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The Catcher in the Rye, is primarily perceived as an ordinary story of Holden Caulfield, who is expelled from yet another school and spends two days aimlessly wandering through New York City. Nevertheless, Holden is a confused young man, who is going through a number of changes and has a difficult time accepting the fact that growing up is an inevitable part of life. Holden wants comfort and love, he seeks this numerous times in the story. Phoebe represents innocence, something that Holden pursues throughout the whole story.
He talks about her all the time, despite the facts that she rarely appears in the book. Holden also mentions his brother in the story quite a lot. Allie, who died of leukemia, is never present in the book. However, Holden always mentions him whenever he is down. Throughout the story, one can speculate that Holden’s ex- girlfriend, Jane Gallagher, plays a significant role in the story.This is because no matter what girl he is with, he always comes back to Jane.
Holden has the tendency to attach himself to others who don’t appear in the book to provide himself with comfort and welcomeness.
Ironically, Phoebe acts more mature than Holden. And Holden seems to like that. The relationship that Holden shares with Phoebe is very tender and sweet. The truth of the matter is that Phoebe is almost never around. He mentions her right after waking up in the hotel. It proves that she’s always in his mind.
“ While I was changing my shirt, I damn near gave my kid sister Phoebe a buzz.” ( Salinger 75). His mind moves in all different directions yet he still manages to think about his sister. Throughout the book Holden explains his thoughts on children and how he wants to be the “Catcher in The Rye”. He wants to keep children from growing up and learning about reality. Phoebe represents innocence and Holden cherishes her for that reasons. Certainly, Phoebe is Holden’s emotional anchor. “You’d like her…Old Phoebe. I swear to god you’d like her.” (75-76). Holden wants Phoebe to be everyone’s emotional anchor. Through Phoebe, Holden can feel normal and comfortable, Holden is always reminded of Allie which ultimately makes him depressed, this feelings goes away once he is around Phoebe. He feels free and wanted; he wants everyone to feel that way. This is the way that kids are. Kids always have the thought of ruling the world and being number one. Holden doesn’t want to let go of that ;through Phoebe Holden can express that.
Holden’s brother Allie plays a significant role throughout the book. Allie, who died of leukemia on July 18 1946, never shows up in the book, but he comforts Holden with the only memories that he has left. Because of this Holden suffers from grief. After Allie’s death he shows numerous amounts of evidence, that show he is extremely depressed and angry. In chapter five Holden was thinking about what to write for Stradlater’s composition, he decides to write about his younger brother’s baseball mitt. Holden explains that Allie was two years younger, intelligent, and very kind. He also talks about him in the beginning of the book and how he was almost psychoanalyzed because he broke all the windows in the garage the night of Allie’s death. “..they were going to have me psychoanalyzed…”(44) Holden acted out to the point where his parents thought they needed him to be psychoanalyzed. It goes to show how extremely bitter he became and how his behavior changed soon after that. Holden now acts out and has gotten kicked out of almost every school he has been too. Nonetheless, he always talks about Allie, after Sunny leaves his room at the hotel, Holden starts talking aloud to Allie. This, he informs us, is something he does quite frequently when he’s depressed. Allie was a redhead and so is Phoebe. After Allie’s death he is ill. The hat reminds him of Allie, who he was very close too. Holden only wears the hat when something is off “ I took out my old hunting hat out… and put it on. I knew I wouldn’t meet anybody that knew me” (66). The hat comforts him the way Allie used to. If the reader pays close attention, Hoden only wears the hat and talks about allie, when he experiences sadness or lack of comfort. Both the hat and Allie provide him with happiness.
Jane Gallagher, even though she is barely present in the book, plays a significant role in the story. No matter where Holden goes, or what girl he is with, he always seems to go back to Jane. When Holden decides to go back home, he distracts himself by going to different bars, clubs, and enjoying the company of multiple women. Although he is attracted to some of them, and some he is using for sexual purposes only, Holden always seems to have Jane in the back of his mind. Many times after being with a woman, Holden would remember random moments that he spent with Jane, and will say how happy he was with her. In chapter 11, Holden says,
” …she was terrific to hold hands with. Most girls, if you hold hands with them, their goddamn hand dies on you, or else they think they have to keep moving their hands all the time, as if they were afraid they’d bore you or something. Jane was different. We’d get into a goddamn movie or something, and right away we’d start holding hands, and we won’t quit till the movie was over. And without changing the position or making a deal out of it. You never even worried, with Jane, whether your hand was sweaty or not. All you knew was, you were happy. You really were.” (89)
Memories of a certain person that make one happy will stick with someone forever, and will, for the most part, affect somebody’s thoughts and actions because that’s all they can think about. Jane is someone who Holden remembers quite clearly. Jane sharing a night with Stradlater, bothers Holden so much that it causes him to get a black eye. When Holden asks Stradlater about the date, he refuses to answer any questions. This upsets him. Holden then proceeds “you don’t even know if her name is Jane or Jean ya goddamn moron!” (50) Holden still cares about Jane and he shows this by simply stating the fact that Stradlater does not even know her name. Stradlater does not care about her, he only cares about having sex, which pisses off Holden. Holden cares so strongly and does not want her to get hurt by some “ moron”. The jealousy that arose from him, after he found out that Jane and his roommate spent a night together, bothers him down to his core. Jane is the only person whom Holden has shown Allie’s baseball mitt too, “She was the only one, outside my family, that I ever showed Allie’s baseball mitt to, with all the poems written on it.” (87).
Showing her the mitten was a very important thing to Holden. This item means so much to him and so does Jane. This moment was very important to him because he trusts her and he knew she wouldn’t say anything bad about it or judge him. Holden remembers very small details about the summer that he spent with Jane but one in particular stands out. Her stepfather came out asking if there were any cigarettes, and Jane refused to answer or look him in the face. Jane’s stepfather asked her if there were any cigarettes, and Jane refused to answer or look him in the face. Once her stepfather left, Jane started to cry. Holden, trying to comfort her, kissed her everywhere on her face but her mouth, he says. Jane claimed the stepfather had never done anything to her, but Holden isn’t sure whether or not this is true. Holden was there for her in the same way she is, just not physically.
Holden’s tendency to attach himself to others grows throughout the book. It is the only thing that makes him feel comfortable and happy. Phoebe, Allie and Jane all share one thing, and it is that they all had a connection with Holden. Holden no longer experiences these connections with them after Allie’s death because he is sent away. Keeping them in his memories and thinking about how they made him feel loved, is the best coping mechanism for Holden.
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