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The Loss and Yearning of Holden

in The Catcher in the Rye

Jiang Ying

A Thesis Submitted


College of Foreign Languages & Literature in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements

for the Degree of

Bachelor of Arts

in English Language and Literature

Supervised by

Ms. Ren Haowei


ii Hunan Institute of Science and Technology

Yueyang, Hunan

December, 2011


The Catcher in the Rye enacts the conflicts and confusions of the hero------Holden as he spares no effort to explore a peace and beautiful rye. Though The Catcher in the Rye has been much written about, this final article in the novel series give fresh insight to the character and the experience of Holden and the loss and yearning of Holden Caulfield. Many critics have approached this book with different perspectives ,such as society, history, culture and religion. Their critical reviews, however, focus more on the psychological analysis of the hero and the contradiction between people and authority. However ,few critics have studied the initiation process of the protagonist and touched on the theme of initiation in the novel. Based on these previous studies,the present thesis is intended to conduct a systematical study of The Catcher in the Rye in how to accommodate oneself to the compete society. The thesis divides into four chapters. Chapter One introduces the perspective adopted in this thesis--the source of Holden's loss and yearning.Chapter Two offers a brief introduction of Holden's way to struggle against the loss and yearning. Chapters Three present a detailed analysis of Holden’s development of loss and yearning. Chapter Four is a summary of the conclusions that we have come to.To sum up, this article told us that one should accommodate himself to live in the society.


iii Key words: The Catcher in the Rye; Holden; loss; yearning



摘 要






Introduction ··············································································· v i 1 The source of Holden's loss and yearning ················· 错误!未定义书签。

1. 1 The life experiences of Holden ·················································· 2

1. 2 The characteristics of Holden ··················································· 3 2 Holden's way to struggle between loss and yearning ······························ 3

2. 1 The struggle against school ······················································ 3

2. 2 The struggle against New York City ·········································· 5 3 The development of Holden's loss and yearning ···································· 6

3. 1 The transition from yearning to loss ············································ 6

3. 2 The transition from loss to yearning ············································ 8 Conclusion ··············································································· 12 Works cited ·············································································· 13 Acknowledgments ······································································ 14




The Catcher in the Rye is one of the most spectacular masterpiece in the literature field. It is widely acknowledged that the success of the novel lies not only in the authentic revelation of the inner world of the young generation, but also in the rendering of schoolboy vernacular used by the adolescents in the late 1940s and early 1950s. There appear a throng of people take an interest in it. It is mainly about the protagonist Holden's three days adventure in the street. He is a boy taller than his age peers, always wears rain coat and an old red hunting hat, likes wandering and hates schooling.And he was dismissed from school four times. After experiencing the great change from loss to yearning, he realized that as a human being, it is impossible that one can't isolate from others no matter how serious you are fed up with the world. Y ou have no choice but to adjust to it. So Holden decided to be a catcher in the real world .From loss to yearning, Holden experience the immense development. Finally, he learned to how to accommodate himself to the society to become the catcher in the real world.

This thesis comprises of there parts. Part one mainly portrays the source of Holden's loss and yearning including his life experience and characteristics. Part two expounds the struggle against the school and the society. Then part three presents the transition from loss to yearning. The transition from loss to yearning for Holden is being a catcher in the rye, but have to be a cathcer in the society, not in the rye.

1 The source of Holden's loss and yearning

The famous British poet William Blake stressed there were three stages in man's development: trueness,maturity ,insight. It was imperative that parents and teachers must spare no effort to be a helpful guide to lead children to get themselves back, in case they got lost. Holden's bitter experiences and his frustrations were the tests and trials that he had to encounter and go through. He paid every effort to set a sound and harmonious relationship between the internal-Holden himself and the external-the outside society.(3) To sum up, the


vii life experiences and the characteristics of Holden lead to his loss and yearning.

1.1 The life experiences of Holden

Child psychologist holds that adolescents between the ages of 13 and 18 are on the stage of personality development. They're eager for their parents' understanding and approval. For Holden, not only the satisfy of material needed, but also the understanding, approval and love from his parents. Nevertheless, many adults can't relate to children. What's more, most of them adopted an air of indifference. Having exhausted the possibility of getting help from Phoebe and Mr.Antolini. Holden was certainly too tired to understand it and almost too tired to listen to.

An unhappy home environment can also affect a child's behaviour, even a child's moral. Facing with the demanding anticipation of his parents, Holden got the axe to express his serious feelings. In this novel, Holden's father hadn't turned up, when he started to packing to leave school, he thought of his mother. In the cover of the paper, it said:“To my mother.”Holden wanted desperately the love and care from his mother. Fortunately, he was well acquainted with her brother and sister. But it was impossible for them to absorb the yearning of Holden. Obviously, the love from his brother and sister dominated him dramatically. Though he was beginning to withdraw into himself, he didn't want to be apart from his relations. It was the decisive factor that he went back to the society at last.

Holden was kicked out for his serious subjects. “The more expensive a school is, the more crooks it has-I'm not kidding.”(4) He looked upon his school. The school Pency always offered the same meal--steak on Saturday in order to show the perfect education facility.

Holden even maintained school had a very good academic rating was because lots of boys got more out of school than that.

The school showed its desperate hypocrisy.“In fact, The Catcher in the Rye is jam packed with indictments against preschool education-its small minded teachers and even small minded students, it's boring classes and conformist atmosphere. ”(Sanford 78)


viii 1.2 The characteristic of Holden

In an article on adolescent in American fiction, Carpenter observes,“The quality which makes Holden Caulfield under the skin is that there's a common hatred of hypocricy. ”Holden verbalizes his distaste for phoniness and cites concrete examples of cant and hypocrisy of promposity and platitudes.( qtd.in Marcus 1) Holden at Pency Prep where contemporary adult values are mirrored by the school patterns. Holden rejects the school, he is rejected by it.(Maraus 4) Holden was kind-hearted to everyone, both the one he liked and he hated. During his conversation with Mr.Spencer, he sort of admitted that he was a real moron. When Mr.Spencer found excuse for his flunking, Holden wrote the note deliberately the lectures which Mr.Spencer gave were very interesting. And it is all right if he was flunked so that Mr.Spencer wouldn't feel too serious about flunking him. For the significance of their meeting, John C.Unrue summarized it in this way: Their meeting played a important function. It showed the first of several failed attempts by potential adults guided to understand Holden, to gain his confidence and respect, so to gain his trust. Spencer failed for the same reason other adults failed: his anvice was inauthentic, stale, lacking in spontaneity and too far removed from its inspiring essence to resonate with Holden.(Unrue 106)

Holden possessed a flabby personality. When he knew Jean dated with Stradlater, he was afraid Jean would be lured. So he felt like jumping off the washbowl and getting old Stradlater in a half nelson. Stradlater was a very strong guy, Holden was a very weak guy. So Holden was defeated and couldn't restrain Stradlater dated with Jean. But he also thought he was prior than Ackley, so he fought against him, and made his nose was bleeding all over the place. He admitted he was just partly yellow and partly the type that doesn't give much of a damn if some one lose their gloves.

As a result of his flabby individuality, when Holden came to his truth to be a catcher, he sort of started to miss everyone and reach a compromise to the real world. What's more, in any relationship,you have to make compromises if you need to integrate into the world.

Holden was also insightful and had maturity beyond his years. He rejected


ix the pat formula with discerning cogency when he was told that life was a game that one played according to the rules.In his mind,“If you get on the side where all the hot-shots are, then it's a game. But if you get in the other side, where there aren't any hot-shots, then what's a game about it? Nothing, no game.”(5) Though he tried to integrated into the world, he couldn't obey the social rules. He said people always think something was true. He didn't give a damn, except that he got bore. Sometimes he acted a lot older than he was,but people never noticed it. And when people thought he still acted like he was only about twelve, he said:“It's partly true,too, but it isn't all true.”(10) As a matter of fact, Holden had a good grasp of moral purity of children. Adults lose their innocence as they grew older, they attained their goals in order to be grandstanding gradually. It also leaded to Holden's rebellion against the phony world. Holden's yearning was created owing to his insightand maturity.

2. Holden's way to struggle between loss and yearning

Holden possessed various kinds of characters. Though he was flabby and insightful, he also was a person who would be engaged in a bitter struggle with people to get control of his life. When he was coped with serious difficulties, he showed his rebellion against the world.

2.1 The struggle against school

Holden’s escape from school wa s the starting point of Holden’s escape. Having been flunked out of school four times, Holden totally found out the essence of school.In Holden’s eyes, modern education was not an education for the sake of enlightenment, but for an assured future. The school didn ’t teach what students needed, nor told students to have their belief. Instead of creating sense individuality, such education only created a crowd of students in the same mould. He could envision what his life would be if he applied himself and went to college. In such kind of life, Holden found that he was just an institutionalized person, the same people as other people: having the same kind of life, doing the same kind of thing, and having the same reaction to the same incidents. It was obviously that Holden didn't like this kind of life. So he had the choice to leave the school to struggle against.



2.2 The struggle against New York City

When Holden left school to New York City, the trip was not so exciting to him and just the opposite, it made him witness more ugly faces of the society. And he found that he could not mingle with the people around. He was completely disappointed to this city and this kind of society. So he told Sally that he hated it, he hated everything. He hated living in New York and all. So he wanted to escape from this city and this kind of society to the west to be a deaf-mute person.

Finally, what he decided he would do, he decided he would go away. He decided he would never go home again and he'd never go away to another school again. He decided he'd just see old Phoebe and sort of say good-by to her and all, and give her back her Christmas dough. He wanted to go to the west to be a deaf-mute guy that meant he rejected to keep trying to communicate with others. So he wanted to leave. But he gave up this escape trip in the end because he was reluctant to leave the real world. Though he struggled against the school and the society, he possessed relationships with people around him. What he needed was the adjustment to the society.

3 The development of Holden's loss and yearning

Holden's three day's wandering in New York street reflected his loss in the life in a way. And the initial expression was the rebellion against the real world and to become a catcher in the rye. He possessed a completely different attitude to something around him. Holden had a paradoxical feelings when he got lost, he also began to possess another yearning. Similarly, when he lived in his own yearning, he was always being attacked by the real life, so he had to be lost.To sum up, Holden was always indulge in loss and yearning.

3.1 The transition from yearning to loss

Holden created a beautiful and peace image about the world. To his eyes, people should live together in perfect harmony. However, Holden just found himself confronted by massive opposition. He was depressed and in a confused state of mind. And the transition from yearning to loss only add to Holden's


xi rebellion and confusion.

3.1.1 About war

Holden hated the death and war. “I don't think I could stand it if I had to go to war, you have to stay in the Army so goddam long. That's the whole trouble.”(142)Even what surprise him was that his brother D.B., though, he hated the war so much, and yet he got Holden to read this book A Farewell to Arms last summer. He said it was so terrific. That's what Holden couldn't understand. Though D.B. disliked war with intense hatred, he didn't possess enough ability to struggle.“If there's ever another war, I'm going to sit right the hell on top of it. I'll volunteer for it, I swear to God I will.”(142) However. The“another war”wouldn't come any longer. And Holden didn't get the chance to fight against it. So he had to give up to the real world.

Once Holden had the yearning to try his best to struggle in the“another war ”. With the time passed, he realized the another “war ”wouldn't come any longer. So he got lost in the“war ”. For Holden, social and physical problems led to the outbreak of the “war ”.And these problems remained the soft underbelly of the“war ”

3.1.2 About the first yearning

Holden had a habit:“I sort of started lighting matches. I do that quite a lot when I'm in a certain mood. I sort of let them burn down till I can't hold them any more, then I drop them in the ashtray.”(123) In a way, it was also a habit that he gave up to the phony world till he couldn't struggle against it any more. Then Holden had a furious debate with Sally. Though he didn't love her, he still disguised his attitude. He conceived that he would stay in the cabin camps and stuff liked that till the dough run out. And then he could get a job somewhere. No one could hardly be expected to understand how empty he felt, or knew how to responded to his cry for sympathy. The value about the true life of Sally showed great maturity in a way. Then Holden's voice faded to a whisper so that Sally couldn't hear him. At that very moment, Holden meaned to take the first step to gave up. It's a futile rebellion. He couldn't become familiar with the dark underbelly of life in the real life just like Sally, and he had little or no


xii understanding of the real problems around him.

3.1.3 About leaving home

Like most of us, Holden Caulfield continuously reconstructed himself. Where Holden outdoes most of us, however, was in the number of foci of the identities he attempted during only a few days. He was obsessed with his capacity to manufacture identities, the persona he produced as defences and consumed as spectacle.

Holden assumed he left home and stayed alone in a cabin until somebody got sick and wanted to see him. He just permitted D.B. and Phoebe come to the cabin. At the same time, Phoebe also wanted to stay with him. However, Holden just wanted to stay with him, He just wanted to be a lonely catcher. He hoped to protect others from falling off the cliff.

Because Holden has situated himself within a space of separation and change, Holden replayed past losses. And he feared future ones and thus the involvement that would preface them.Faced with the complex losses, Holden adopted a variety of approaches to be coped with the confusion. For Holden, he had to have some yearnings to foster better relation within the society. However, when he was solitary in the house, he sort of started to miss everybody. Holden's compromise was expected but it is disappointing nevertheless.

3.1.4 About the family

Walking along the street, Holden saw a father, a mother, and a little kid about six years old. He“sees ”the family, but only in terms of his own situation. Without evidence he initially assumed that the parents were neglecting the boy who walked along the curb singing to himself,“If a body catch a body coming through the rye.”(158)For it was doubtful that the six-year-old, if he knowed the poem in the first place, duplicated Holden's misreading of the famous lines. What Holden“hears ”anticipated the grandiose fantasy he would later relate to Phoebe in which he catched and saved children. For a moment he was charmed with his fantasy of a self-contained kid whose parents were at hand to protect him.

The reason for Holden's delinerate misunderstanding was that Holden was


xiii eager to grasp an excuse for him to be a catcher, so he could do something to save the growing kids who were in danger of running off the cliff. No one needed a catcher to keep them from falling off the cliff. It is an appropriate description of the world, from Holden's point of view, since he would like to be a saviour and he certainly seemed to need saving.

3.2 The transition from loss to yearning

Though Holden tried to express his rebellion against the phony world in his own ways, such as lied to others and wore the red hat, ha always gave up to something.He yearned to live his life in a world with love and warmth and a world of peace. So every time when he got lost, he always had the yearning to overcome the confusions.

3.2.1 About death

Holden had the imagination of his death. Even he would feel sorry as hell for his mother and father. He looked it the only good part that old Phoebe came to his funeral. In his mind, Phoebe should get away from death. He hated people coming and putting a bunch of flowers on the cemetery. He also blamed people for neglecting the sorrow and depressing feelings which the death brought about. There was never a shadow of a doubt that the death of Allie did great damage to Holden.

Holden always blamed people's loss for the circumstances around them. He insisted it was the fault of society to drive people to the edge of cliff. He showed his fierce dissatisfaction to the society.It drived him crazy if somebody got killed, especially somebody very smart and entertaining and all, and it's somebody else's fault. It was their own fault to get killed by others. This idea provided impetus to his dream of being a catcher to save children in the cliff. It seemed that it would be hazardous if the children got lost in their daily life on the eyes of Holden.

3.2.2 About bahaviour

Every time when Holden couldn't stand something, he would behave abnormally. When he was made sore by Ackley, he pretended as a blind guy and didn't want to utter a word. Phoebe diagnosed Holden didn't like a million


xiv things,even one thing. When Mr.Antolini asked him the reason for his flunk in Oral Expression, he didn't feel much like going into it. “I was still feeling sort of dizzy or something, and I had a helluva headache all of a sudden. ”(184) Mr.Antolini asked Holden to adjust himself to the world, he felt so damn tired all of a sudden. After Holden came out of the place where the mummies were, he had to go to the bathroom. He sort of had diarrhea. Just because those things depressed Holden profoundly, he had some reflections in his inner heart.

Considering how much he had lost to the insensitivity, incompetence, or disappearance of relevant others,his intensity was understandable.He made the successive attempts to comprehend the meaning of region, war, death, in the eyes of others. He was reluctant to trust other authority figures. He was separated geographically from his brother D.B and by death from his brother Allie. He was drawn by the sense of connection available in social relationships, but he was made uneasy by the ties of involvement.It was bound to seek the yearning for him.

3.2.3 About the appraiser-Phoebe

Situating the genuine outside of himself, he no longer lived as an originator of himself. Rather, he played out that capacity as a role. His concern with authenticity and its contrary--what he called phoniness--stemed from his felt need for a context of origin. He searched for who he was rather than for who he was. Plotted into artificiality by Holden, those people he called phonies remind him of his own exaggerated need to achieve a sense of self. Phoebe was one of the few people who could significantly interrupt Holden's penchant for story. As critic Gerald Rosen had put it, what Phoebe does is“to pull Holden out of his obsession with the sorrows of the past and direct his attention to the existential situation he is in atbthe present. ”(Gerald 98)In one of his conversation with Phoebe, Holden tried to spin a story on her about what he would do now that he had been kicked out of Pency Prep. Phoebe was the most commonsensical and emotionally appraisers of the past and the present Holden had access to. She was the one who most effectively revealed the artifice, helping Holden sensed how he exaggerated his acts of story. Most importantly, Holden reconsidered one of


xv his major allusive identities--that of the catcher in th rye--as he watched Phoebe on the carousel. So though he decided to go to west, he must meet Phoebe the last time and said goodbye to her. And right because the follow of Phoebe, Holden turned his way back and got the epiphany. As she played, Phoebe unself-consciously enjoyed one of the privileges of life which Holden tended to skew into obsessive pastness. Phoebe enjoyed the presentness to the present. And Phoebe dominated Holden's yearning of being a catcher in the real world.

3.2.4 About the gold ring

It was not clear exactly when Holden changed his mind. We can see that Holden gave up catching before he gave up his desire to be caught. He threw away his money even before he saw Phoebe. He left his hat with her and never wears it again until she put it on his hat in the carousel scene. Despite these preliminary indications that his attitude was changing. Holden intended to fly away from his cold world until his second meeting with Phoebe. Their tentative reconciliation and Salinger's exploration of the “catcher ”attitude reached their climax as Holden watched his sister riding on the carousel.“all the kids trying to grab for the gold ring, and so was old Phoebe. The thing with the kids is, if they want to grab for the gold ring, you have to let them do it,and not say anything.”(273)

Here we can see the catcher was refusing to catch. The possibility of falling was now accepted. Holden's acceptance of the situation clearly indicates his renunciation of his earlier attitude. Furthermore, something new had been added to the description of life: a chance at the gold ring, a purpose in life, the possibility of a reward. The interpretation must be made cautiously, however. After all, the gold ring only entitled one to another ride, not a still point outside the turning world. And Holden himself was not yet willing to take a chance.(Ohara 370) He was likely to be a catcher in the world.




Holden was those of a very troubled person who deserved our sympathy more often than our praise. A close look at Holden did, nonetheless, revealed that he possessed very strong moral, compassionate instincts. Though Holden struggled against everything, even left away from the real world, he choose to adjusted himself to accept the real world to be a catcher in the real life. The Catcher in the Rye left many useful points to us for cogitation. Thus instead of treating the novel as a commentary by a innocent young man rebelling against an intensive world or as a study of a youth's moral growth, we regarded it as a guide that give us a hand to overcome the depression when we are stuck in it. We should learn to adjust ourself to the society.

It is indispensable that we possess connections with others . No matter what we faced in the future, one thing we can be sure, that is we should adjust ourself to accept the society. We shouldn't ignore the influence of our society. Everyone will contend with loss in our life. We should try to accommodate ourself to mediate a settlement to boost our egos and protect us from being lost.

With an acceleration in the rate of economic growth, college graduates have to fight for jobs in a highly competitive market. What we need is not only the high level of competence in our profession, but also the practical and sensible trait to realize the fact that we shouldn't give up until we have exhausted all the possibilities. Facing with the confuse problems, we should never compromise to them. We should accommodate ourself to live in the world. And it is the faith that pulls Holden back into the society.One who liv in that faith will never feel lonely or lose the way.


xvii Works cited

[1] Brown, Gerald. J.D.Salinger.Ed.Harold Bloom. New York: Chelsea House,1987.

[2] Emory, Elliott. The Columbia Literary History of the United States. Columbia: Columbia University Press,1998.

[3] Frangedis, Helen. "Dealing with the Controversial Elements in 'The Catcher in the Rye'." The English Journal 77(1988): 72-75.

[4] Marcus , Fred H., "The Catcher in the Rye:A Live Circuit." The English Journal 3(1963): 1-5.

[5] Ohara, Litz A., Modern American Fiction. London: Oxford University Press,1963.

[6] Roemer, Daniellle M., "The Personal Narrative and Salinger's Catcher in he Rye." The Western Folklore 51(1992):5-10.

[7] Sailinger, J.D. The Catcher in the Rye. Boston: Brown and Company,1951.

[8] Unrue, Jack. New Essay on The Catcher in the Rye. New York: Cambridge

University Press,1991.

[9] 常耀信:《美国文学史》。天津:南开大学出版社,1998年。

[10] 高金和:“‘垮掉的一代’作品分析”,《中国社科杂志1994-2010合订本》, 3(2010):


[11] 郭佳:“麦田里的守望者研究综述”,《太原大学学报》,1(2004): 25-38。

[12] 塞林格:《麦田里的守望者》,施咸荣译。南京:译林出版社,1999年。


xviii Acknowledgements

First of all, I'm willing to show my spectacular feelings to my dear research supervisor. She is the person who pays every effort to the education. I thank her for her generous instruction to me. What's more, the experience of writing the article will be a excellent thing in my memory. I'm thankful for being on good terms with my classmates and roommates. I possess the unforgettable working experience in the Walt-Mart. Though I got boring to the multifarious work sometimes, I realize the importance of insisting under the great pressure. My sincere gratitute also goes to the teachers who taught me during my undergraduate years for their king instructions.

Life is a pure flame, and we live by an invisible sun within us. No matter who I am in the future, I'll never give up.