Holden is a complex person with many conflicting characteristics. He has many ambitions and desires for his life but he is faced with the basic conflict in the story, corruption. This corruption is what drives him and at the same time restricts him Holden’s being surrounded by corruption disgusts him.
There are a few main instances in which Holden encounters corruption directly. One type is Stradlater, the “secret slob” or Ernie, who “performs for the people”. Two that affect Holden very much are his brother D.B. “selling out” to the movies and Pheobe eventually having to grow up. This corruption is very evident in Holden’s life and situation.
Corruption is what Holden wants to avoid but cannot because he wants to grow up and act like an adult. Drinking, ordering the prostitute, and using money are all things that grownups do but Holden yet still wants to remain innocent. These are a few obvious ironies in Holden’s personality.
Holden’s utter hate for the fact that we have to grow up and how he ties adulthood with corruption just shows how he has a large problem determining illusion from reality. He doesn’t understand that to grow does not mean to become corrupt but to become wiser through experience.
These experiences are what frightens Holden because this boy of sixteen has already been involved in many of the pleasures and problems that come from these experiences. Holden’s “catcher in the rye” analogy shows how he wants to save the children from this corruption but he never will.
Holden wants to be the great savior of a helpless cause and does not realize he has fallen into the evil hands of corruption. Holden idolizes Allie as a little brother who died.
The reason for this idolization is that Allie will never become corrupt. He will always be in Holden’s mind a little boy not affected by the dirty hands of society. Pheobe, on the other hand, will have to enter the world sooner or later, and then she too will become corrupt. D.B., though, has already submitted to that corruption by “selling out” to the movies.
Holden realizes that D.B. has given his story to the movie business and does not like it because he wanted his brother to continue writing the little stories he loved so much. Pheobe, diametrically, has not yet been absorbed by society but is on her way and Holden nor anyone else can stop her.
Holden finds corruption in almost everything he sees but does not yet even realize that he too is part of that corrupt world the minute he stopped being a child and wanting to be an adult. By doing many of the things he does he displays a desire to grow up, to act mature, to ultimately blend in with society but he is restricted by his ideals of innocence.
The way he orders his drinks, dances with the two ladies in the hotel, and spends his money frivolously shows how Holden has accepted the reality of being an adult but can not come to terms with the fact that all children will also enter Holden’s corrupt society. Holden’s basic description of a corrupt person is a phony.
This characterization is often harsh and unjust to many of the people he attributes this characteristic to. But there are people that Holden does like other than Pheobe and Allie. James Castle, Jane Gallager, the two nuns he spoke to in the coffee shop, and the little child on the curb of the road are a few. James Castle is someone that Holden could possibly identify with.
He dies because of a refusal to take something back; something that was true. In respect to Jane Gallager Holden could possibly be in love with her but does not ask her in fear of her saying “no” but if she says “yes” he would not be able to come through an attribute of adulthood Holden has yet to acquire.
Holden has yet to acquire many different aspects of adulthood. This is what keeps his personality in a state of ambiguity. No one knows whether Holden wants to become an adult or stay a child. In my opinion, he wants to continue his life as an adult but a child at heart and mind. By doing this he destroys many incorrupt things that he has yet to experience.
Holden’s whole life revolves around the battle of corruption and innocence. This battle, through Holden’s eyes, is one of adulthood versus childhood. This battle is an impossible one and until Holden realizes this he will never leave his land of illusion and adjust to the world.
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