Sample Scholarship Essays

Catcher In The Rye

Catcher In The Rye Although J.D. Salinger has only one novel to his credit, that novel, The Catcher in the Rye, is recognized as an exceptional literary work. The key to the success of The Catcher in the Rye is the main character Holden Caulfield. There are many different critics that view Holden in many different ways. Some believe Holden to be a conceited snob, while others see Holden as a Christ-like figure.

It is my opinion, however, that Holden is somewhere in the middle. Holden Caulfield is a character who has a definite code of honor that he attempts to live up to and expects to as abide by as well. Since the death of his brother Allie, Holden has experienced almost a complete sense of alienation from the world around him. This alienation is evident in every part of his life. Holden is unable to relate to anyone at the three prep schools he has attended. While standing on Thomsen Hill, Holden cannot help but feel isolated when he observes the football game, “you were supposed to commit suicide or something if Old Pencey didnt win” (Salinger 2).

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Not only does Holden feel isolated at the schools he has attended; he has this feeling when it comes to his family as well. Upon his return to New York City, Holden does not go home. Instead, he chooses to hide out from his family. According to Ernest Jones, “with his alienation go assorted hatreds of movies, of night clubs, of social and intellectual pretension, and so on. And physical disgust: pimples, sex, an old man picking his nose are all equal cause for nausea” (Jones 7).

Holden feels Previts 2 as though all of these people have failed him in some way or that they are all “phonies” or “corny” in some way or another. It is Holdens perception of those around him as “phonies” and again according to Jones; “Holdens belief that he has a superior moral standard that few people, only his dead brother, his 10-year-old sister, and a fleeting friend [Jane] can live up to” that make him a snob (7). Presenting Holden as “snobbish” hardly does him justice. Critics such Frederick L. Gwynn, Joseph L.

Blotner, and Frederic I. Carpenter view Holden as a character who is “Christ-like in his ambition to protect children before they enter the world of destruction and phoniness” (Carpenter 24). Holdens experiences throughout the course of his life have created a desire in him to preserve the innocence of those he considers to be innocent. He attempts to physically overpower Stradlater when he realizes that Stradlater may have “screwed around” with Jane Gallagher, whom Holden considers to be innocent simply because she “plays checkers with more regard for the symmetry of the pieces on the board than for the outcome of the game”(Gwynn 13). Along with Jane Gallagher, Holden wishes to protect his sister Phoebe, who is very much like Allie in that she has a mix of youthful innocence and generosity that overwhelms Holden. The best example of this generosity is when Holden is moved to tears because Phoebe gave him all of her Christmas money.

Simple acts like this motivated Holden to want to be Christ-like. Holdens desire to be Christ-like is best evidenced in the following quotation: “Anyway, I keep picturing all these little kids playing some game in this big field of rye and all. Thousand of little kids, and nobodys around- nobody big, I mean, except me. And Im 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..” Previts 3 Not only is Holden Christ-like in his desire to protect those who are “innocent” but he, like Jesus, truly”loves his neighbors, especially the poor in goods, appearance, and spirit” (Gwynn 14).

Not only does Holden give ten dollars to the nuns in the station, but he is also depressed by their meagre breakfast and the fact that they will never be “going anywhere swanky for lunch” (Salinger 110). He also worries about the ducks freezing in Central Park, sympathizes with the ugly daughter of Penceys headmaster and even Sunny the prostitute (Carpenter 24). Perhaps the quality that is most Christ-like in Holden is his ability to “forgive like Jesus with his Judas, he [Holden] forgives Stradlater and the bellboy Maurice who have betrayed and beaten him” (Gwynn 14). Because of his compassion and ability to forgive others, Holden can also be viewed as a Christ-like figure. While there is evidence to support Holden as both a snob and a saint, I believe that Holden is a mix between the two. The Catcher in the Rye is the choice of nine of ten murders, whackos, serial killers and, oddly enough, disgruntled teenagers. John Lennon was killed to promote this book.

In the movie Silence of the Lambs, the serial killer John Hinkley was also a big Catcher in the Rye fan as well. The level of general craziness surrounding the book is so bad the movie Conspiracy Theory made it a running joke, even tracking the protagonist portrayed by Mel Gibson by monitoring purchases of The Catcher in the Rye. The reason that this book has a universal appeal to such a variety of people lies in the main character, Holden Caulfield. He can be saintly or snooty, cynical or sincere. Holden is generous to charitable to nuns and protective or children, or be agitated at the “zit-encrusted” Ackely. Still yet, Holden is capable of being quite cynical, Previts 4 the best example of this is in the very opening of the book when Holden states, “If you really want to hear about it, the first thing youll probably want to know is where I was born, and what my lousy childhood was like, and how my parents were occupied and all before they had me, and all that David Copperfield kind of crap, but I dont feel like going into it, if you want to know that truth” (Salinger 1).

Despite his ability to be pejorative, Holden can still be able to be quite sincere. This is evident in his dealings with Phoebe. When Phoebe begins to cry, Holden first”wanted her to cry until her eyes practically dropped out. [He] almost hated her” (Salinger 207). Yet, a few seconds later he wants to take Phoebe to the zoo and the park to assuage her pain.

That is what I believe makes Holden Caulfied such a fascinating and widely admired character. One minute he can be bashing “phonies” then the next he will be acting “phoney” to a mother of a classmates as he was on the train to New York City. So, Holden is neither a saint nor a snob. He is a sarcastic yet sincere teenager who is pursuing Quixotistic ideals of moral order. Holden is caught between the anxiety of childhood and the maturity of the adult world. The appeal of J.D. Salingers novel The Catcher in the Rye is due in no small part to the main character and sole provider of information, the one and only Holden Caulfied.

While some view Holden strictly as an elitist or as a Christ-like figure, I find Holden to a curious mix of the two. Holden is capable of displaying qualities associated with either at any moment throughout the novel. It is this mixture of qualities that makes Holden one of the most fascinating and popular characters in modern literature. Previts 5 Bibliography Carpenter, Frederic I. “The Adolescent in American Fiction” English Journal, 46, No.6 (September 1957): 315-6. Rpt.

in Holden Caulfield ed. Harold Bloom. New York: Chelsea House, 1990. 24. Gwynn, Frederick L., Joseph L.

Blotner. “The Catcher in the Rye” The Fiction of J.D. Salinger (Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 1958): 28-31. Rpt. in Holden Caulfield. ed.

Harold Bloom New York: Chelsea House, 1990. 13-14 Jones, Ernest “Case History of all of Us.” Nation (September 1, 1951): p176. Rpt. in Holden Caulfield. ed.

Harold Bloom New York: Chelsea House, 1990. 7 Salinger, J.D. The Catcher in the Rye. Boston: Little, Brown, and Company, 1951.

catcher in the rye

“Theres far more to the censorship issue than a ban on sex and four-letter words. I sometimes think that those of us who need to be the most clearheaded about these matters are planting the very trees that obscure our view of the forest,” says Dorothy Briley. According to Briley, a vast amount more is needed than simply vulgar language and suggestive material to censor a novel. But this is the very reason why J. D. Salingers The Catcher in the Rye is frequently being banned from high schools. To the teenage readers, who are at the transition from childhood to adulthood, the protagonist of The Catcher in the Rye, Holden Caulfield, who has not quite reached the brink of manhood, becomes the readers hero. The adolescent mind that Salinger portrays so accurately in his novel is one with which most teenagers and readers, at one time or another, could identify. The Catcher in the Rye also contains universal themes that, for teenagers about to shift into adulthood, help young adults better understand the world and other people. Although it does contain abusive language and sexual connotations, The Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger should not be censored in high schools because it provides insightful information and relevance to the life of young adults through its realistic situations and themes of acceptance and materialism.


The reader can relate to the realistic situations, such as the scene at the Lunts play, present in the novel. Salinger portrays “real life while he “She saw some jerk she knew on the other side of the lobby. Some guy in one of those very dark gray flannel suits and one of those checkered vests. Strictly Ivy League. Big DealThe worst part was, the jerk had one of those very phony, Ivy League voices, one of those very tired, snobby voices” (127, 128).

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The theme of materialism also gives insight to the average teenage reader. Salinger uses clever mockery to illustrate to the reader how inane teenagers act over materialistic objects. This is particularly evident when Holden elaborates about suitcases:
The thing is, its really hard to be roommates with people if your suitcases are much better than theirs if yours are really good ones and theirs arent. You think if theyre intelligent and all, the other person, and have a good sense of humor, that they dont give a damn whose suitcases are better, but they do. They really do. Its one of the reasons why I roomed with a stupid bastard like Stradlater. At least his suitcases were as good as mine” (109).


Apparent in this quote, Salinger purposefully makes Holden appear foolish, ridiculing teenagers materialistic nature. Salinger makes a connection to teenagers through the protagonists materialism. Deliberately forcing the teenager to examine his or her own shallowness, Salinger illustrates how Holden and his roommate eventually separate, not because they did not like each other, but because one had inferior suitcases. Not only does the adolescent reader think Holden is asinine and absurd, but the reader also observes the callow and silly need for materialistic items within himself or herself. The theme of materialism in The Catcher in the Rye allows teenagers to witness how senseless their need for materialism is, which is necessary concept for adolescents who are making the transition to adulthood.


Another necessary idea that Salinger presents in the novel is the theme of acceptance. Holden frequently examines his role in society, finding that he is often isolated from adolescents his own age and even, at times, made to feel inadequate. Holden distances himself from his friends and family because of such feelings. In the end, Holden realizes that he does need people to whom he can relate. At the close of the novel, Holden says, “About all I know is, I sort of miss everybody I told about. Even old Stradlater and Ackley, for instance. I think I even miss that goddam Maurice. Its funny. Dont ever tell anybody anything. If you do, you start missing everything” (217), letting his emotions of inadequacy and need for acceptance escape. Many teenagers can identify with Holdens feelings, and it is these very sentiments that may lead some teens to a life of solitude and agonizing unhappiness. On the other hand, many young adults fear isolation and loneliness so much that it forces them to conform to societys ideas and perceptions. It is in this way that Holden truly becomes the readers hero. Through his actions and reactions to society and others, Holden demonstrates to the reader the theme of acceptance, illustrated throughout the novel. Holden speaks his mind, which the average teenage reader values highly, but it often forces him to be cut off from society. When Holden conforms to society, he feels an outer air of acceptance from his peers. PLACE SALLY QUOTE HERE. When Holden speaks his mind, he feels isolated and awkward. PLACE QUOTE WHEN HE TELLS SALLY HIS DREAMS HERE. It is through the eyes of the protagonist that the reader can see the downfalls and benefits to going against and conforming to societys will. The universal theme of acceptance in J. D. Salingers The Catcher in the Rye encourages teenagers to really consider societys creeds and to think as an individual, yet it still explains to the reader the need for friendship and family in life. Both of these concepts are essential to the readers development into adulthood.

Catcher In The Rye

The title of the book A Catcher in the Rye is reflected in the mistaken words of
a poem by Robert Burns. Holden thought it was “If a body catch a body
coming through the rye.” That’s what he wanted to be. The only older
individual in a group of kids in the rye, that he would catch them before they
fall off the cliff. Many events caused this belief or illusion that he could
stop people falling off and eventually he came to many realisations. Holden
Caulfield was (believe it or not) an average teenager in an adult world with
many conflicting ideas and thoughts. He was trying to establish his own
personality, and was searching for secure values. Yet, he found nearly everyone
and everything to be “phoney”. He observed that the principal shook
hands with rich parents while discarding the poorer and that most people were
hypocrites. It was these (plus many more “phoney) elements that Holden did
not want the kids to see – kids like Phoebe. He was protecting them against the
adult and materialistic world and was ‘catching’ them before they fell. He had
already seen too many ‘falls’ and in fact it was these people who ‘fell’ who
fell into the category of non-phoniness. This was probably because Holden’s
memories of them remained pure. Many people fell. James Castle ‘fell’ out of the
window and Allie ‘fell’ to death. He thought that these innocent people had
gone. They had been eaten by the phoniness and that they didn’t have a ‘catcher’
to protect them from harm. Holden wanted to prevent any more of this happening
by being the ‘catcher’ himself. But being the ‘catcher’ it distanced himself
from many characters in the book. He stayed away from everyone who he thought
was phony, hypocritical, or had bad habits. In fact, he did not come past many
people who were not in the above category. What made him stay away? As mentioned
before, it was the adult world. He rejected them and they rejected him. Only a
few people like Phoebe even listened to him. He had told Sally to run away with
him to the west, but she thought he was crazy. Both Carl Luce and Robert Ackley
had told him to grow up. In the end Holden regards them as phonies. Hence,
staying away from them all. The only people that he approached or admired, were
kids or people who were dead. Therefore, it was this idea of being a ‘catcher’
that made him what he thought was the fine line between the world of good and
phoniess. At the same time, Holden’s want to be the ‘catcher’ also shows his
immaturity. The fact that he believed he could change the world, the way people
behaved, and that he could stop all the phoniess in the world. He attempted to
rub out a ‘f*** you’ sign outside of Phoebe’s school. He was successful. He
completely removed all the traces of the two words and he was quite satisfied
that did so. But it only late that he came to realisation that could not alter
everything. He later found another “f*** you’ sign. This time, scratched
with a rock. He found himself hopeless. Holden tried as hard as he could to
remove the sign but he started thinking. He thought that there would be a
million signs just like that one in the world. There was no way he could rub out
all of them At this point, he was helpless. The more the thought about it, the
more he realised how impotent he was in the world. He could not be the ‘catcher
in the rye’. Could the reason for Holden’s wanting to be a catcher be because
there was no one to catch him? When he went home, his parents were not there.


That was a symbol that he lacked his parents’ love. To Holden, no one really
cared for him. Even though Mr Spencer tried to encourage him to do better and Mr
Antolini gave him warmth and shelter when he needed it, he believed that Spencer
was a ‘phony’ and made up a half-witted excuse to ‘get the hell out’, while he
thought Mr Antolini had some sort of sexual thing toward guys. No one was really
there for him when he needed them. Surely there were the girls and and his
roommates, but he simply treated them as a joke, as if their existence had never
really mattered. Probably the only one that came close was Phoebe. With her,
Holden talked (to a degree) intimately and openly about his thoughts. Even
though she was young and naive (yes, even though she is smart for her age), it
gave comfort to Holden that someone was listening to him. His lack of love
brought him the want to be someone that others could love, a lending hand, some
sort of security. He wanted to be there for others so that they do not fall into
the phoney world. Because Holden saw the world as phoney and pretentious, he
wanted to be a ‘catcher’ to stop a few of the innocent, such as Phoebe from
going into the materialistic adult world. His wish to be a ‘catcher’ showed his
insecurity, immaturity and his illusioned view towards everyone and everything.

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It resolves in the end when he came to realise that he was incapable of being
the catcher. He was useless in such a big world. The significance of the title
revolved around Holden, and because the book did the same, it was one of the
most important themes in The Catcher in the Rye.

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