What is key to realise about Holden's identity is that, particularly in the area of his sexual identity, he struggles to cope with a massive paradox in his life, which is that he likes sex and is obsessed by it but is also a prude and struggles to remain innocent. This of course mean that any kind of sexual act to Holden is "crumby," which leaves him in significant problems as regards his identity, as he...
What is key to realise about Holden's identity is that, particularly in the area of his sexual identity, he struggles to cope with a massive paradox in his life, which is that he likes sex and is obsessed by it but is also a prude and struggles to remain innocent. This of course mean that any kind of sexual act to Holden is "crumby," which leaves him in significant problems as regards his identity, as he at once tries to place himself in situations where he can have sex and draws back from precisely those kind of situations. This is demonstrated in the way that he frequently sabotages the opportunities that he has to have sex, such as when he is with the prostitute. Note the following quote from Chapter 9:
I mean that's my big trouble. In my mind, I'm probably the biggest sex maniac you ever saw. Sometimes I can think of very crumby stuff I wouldn't mind doing if the opportunity came up. I can even see how it might be quite a lot of fun, in a crumby way, and if you were both sort of drunk and all, to get a girl and squirt water or something all over each other's face. The thing is, though, I don't like the idea. It stinks, if you analyze it.
Holden therefore recognises within himself precisely the kind of sexual desires that he so despises in others around him such as Stradlater. As Holden says just a few lines after this quote about sex, "I keep on making all these rules for myself, and then break them right away." The problem that Holden has with his identity therefore stems largely from his understanding and ideas about sex, and how he sets himself impossible standards to strive to remain innocent and fulfill his own ideas of what he should be like, whilst at the same time finding that his body and his hormones have very different ideas.
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?English Identity Essay Focus Question – How is identity highlighted in the book The Catcher in the Rye? Identity is personal attributes and characteristics that contribute to an individual’s personality and sense of self. In the book The Catcher in the Rye, J. D. Salinger has deeply explored the concept of identity in the main character Holden Caulfield. Through the use of jargon, symbols, themes and motifs, J. D. Salinger highlights how Holden is shown to be struggling with his own identity and sense of self. To begin with, Holden uses jargon commonly throughout the novel to show his identity through the way he uses language.
As the book is set in the 1950s, the use of expletives was frowned upon and Salinger has explored this concept. Holden commonly uses the word ‘Goddam’. It illustrates his brutal honesty and outlook on the world. As it was appalling to use profanity but Holden constantly did, shows that Holden’s identity is made up of a rebellious characteristic that doesn’t fit into society, resembling an outcast that is frowned upon. As part of Holden’s jargon, qualifiers are used commonly. Holden uses qualifiers to emphasise his uncertainty and insecurity about his knowledge, and trying to confirm to the reader that he is correct.
On page 3 of the novel Holden uses qualifiers to show his intended thoughts and opinions on Pencey Prep – “The more expensive a school is, the more crooks it has – I’m not kidding. ” The qualifier of “I’m not kidding” shows that Holden is dubious about his accusation, and showing the reader that he is opinionated in his outlook on the world, which contributes to his overall identity. The symbolism by Salinger used throughout the novel, shows a deeper meaning in the way Holden looks out on the world. A major reoccurring symbol throughout the novel is the red hunting hat.
This hat acts as a medium through which Holden demonstrated his individuality. The hat, which he describes as one with “very, very long peaks” acts as a symbol of protection throughout the book. The colour red not only symbolises passion but also coincides with Allie and Phoebe’s red hair – his siblings who he adores and idolises – his protectors. In every instance the hat is mentioned, it is at a time where he needs protection or is being protected. When Holden is leaving the Wicker Bar in New York, drunk and with wet hair, the hat-check girl “made me [Holden] put it on before I went out, because my hair was still pretty wet. Here the red hunting hat is being used as a protector for Holden showing that his identity needs protecting by the two siblings with whom he loves. The symbol of the Museum of Natural History also holds great significance for Holden in the world. As the museum’s displays are frozen and still it shows that Holden wants this in his life. Holden loves this because “the best thing, though, in that museum was that everything always stayed right where it was. ” He wants his world and his identity to never change, just like the Museum.
Due to the fact that his world was turned on its head when his brother Allie dies, he never wants it to change again. This demonstrates that Holden is searching for an identity that never changes, he wants to be the same, and feel the same and his world to be the same at all times and this is demonstrated through the symbol of the museum. The ducks in the pond at Central Park hold a deep significance in the novel. Holden throughout the book displays his curiosity and constant interest in where the ducks from the central park pond go in the winter when it freezes over.
In a conversation with a taxi driver named Horwitz Holden asks “Do you happen to know where they [the ducks] go in the wintertime by any chance? ” His constant questioning is because the ducks world and habitat is the duck pond in Central Park, much like Holden’s world is New York City. Holden seeks to find what happens to the duck when their “world” changes and freezes over, this is because Holden wants to know how they cope with drastic change, which is what Holden is trying to cope with throughout the book.
The ducks symbolise Holden’s search for identity in the need for belonging to something and coping with himself in a changing world. Furthermore, the carousel in the novel acts as a symbol for Holden’s quest for identity. The carousel constantly goes “around and around”, in circles never finding a beginning or end much like Holden’s search for his identity. While Holden watches his sister Phoebe on the carousel it is much like Holden watching his life constantly turning, trying to find a beginning and end, trying to cope with change.
The carousel confirms Holden is struggling in the world to find his place – his identity. On the carousel, the bitt or the gold ring on the Horses mouth acts as a symbol for Holden’s challenges in the world. Holden observes, “All the kids kept trying to grab for the gold ring,” showing that Holden knows that children are always reaching for a challenge and “you have to let them do it, and not say anything. ” Holden wishes his child life was like this, and so wants his sister to have this life so that she can find a way to cope with change and difference, because he cannot.
He says “if they fall off, they fall off, but it’s bad if you say anything to them. ” This summarises that he seeks independence as part of his identity in the world. The themes used throughout The Catcher in the Rye also show Holden’s conceptual view on the world and the shaping of his identity. Innocence is a major theme throughout the novel. Holden constantly tries to protect the innocence of children so that their lives do not become corrupt with difficult questions, challenges and changes. – Holden craves this childhood innocence constantly throughout the novel.
When he visits Phoebe’s primary school he notices the words “F**k you” written on the wall. He didn’t want the innocent children to see this curse word written on their school wall because “they’d all think about it and maybe even worry about it for a couple of days,” and he doesn’t like the thought of children worrying about anything, instead remaining innocent and enjoying their life. So Holden scratches the words off the wall despite the fact he sees it as “…hopeless anyway. If you had a million years to do it in, you couldn’t rub out even half the ‘F**k you’ signs in the world. This shows that Holden in himself doesn’t want the children’s identity as an innocent child to be damaged with profanity. Another major theme used throughout the book is alienation. Holden feels constantly alienated in the world, as his identity doesn’t suit the status quo of society. Holden believes that in the game of life he is on the “other side, where there aren’t any hot-shots. ” He feels excluded due to his identity and that he doesn’t fit in because of what’s happened to him. Holden fails to try to fit in because he is tied up with the fact that he doesn’t fit in, in the first place.
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In the juxtaposition of Sally Hayes and Jane Gallagher it demonstrates that Holden longs for companionship but lives off isolation and alienation. This adds to his identity, as he is confused about his stand in society. In conclusion, in The Catcher in the Rye, J. D. Salinger highlights Holden’s struggle for identity and finding a place in society. Through the use of jargon, symbols and themes, Holden Caulfield is portrayed to the reader as a confused character who has a conceptual view on the world but in the end longs for a personal identity that will allow him to feel accepted in society.
Author: Allan Leider
Catcher in the Rye
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