ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

A Character Analysis of Holden Caulfield

Updated on March 5, 2013

Essay

Holden Caulfield's Weaknesses

Holden Caulfield is one of the most interesting and confusing characters in all of literature. He is the seventeen year old narrator and protagonist in The Catcher In The Rye by J.D. Salinger. Holden tells the story of a weekend spent in New York after he was kicked out of his fourth school for bad grades and a lack of effort. Holden is a very opinionated boy who has been related to by teenagers over the last 60 years. Throughout the book, he begins to understand that childhood innocence cannot be protected forever and everybody must learn to grow up at some point in their lives. Holden is unique in many ways. Unfortunately, his many weaknesses, that are brought to center stage throughout this novel, overpower his strengths.

Holden reveals to the reader that he is irresponsible in the first two chapters. After being asked by Mr. Spencer how his parents would respond to him being kicked out of school he said, "This is about the fourth school I've gone to"(9). Without his parents there to guide him, he does not get any schoolwork done. This is the main reason Holden is considered irresponsible. Another example is during his last few days at Pencey, Holden causes the school's fencing team to forfeit their match by leaving the team's foils on the subway. Again, his lack of responsibility shows as he blames the lost foils on his team for boarding the wrong subway when really it was all his fault.

Besides being irresponsible, Holden has a unique type of self-inflicted loneliness. Most lonely people prefer hiding away by themselves and are too shy to have a lot of human-interactions. Holden is the complete opposite; he makes it clear that he is lonely by openly making plans with other people every chance that he can get. He always finds a flaw about them that he dislikes which leads to him being let down and wishing he never would have asked them in the first place. For example, Holden says this statement; "almost every time somebody gives me a present, it ends up making me sad" (52). This reversal of a stereotype is much like a depressed person always acting happy to avoid being noticed. Holden states that he is lonely too many times to count in the book. He desperately interacts with other people to fulfill his longing for a person he enjoys being with. He seems to be lonely because he isolates himself from the world of "phonies" which is basically everyone he meets.

One of Holden's traits that is often overlooked by readers is his outgoing and eccentric personality. Holden is a very good conversationalist when he is with other people, even when he is with someone he says he does not like. One day Holden sets up a date with Sally Hayes to see a theater production. Before the date, he admits that he does not overly enjoy being with her. Then during the date, he tells her he loves her and asks her to run away to the west with him and live together. This event shows how eccentric Holden really is. Part of the reason he is eccentric is because he is so desperate and lonely that he will do anything with anyone as long as he is not alone.

One way to understand Holden's unique combination of weaknesses is to look at the traumatic events in his childhood, most importantly the death of his brother, Allie. How Holden reacted to his brother's death, by smashing all of the windows in the garage that night, shows that this event has had the most impact of any on his life. Holden receives another taste of death when he is in the dorm during the death of James Castle. Because of these horrific events, Holden is plagued with thoughts of mortality throughout this novel. Holden deals with his own mortality in a unique way; he does not seem to care about the direction of his life at times and seems to possess almost a death wish. He even talks about suicide after the depressing Sally Hayes incident, saying "I'm sort of glad they've got the atomic bomb invented. If there's ever another war, I'm going to set right the hell on top of it. I'll volunteer for it, I swear to God I will" (141).

Overall, Holden Caulfield remains lost the entire book and never finds his straight path in life. He does not have much of a future in store for him at this point in his young life. When Holden travels home and talks to his younger sister, Phoebe, he finds a shining sliver of hope in life. This exemplifies a strong point in his character which is the never-dying urge to keep trying to find happiness. Unfortunately, his weaknesses overpower his strengths in the end, causing his life to spiral out of control.

Comments

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • M - Coello profile image

      M - Coello 

      9 months ago

      I totally agree with you! When I started to read the book I really did not understand why this book and this character were so special because of Holden's actions and his way of thinking but at the end I kind of understood him and feel related in some sort of way. And his thoughts definitely are confusing and deep.

    • Elyse Thomas profile image

      Elyse Maupin-Thomas 

      14 months ago from North Carolina

      I somehow missed out on reading Catcher in the Rye during my high school experience, so I read it myself not long ago. Holden is certainly a powerful character, and I could only take small doses of him at a time. Your character study certainly helped me process him more easily!

    • letstalkabouteduc profile image

      McKenna Meyers 

      3 years ago from Bend, OR

      Thanks for the hub. I'm currently reading Catcher in the Rye to my son so this is quite helpful. I read that so much of Holden's confusion and cynicism and hopelessness is based on J.D. Salinger's experiences upon returning home after his horrific experiences during WW2. It's easier for me to understand Holden knowing this.

    working

    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, hubpages.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://hubpages.com/privacy-policy#gdpr

    Show Details
    Necessary
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Features
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Marketing
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Statistics
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)