Holden Caulfield’s Childhood Memories
“All Changes, even the most longed for, have their melancholy; for what we leave behind us is a part of ourselves; we must die to one life before we can enter another”(Anatole France). It’s okay to feel scared to face a new time or change in your life but sometimes we have to make a change to move on, even if it frights you. In the book called “The Catcher in the Rye” by J.D. Salinger. The protagonist of this story is called Holden Caulfield. Some of the main characters in this novel are named Phoebe Caulfield, Allie, Stradlater, Mr.Antolini, and Jane Gallagher. Holden Caulfield is a 16-year-old boy who faces a time in his life where he is scared to move on in life and become an adult. He sometimes forced himself to grow up, but he always tried to go back to places where he had good memories of when he was a young child. He would be sent to a variety of different high schools all the time and every time he would fail his classes and get kicked out. He would go back to his home in New York where his parents and his sister Phoebe who he loved would be. In a way it was like he was running in circles he wanted to be home with his family and where he had good memories of his childhood. He showed throughout the story that he didn’t want to grow up. Although, he did sometimes show he wanted to become an adult in a way he showed regret and depression after trying to act or be as an adult. Holden is afraid and trapped in the world of his childhood memories that result in him avoiding the path of growing up to an adult.
First, Holden mentions throughout the novel that he misses many of the good memories he made when he was a young child. When he goes to the Museum of Natural History, The Carousel, or the skating park those are all places where he remembers his childhood memories of being there and being happy. He expresses that he feels happy and safe being in those places because he feels that nothing has changed and he enjoys that feeling of being in a place where he can see that everything stayed the same. When he went to the Carasouel with Phoebe, Holden had said “It was playing “Oh, Marie!” It played that same song about fifty years ago when I was a little kid. That’s one nice thing about carrousels, they always play the same songs”(210). This is one of the many examples of the novel when Holden expresses his happiness for being in a place where he can remember his childhood memories. Another example would be when Holden went to the Museum of Natural History, Holden said “Nobody’d be different. The only thing that would be different would be you. Not that you’d be much older or anything. It wouldn’t be that exactly. You’d just be different”(121). This quote was said by Holden after he had looked around the museum and was enjoying the many memories he had made there and how everything was the same as how it was when he was a child. Holden by saying this quote, he was trying in a way to avoid thinking of the fact that he had grown up and wasn’t the small kid he used to be when he was in that museum for the last time before he grew up. In his mind, he just wanted to think of it as if the only thing that has changed was the way he thought about everything around him. He didn’t want to admit that he was close to entering the world of Adults. Which shows his fear of having to enter the world of Adults. Holden is happy and feels safe in the places where he remembers his childhood and he wants things to stay the same so he can be happy.
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Second, Holden regrets and gets very depressed every time he acts or is in events where he tries to be an Adult or starts seeing how adults act. For example, Holden every time he’s out drinking in bars or just looking at the actions of the adults around him when he goes for walks. He usually calls many adults Phoniess without even getting to know them just by judging their actions and many people that have been called Phony by Holden are adults. He also mentions a lot through the novel that they make him depressed. There was an event in the novel where Holden went to the lavender room where he met three women whom he had danced with and talked with them for a while and Holden said “They were so ignorant, and they had those sad, fancy hats on and all. And that business about getting up early to see the first show at Radio City hall depressed me”(75). This means that Holden doesn’t like how adults are and the way they act or what they say. It’s a reason for him to avoid entering the world of adulthood. He’s afraid to act the same way as they do. Lastly. Holden tried to be an adult by hiring a prostitute but in the end, he just pays her the money and lets her leave without doing anything with her. Which showed his regret and fear of acting that way to be considered an adult. Afterward, he was forced to pay more money to the prostitute, and Holden said “All of a sudden I started to cry. I’d give anything if I hadn’t but I did”(103). This showed how Holden was afraid of how the people around him were acting and how he wasn’t tough enough to act strong and defend himself which shows how he isn’t prepared to be an adult and is scared to see his future if he would be an adult.
Finally, Holden wishes to be a Catcher in The Rye where he protects many children and his goal is to protect their innocence for as long as he can. In a way it shows how much Holden is trying to avoid entering that world he fears so much as growing up he wants to be exactly how he is now and he wants to protect innocent children from the world he thinks is so horrible for children to see. When Holden went to his parents’ house to visit Phoebe he told her what his wish to be was and how it would make him happy and Holden said “You know what I’d like to be? I mean if I had my goddam choice?… Anyway, I keep picturing all these little kids playing some game in this big field of rye and all. Thousands of little kids, and nobody’s around-nobody big, I mean-except me. And I’m 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 they’re running and they don’t look where they’re going I have to come out from somewhere and catch them. That’s all I’d do all day. I’d just be the catcher in the rye and all. I know it’s crazy, but that’s the only thing I’d really like to be. I know it’s crazy”(173). Holden in this quote expresses how he truly does wish to stay the way he is and never has to enter the world of adulthood. The catcher in the rye symbolizes protecting the innocent. Holden is so terrified about how adults act and what they say. That he wants to protect children from seeing or hearing what adults do or say. It’s a way for him to escape that route in his life and do something that avoids him from becoming and experiencing how to be an adult and at the same time making sure no other children would have to go through the pain and suffer he had to go through since he started to learn and see how the adult world truly was.
In conclusion, the childhood memories that Holden had and how he was very happy in those times. Do make him feel trapped and afraid to become an adult which leads him into avoiding that path that many have to take in life. Missing those times when he was a child and was happy in life do make him think that everything would be better in his life if everything stayed the same but he knows that can’t be possible which leads him into feeling safe when he’s around places that remind him of his childhood memories. Feeling safe in those places is what makes him feel that everything’s going to be okay if he stays the way he is and doesn’t need to grow up. Seeing how adults act and how much he regrets and gets depressed every time he tries to be an adult makes him start to realize how much growing up and entering the world of adults can make him suffer and go through the pain he doesn’t wish to go through. It terrified Holden and made him feel afraid to see how his life will be if he becomes an adult. Being the catcher in the rye is what would make Holden happy and that’s what Holden wants to feel in life. He wants to be happy and what makes him happy is to not be an adult and protect children from the terrible world of adults. That’s why Holden thinks it’s a necessary job for him to do because he wants to be a better person by protecting the innocence of children. Being afraid of change is okay, Holden was afraid of change but he made his decision that he didn’t want to enter the world of Adults. Although, at some point, we have to realize that a decision has to be made and many things can make you feel that you have to avoid taking a decision that can change your life. Sometimes, we have to learn that you have to accept the past and continue to the future although it can be terrifying. Being strong and having hope is what can help you move on in life. Your past is what helps you mold into the person you are, but at one point it will be time to let go and hold for what the future has ahead of you.