as a youth and resents most girls around him because of their large need to conform.
This is uncommon for someone Holden’s age and causes him to stand out from those around him. He does not appear to be content with his life and does not have a strong peer group to support him. Holden disappoints his parents, teachers, and many other mentor figures throughout his youth. I also have questioned the value of education and whether or not spending a third of my life preparing for work, a third of my life working and a third of my life retired is really the most fulfilling plan in life.
One reason I believe Holden is having a hard time finding meaning in life is that he starts off without any role models. He does not idolize his brother and resents his parents. I also have found choosing role models in life to be a difficult decision. Because Holden focuses so strongly on people’s negative qualities he misses the more beautiful and sought after qualities of their personalities and therefore has a hard time relating to them.
This causes Holden to become more or less isolated from those around him. I have often questioned the meaning of life and realized that my idea of a meaningful life is quite different from some of my peers. This moral difference between me and many often stops a more personal relationship from forming. This effect is present throughout Holden’s journey as he feels isolated in the same way from many of his “Phony” acquaintances.