Holden is an Outcast
Holden doesn’t fit in with anyone and is a loner. Why is this? This is because he has a hard time acting his age, he does not act like a kid but he has a hard time acting like an adult, he sees most people as phony, and doesn’t care about his own life.
In The Catcher In the Rye, by J.D. Salinger, Holden is made out to be a confused boy, lost in life with no purpose. He has gotten kicked out of numerous prep schools. He is a bright boy that thinks he has no purpose in life, which has left him depressed and lonely. Holden is a loner and an outcast because he acts mature for his age but older adults don’t give in. He describes most people as phony, and he has a bad attitude towards life.
Holden is only 16, but he acts much older than he is because Holden is lost and confused. He finds no one to fit in with his own age and searches for different groups to fit in with. He tries to fit in with older groups of people but fails to because of his young appearance. This is apparent in many parts of the book. It is not more evident to us when he offers multiple people to go and get a cocktail. The first occurrence was when he meets Ernest’s mom on the train.
“Would you care for a cocktail?” I asked her. I was feeling in the mood for one myself. “We can go in the club car. All right?” “Dear, are you allowed to order drinks?” she asked me. “ (Salinger 57)
Holden asks multiple people to grab a cocktail with him because he is depressed and alone so he feels that drinking with other people will wash his problems away. This happens many more times including various cab drivers and while with random women. Holden always seems to be interested in getting a cocktail with someone else so he doesn’t feel lonely. He also can get away from his school troubles and peers by drinking and smoking.
Not only this, but his encounter in the elevator with Maurice stirred up some obvious desperation for company. Hiring a prostitute for his pleasure is seen as shocking because prostitutes are known for middle-aged men who have not found love, which is hardly the case for a sixteen-year old boy. Holden not only acts like an adult but he also is very immature at points in the book. This shifting behavior is another reason Holden has trouble fitting in with anyone. Holden also tries to separate him self from his peers. It seems that he prefers the life of an outcast.
“Anyway, it was the Saturday of the football game with Saxon Hall. The game with Saxon Hall was supposed to be a very big deal around Pencey. It was the last game of the year, and you were supposed to commit suicide or something if old Pencey didn’t win.”
At this point, Holden shows little interest in many things that are social events. Instead of sitting down at the field with all of his classmates to watch the game, he chose to watch it up on Thomsen Hill by himself. Holden acts immature at points and attempts to act mature because he is just trying to find a way in life.
Phony people to Holden are people who do not act like who they are. This hinders Holden’s social life because he doesn’t trust anyone. Holden looks at many other people’s appearance, personality, and character. He often sees these traits to be phony or fake. Throughout the book he calls many things and people phony. When he encounters his brother’s old friend Lillian, they have a conversation only involving D.B. When Holden reveals that he is in Hollywood, Lillian is suddenly interested in talking to Holden. This also illuminates Lillian to be a phony to Holden.
“How marvelous to see you!” old Lillian Simmons said. Strictly a phony” (Salinger 86)
Even after just meeting this woman Holden is quick to put a label on her. Holden judges people even though he does not know them very well. He does not give them a chance, but makes them out to be bad people and sometimes ignores them. Holden even refers to his own brother as a prostitute, which he considers phony.
“Ernie's is this night club in Greenwich Village that my brother D.B. used to go to quite frequently before he went out to Hollywood and prostituted himself.” (Salinger 80)
I believe that this quote reveals that Holden is upset with his life and is jealous of the success that his brother, D.B. is receiving. He also can’t open up to anyone about his feelings and problems about being depressed. He blames “people” for his problems and ruining his life. This is another reason why he does not fit in with anyone.
My third point is that Holden has a hard time in life and does not take it seriously. We see this in the very fbrginning of the book, when Holden says his goodbyes to Mr. Spencer.
“Oh…well, about Life being a game and all. And how you should play it according to the rules. He was pretty nice about it. I mean he didn't hit the ceiling or anything. He just kept talking about Life being a game and all. You know.”
“Life is a game, boy. Life is a game that one plays according to the rules” (Salinger 8)
This quote shows that Holden is a rebel and with that he does not believe in playing by the rules. He believes that the non-hotshots, which includes himself, have no rules to play by because life is simply no game. Holden also proceeds to inflict harm to his body voluntarily with drinking and smoking daily.
“He didn't live on the campus. He lived on Anthony Wayne Avenue. I ran all the way to the main gate, and then I waited a second till I got my breath. I have no wind, if you want to know the truth. I'm quite a heavy smoker, for one thing--that is, I used to be.” (Salinger 5)
This shows no attentiveness towards his own health, almost as if he wants to speed up the process of his life. Holden also provoked many skirmishes with Stradlater and Maurice in which he never fought back.
“I wasn't knocked out or anything, though, because I remember looking up from the floor and seeing them both go out the door and shut it. Then I stayed on the floor a fairly long time, sort of the way I did with Stradlater. Only, this time I thought I was dying. I really did. I thought I was drowning or something. The trouble was, I could hardly breathe. When I did finally get up, I had to walk to the bathroom all doubled up and holding onto my stomach and all. But I'm crazy. I swear to God I am. About halfway to the bathroom, I sort of started pretending I had a bullet in my guts. Old 'Maurice had plugged me.” (Salinger 103)
The passage shows that Holden is now wishing for death and he really does not care about his own life. Holden’s hard time in life, with the loss of his brother and other troubles has finally affected him majorly. He has placed him self away from others and does not care what they think about him.
Holden is a lost soul and has no direction in life. He believes no one cares about what happens to him and neither does he. He is alone and by himself because he acts older than he is, has a phony mindset, and doesn’t take life seriously. Holden can’t seem to find someone to truly listen to his problems. Many people deal with this in real life and sometimes end their own life. Holden has shown signs that he could be suicidal. What if Holden was not like this?
If Holden did not have these traits, then he could possibly live a life without trouble. Overall Holden doesn’t fit in with anyone. He tries to act with many personalities but none of them workout. It just seems like he can’t see eye to eye with many people, which cripples him in the long run.