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When someone is young, they tend to have innocence about them. As children grow up, they no longer possess this natural innocence. Exposure to all of the hatred in the world causes this loss. Holden Caulfield realizes this simple fact, as he himself grows up, and has a difficult time with the change. He experiences problems with communication as well as his school work. A common theme used throughout The Catcher in the Rye has to do with contradictions Holden makes.
In J.D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye, first person point of view is used to highlight contradictions Holden makes throughout the novel.
Holden’s first contradiction becomes clear in the first few chapters of the book. When it comes to attending movies, he claims that he does not enjoy the company of Robert Ackley or going to see movies. Yet, he attends a show with Ackley. On Friday night, while Stradlater was on a date with Jane, Holden made his own plans.
Holden, Mal Brossard, and Ackley went out for a burger and a movie. “… decided we’d take a bus into Agerstown and have a hamburger and maybe see a lousy movie.”(36) Due to the use of first person point of view, we find out Holden’s inner thoughts instead of just relying on his actions. Also, later on in the novel, Holden goes to yet another movie, despite his claim of not enjoying them. While in the theater, he becomes extremely annoyed with the woman sitting next to him.
She cried throughout the entire movie over, in Holden’s words, phony stuff. “… there was a lady sitting next to me that cried all through the goddam picture. The phonier it got, the more she cried.”(139) We learn about Holden’s inner thoughts because of first person point of view.
We can find another contradiction dealing with Holden’s hatred of movies. When he attends the first movie, he goes with Robert Ackley, despite the fact that Holden previously told us that he dislikes him. Holden says that he finds Ackley to be completely annoying. However, he was the one who invited Ackley along. “I asked Mal if he minded if Ackley came along with us… Mal said he didn’t mind but that he wasn’t too crazy about the idea.”(36) This quote helps show another contradiction of Holden’s through Salinger’s use of first person point of view. Holden also sought out Ackley as a form of comfort after his fight with Stradlater. Holden had no one else to turn to after the fight except for Ackley. “I had a feel Ackley’d probably heard all the racket and was awake, so I went through the shower curtains and into his room” (46). Salinger again uses first person point of view to show even more of this contraction.
Another contradiction that can be found has to do with Sally Hayes. Although Holden calls Sally a phony, he still decides to spend a night with her. In his head, he continues to say how much he hates Sally and how much she annoys him, yet he expresses that he loves her. Holden extends his contradiction by necking with Sally in the back of the cab, and still continues to think about the fact that he hates her. “I told her I loved her and all. It was a lie, of course.”(125) Holden’s actual thoughts about Sally stick out from the other statements through the use of first person point of view. Holden even goes as far as trying to run away with Sally. He expresses a want of running away and living on their own, right after calling her a pain in the ass. “I was getting excited as hell the more I thought about it, and I sort of reached over and took old Sally’s goddam hand. What a goddam fool I was.” (132) This contradiction was shown through the use of first person point of view.
First person point of view is used by J.D. Salinger to show Holden’s contradictions in the Catcher in the Rye. Holden contradicts himself on a regular basis; it leads him to believe that he is crazy. Due to the fact that he has a problem with communicating to others, letting his feelings out became a challenge. His biggest battle involved his inner thoughts, and the words he actually expressed out loud. We can find most of his contradictions through this battle of words.
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