“The Catcher in the Rye” Opinion and Analysis

Ever wanted to read J.D. Salinger’s “The Catcher in the Rye”? You 100% should. Consult this essay for an analysis of Holden Caulfield and a personal opinion on the ban of this novel.



Over winter break, I read J.D. Salinger’s novel, The Catcher in the Rye. I absolutely loved reading this book, and I finished it in two days. This novel has the most unique writing style that I personally do not think anyone except Salinger can master. It feels like a personal conversation with Holden Caulfield, and he is telling you about his life story. I recommend this book to everyone because there is such pleasure in reading it. When you finish the novel and are able to read between the lines and connect all of the dots, it is a highly rewarding experience.

I’ve been reading essays about his novel to help further my knowledge and analysis: I have re-read the last chapter and the reason I have been saying that it feels like a conversation is because it is! The novel is a retelling of his life story to a doctor in a mental institution. I thought people were “reaching” for something and assuming he’s in a mental hospital, but now as I have re-read the last chapter, Holden pretty obviously tells the reader that he’s in a mental hospital. 

Holden is a teenager in 1950s New York who has gotten kicked out of 3 prep schools because of his failing grades. When he is kicked out of his 3rd school, he decides to leave it a few days early for winter break and go to New York City before he has to come home. I think this trip is where a lot of controversy takes place because he does some things that some readers may find inappropriate: he goes to bars, stays at the made up Edmont Hotel, gets a prostitute to stay with him, but he kind of bails on her. He goes on an unsuccessful date, drunkenly wanders around the city, and he visits a teacher (which I will come back to later) all to avoid coming home before his winter break and having his parents figure out he got kicked out… again. He says that everything depresses him, and to him, so many people are phonies. And he hates phonies! Everyone seems to be a depressing phony. The only things that seems to not make him feel depressed are child-like things: a child singing a poem, “Comin’ Thro’ The Rye” and wanting to be the Catcher in the Rye, as in catching the children who are falling off a cliff because they were playing in a field of rye. Throughout the novel he is constantly told that he is immature and needs to grow up, which I think is ironic considering the only things that make him feel happy have something to do with being a child. I believe that Holden is afraid of growing up, which is a note I originally made in my annotations. 

Holden has a child-like impulsivity, and when he has an idea he just wants to GO GO GO and doesn’t seem to care too much about leaving people behind or any serious long-term consequences of his quick impulses, like leaving NYC and moving into a small cabin in the middle of nowhere by himself, deciding he is leaving the next day after having this idea. It is mentioned that things really depress him; he has a conversation with a colleague about how he needs to go to a psychoanalyst, and I also believe that he has an attention deficit disorder because he can not stay focused on anything and is very impulsive. 

Now, this novel is banned in some schools. I personally disagree with this and think that it’s an awesome book. One reason that this book is banned in some schools is because it curses a lot. And by a lot I mean it says “goddamn” at least once every 3 pages, and many parents think that Holden is a bad role model for this. Additionally, he underage drinks and sends a prostitute to his hotel room. Holden talks about how Catholics always want to know if you’re Catholic, that he is an atheist, thinks Jesus is cool, but is annoyed by the disciples and doesn’t care much about the rest of the Bible. Some people find this to be blasphemous, which is another reason why they wanted to get it banned. People were not trying to nationally ban this novel, just in some schools and libraries if it was part of the curriculum or available to read. I personally disagree with this idea of banning the novel because I think that parents should hold their children to a level of maturity that the references and language in this novel should not be a problem. Obviously, I can not tell parents how to parent, but that is just my opinion. 

Earlier, I mentioned that Holden went and saw a teacher, Mr. Antolini.

Holden went and stayed the night with Mr. Antolini and his wife. He called them past midnight and they were very welcoming to him staying the night. He went to their house, and Mrs. Antolini made them coffee and Holden caught up with Mr. Antolini, who went on a rant about Holden applying himself in school. There is a wonderful essay I stumbled upon while searching for “molestation in the Catcher in the Rye (The Secret Rape of Holden Caulfield | Stereo Realist – Depth and Clarity)” and this writer makes some very interesting points about this night. If anyone is interested in reading this essay or just hearing about this concept, I would love to forward it to you or just talk to you about it. But since this essay was not part of my reading journey at first, I’ll continue on with my original train of thought. During the night, Holden wakes up to someone rubbing his head: “Then something happened. I don’t even like to talk about it…It was Mr. Antolini’s hand…he was sitting on the floor right next to the couch, in the dark and all, and he was sort of petting me” (249). After Holden freaks out Mr. Antolini said he was just sitting and “admiring” (249). His sentence got interrupted but readers assume he was admiring Holden in his sleep. Mr. Antolini then goes and throws the blame on Holden, calling him a very, very strange boy for reacting. This is not only weird, but incredibly predatory. After Holden leaves, he admits that when these perverted things happen to him he sweats and becomes uncomfortable, saying “this kind of stuff’s happened to me about twenty times since I was a kid. I can’t stand it” (251). The reader then understands that Holden has been a victim to sexual predators since he was young. 

Is his traumatic experience the reason behind his need for protection of children? Is this the reason he is so attached to youth and not growing up? I think that his trauma is a root to why his only source of happiness is children singing and playing in a field of rye together. I believe that Holden’s past with sexual predators is also the reason behind his child-like behavior. He wants to protect children because he was not protected as a child. He wants to catch the children from falling into the evil reality of the world and prevent them from getting hurt. He keeps catching them to avoid them feeling pain in their youth.