The Catcher in the rye

In the novel, The Catcher in the Rye, by J.D. Salinger, Holden attempts, whether he is conscious of it or not, to save certain characters from "falling" into what he sees as the corrupt world of adulthood. He does this in his thoughts as well as in his real actions. An example of this is seen when Holden tries to rescue all children from "falling". The most important child he attempts to save is his sister Phoebe. Last and most crucial, Holden tries to save himself.

Holden has a natural instinct to protect people he sees as vulnerable. His main focus is to guard children whom he sees as being pure and innocent and whom he would like to shelter from corruption. His "Catcher in the Rye" image, as far fetched as it seems, is the first concrete expression of Holden\'s urge to protect the weak.

"...What I have to do, I have to catch everybody if they start to go over the cliff-I mean if they’re running and they don’t look where they’re going I have to come out from somewhere and catch them. That’s all I’d do all day. I’d just be the Catcher in the Rye..." (Salinger p. 173) Holden’s dream is to be "The Catcher in the Rye" – an adult whose job is to rescue children whenever they begin to fall off a cliff at the end of a rye field. Holden’s desire to be "The Catcher in the Rye" symbolizes his urge to "catch" children before they "fall" into adulthood.

The field of rye is an open space representing freedom and childhood. The cliff that Holden speaks of implies the boarder from childhood to adulthood. Holden wants to be the catcher or guardian of these children and make sure that they do not cross over to the corrupt world of adulthood. Holden loves children because they are the only people who are not phony. They are innocent and not yet affected by mankind.

Like his love for children, Holden’s love and respect for Phoebe, his younger sister, is unsurpassed. Phoebe exemplifies Holden’s view of a perfect childhood, but problem arises when Holden realizes that Phoebe is already showing signs of growing up. Holden attempts to shield Phoebe from the cruelty of the inevitable realities of life. A way in which Holden tries to prevent this from happening is when he gives Phoebe his red hunting hat. This hat expresses protection and security and a way to hide from society.

Since Holden has already been removed from the innocence of childhood, he thinks he knows how demoralized society really is. For example, Holden saw something that drove him crazy.

"...Somebody’d written "Fuck you" on the wall. It drove me damn near crazy. I thought how Phoebe and all the other kids would see it, and how they’d wonder what the hell it meant, and finally some dirty kid would tell them-all cockeyed, naturally- what it meant, and how they’d all think about it and maybe even worry about it for a couple of days. I kept wanting to kill whoever had written it..." (Salinger p. 201) Holden is so upset and afraid that Phoebe will see this and be told what it means, exposing her to what Holden refers to as a "corrupt society".

Safeguarding Phoebe from unavoidably crossing the threshold from childhood to adulthood is described once again in the scene at the zoo when Phoebe is riding the carrousel and reaching for the gold ring. Holden saw Phoebe as a little kid again which is all he really wanted.

"All the kids kept trying to grab for the gold ring, and so was old Phoebe, and I was sort of afraid she’d fall off the goddam horse, but I didn’t say anything or do anything. The thing with kids is, if they want to grab for the gold ring, you have to let them do it, and not say anything. If they fall off, they fall off, but it’s bad if you say anything to them." (Salinger p. 211)

The gold ring on the carousel is symbolic. When Phoebe and the other kids were reaching for the ring on the carousel, they almost fell off heir horses. The gold ring signifies adulthood. Holden should have warned Phoebe about falling,