A novel, which has gained literary recognition worldwide, scrutiny to the point of censorship and has established a following among adolescents, The Catcher in the Rye is in its entirety a unique connotation of the preservation of innocence and the pursuit of compassion. With certain elegance the writer J.D. Salinger, substantiates the growth and perils, which lie between childhood and adulthood. Embellishing the differentiation between innocence and squalor in the grasps of society.
The bridge that lies between these contrasting themes are personified through the novels protagonist, Holden Caul-field and his visualization of a cliff, which depicts a dividing point between the evident beginning and end. The connection, which binds this gap in reality, was made clear through a new found compassion, consummating Holdens place in society through the realization of his surroundings from which he successfully crosses over.
Focusing on the rebellious and confused actuality of adolescents stuck between the innocence of childhood and the corruptness of the adult world, this novel strikes a cord, which most adolescents can relate. The essence of the story The Catcher in the Rye follows the forty-eight hour escapade of sixteen-year-old Holden Caulfield, told through first person narration. After his expulsion from Pency, a fashionable prep school, the lat-est in a long line of expulsions, Holden has a few confrontations with his fellow students and leaves shortly after to return to his hometown, New York City. In the heart of New York City, Holden spends the following two days hiding out to rest before confronting his parents with the news.
During his adventures in the city he tries to renew some old acquaintances, find his significance in the adult world, and come to grips with the head-aches he has been having lately.
Eventually, Holden sneaks home to visit his sister Phoebe, because alone on the streets he feels as if he has no where else to turn. Children are the only people with whom Holden can communicate with throughout the novel, not because they can help him with his growing pains but because they remind him of a simpler time (his inno-cence), which he wishes he could return. The trials of the adult world wear down Holdens vision of a place in society, portraying innocence as a form of retreat from a confusing world. On the subject of innocence and symbolism there of, which is repre-sented through Holdens thoughts and actions, S.N.
Holdens difficulties affect his nervous system but never his vision. It is the vision of an innocent. To the lifeline of this vision he clings invinci-bly, as he does to a phonograph record he buys for Phoebe (till it breaks) and a red hunting cap that is dear to him and that he finally gives to Phoebe, and to Allies baseball glove.
Understanding Holdens notion of innocence and the role it plays throughout the novel helps to put in tune the underlying message found in Holdens description of the catcher in the rye. I keep picturing all these little kids playing some game in this big field of rye and all. Thousands of little kids, and nobodys around–nobody big, I mean- except me.
And Im standing on the edge of some crazy cliff. What I have to do, I have to catch everybody if they start to go over the cliff–I mean if theyre running and they dont look where theyre going I have to come out from somewhere and catch them. Thats all Id do all day. Id just be the catcher in the rye and all. (Pg. 173) The princi-ple of the catcher in the rye is a means for Holden to devote his life to the protection of innocence.
The significance of the catcher image lies in three areas of thought as implied by B. Ramachandra Rao:
First of all, it is a savior image, and shows us the extent of Holdens re-ligious idealism. Secondly, it crystallizes for us Holdens concept of good and evil; childhood is good, the only pure good, but it is surrounded by perils, the cliff of adolescence over which the children will plunge in the evil of adulthood unless stopped. But finally, the image is based on a mis-understanding. The .