April 8, 2014
Love and Death in Catcher in the Rye
In this article written by Peter Shaw, Holden Caulfield a fictional character in the world famous novel The Catcher in the Rye gets deeply analyzed. Holden is seen by many as a mentally disturbed adolescent but the source of this disturbance puzzles numerous people who attempt to analyze his mental state. Some believe that society has caused him to become mad and others believe that the source of his insanity stems from a commonly known illness, schizophrenia. Shaw on the other hand has a completely different view on why Holden is the way he is. In Peter Shaws eyes, he sees the guilt that Holden carries from the death of his older brother Allie who died at the age of 10. He also observes that Holden suppresses his ability to fully mature and he also is a slave to the curse of adolescence that we all have experienced at one time or another.
Holden Caulfield does not allow himself to move on from his brothers death and continuously carries an unneeded burden of the fault of his siblings passing. Shaw explains that Holdens constant self talking lets him convince himself that he is in fact crazy and the cause of the destruction in his family. Along with blaming himself, he also blames his little sister and says that she also killed Allie even though the child was merely a baby at the time. This form of killed though was not literal but in a figurative meaning of her amusing Allie. Peter Shaw concludes that his inability to not bury Allie and other things from his past has paralyzed him from the maturing process that any normal child would be experiencing. His mourning is continuous and does not allow him to recognize reality from fantasy thus permitting himself to coax the auto diagnosis of craziness.
Peter Shaw elucidates the fact that Holden has a habit of prohibiting the idea of both love and death. When he first goes to the Museum of Natural History he is engrossed in the dioramas of American Indian life. The diorama portrays a couple as he assumes doing their daily works of fishing and weaving and seems to be in complete harmony. None of the exhibits especially this one will ever age of change and the serenity of the image are eternal which gives him a sense of relief. The comparison of this Utopian couple and the exact opposite, Holdens own parents, offsets him and causes him to envision the nonstop fighting that occurs in his home. The Indian couple will never change and never have to move from the spot that they stand in at that moment. Peter Shaw relates this to Holdens idea of maturity and how the burden of becoming an adult can disrupt the serenity of the love that is in front of him which causes him to put a permanent moratorium on love.
Holden has a fantasy of being the catcher in the rye. This fantasy is the protector of children who are running throughout the rye fields and are destined to fall off the cliff. Shaw examines this as him catching the children from falling off the cliff which can be perceived as them falling into adulthood and out of their childhood. He wants to catch them from falling into mourning and from what shortly follows that, falling into love. Holden truly believes that adulthood is the key to eternal damnation and unhappiness and the only way to sustain the happiness at hand is to maintain the childhood. When he visits the second museum he finds himself in an exhibit that holds many mummies. Holden experiences a short of ease and a comfort in this room because just like the other, everything will always stay the same. Peter Shaw then concludes that this comfort can also be accompanied by the desire for Allie to be preserved in the room with him, never changing and entitled to an everlasting adolescence.
Peter Shaw examines Holdens character as both very observant of the society around him but at the same time has a fallacious judgment from the little information that he holds. Holden represents in the eyes of Shaw, an extreme case of juvenile madness cause by the chains of a guilty conscience, an inability to free himself from the idea of maturity as unhappiness and a perceptive outlook on the world.