English Period 2
Sadness and loneliness are two feelings that we all experienced or are experiencing through the teenage years that make it difficult to build connections with others. Holden Caulfield, the main character is surrounded by people to build connections with, yet he fails to form relationships. J.D. Salinger in The Catcher in the Rye (1945) suggests that Holden depends on his loneliness, alienating himself to build connections with others through the motif of isolation in order to convince young adults to stay on the right track in life and be open to the inevitable changes that come.
At the beginning of the book, Holden instantly clues us in that he is an outsider and isolates himself from the people at Pency Prep (the school he attends), and the world around him, “[ ] it was [ ] the football game with Saxon Hall. The game with Saxon Hall was supposed to be a very big deal around Pency [ ] I was standing way the hell up on Thomsen Hill (Salinger, 4). Usually, the restlessness for the advent of the football game brings the school together. However, this is a metaphor for Holdens life in general. Everyone gathers down at the field socializing, having a good time as Holden watches alone on the top of Thomsen hill. Furthermore, Holden states his melancholy feel for Pency. He decides that, “I changed my mind [ ] I decided what I’d really do, I’d get the hell out of Pency [ ] It made me too sad and lonesome” (Salinger, 57-58). This reflects Holden being an outsider at Pency. He doesnt have any connections with others because he is often judgmental, forming negative opinions about them, creating a wall between them. Holden alienates himself and decides to venture off into the real world after not fitting in with the people at his school.
We see that his loneliness is a reoccurring factor during the middle of the book. After taking a trip to New York alone, he chooses to wander for a bit. On his walk he notices a kid that, “[ ] looked sort of poor. [ ] The kid was swell. [ ] he was walking in the street [ ] the whole time he kept singing and humming. [ ] It made me feel better. It made me feel not so depressed anymore” (Salinger, 55%). Holden states that he finds a sense of happiness in this kid minding his own business down the busy road. It reminds Holden of his life, a kid full of content next to a road of commotion not a care in the world for whats going on around him. Holden is off alone in his life in the largest city and just got kicked out of school and has no future waiting for him. There are many people to form connections with though he chooses to be off on his own. Salinger’s message revealed through the motif of loneliness is the reality of the world he’s living in, there are people just like Holden. He shouldnt be as lonely as he is.
Lastly, toward the ending of the book Holden is all out of ideas for where to go and is lost. He has no one to talk to so he contemplates on giving his sister Phoebe a call, While I was changing my shirt, I damn near gave my kid sister Phoebe a buzz, though. I certainly felt like talking to her on the phone. Somebody with sense and all [ ] They’d know it was me (Salinger, 75). Phoebe is the one person he feels closest to, and the only one he reaches out to. Following, near the end of the book Holden spends the night with Mr. Antolini, a very close mentor in Holdens life that has always been there for him. Mr. Antolini teaches Holden, You’re not the first person who was ever confused and frightened [ ] you’ll learn from themif you want to. Just as someday, if you have something to offer, someone will learn something from you Salinger, 89%). Here, Mr. Antolini offers a vital piece of advice to Holden. Mr. Antolini teaches Holden that education is important because will feel less isolated. Its a coincidence that Holden recently was kicked out of school and his failing grades are a factor of why Holden is lonely. We see Holdens sense of loneliness as a driving factor toward the ending of the book.
J.D. Salinger writes the motif of isolation to demonstrate a driving factor for a concrete display of Holdens quest for a relationship in the real world. And, the novel is Holdens cry for a relationship. He talks to us throughout the novel, in the beginning as an outsider at his school. The middle, where Holden is lost in New York City. And the ending of the book when he learns reaching out to the ones closest to him help him to have a more positive outlook on life. Sorrow and loneliness shape who we are. Experiencing these changes are inevitable through the teenage years, we have to be vulnerable to the changes that come in order to grow.