“This fall I think you’re riding for- it’s a special kind of fall, a
horrible kind. The man falling isn’t permitted to feel or hear
himself hit the bottom. He just keeps falling and falling. The
whole arrangement’s designed for men who, at some time or other
in their lives, were looking for something their own environment
couldn’t supply them with. So they gave up looking. They gave it
up before they ever really even got started.”
Holden Caulfield’s fall to psychological breakdown begins with his brother
Allie’s death. To Holden, Allie represents everything that was good in this world. When
Allie is first described, Holden only says great things about him. “You’d have liked
him… He was terrifically intelegent… He was the nicest (member of the family).”
Therefore when Allie dies, the good things in his world disappears. After this first major
event, Holden gradually realizes that he is powerless to change the evil and corrupt world
that he lives in. Holden is looking for something that his own environment couldn’t
supply him, the only thing that he ever liked, Allie.
“Just because somebody’s dead, you don’t just stop liking
them, for God’s sake- especially if they were about a thousand
times nicer than the people you know that’re alive and all.”
Another early event in Holden’s life is the death of James Castle. Holden sees
himself as James in many ways. James would not take back what he said about a
conceited boy, and jumped out of the window before he would do something that he did
not believe in. Holden is the same in many ways. He refuses to accept the fact that the
world is evil, and does everything in his power to change it.
“The mark of an immature man is that he wants to die nobly for a
cause, while the mark of a mature one is that humbly for one.”
Another similarity between them both is that James was wearing Holden’s sweater when
he fell out of the window. As he saw James lying on the ground, Holden sees a part of
himself die with him. The part that dies is the part that believes in the goodness of people
Holden’s tendency to get kicked out of schools is both a reason and effect of his
gradual fall. He does not apply himself in school because he is depressed, and is
depressed because he is being kicked out of schools. This most recent expulsion has a
larger effect than usual on Holden. He cares about Pency more than he did about the
other schools. And for once, he knew that he was not coming back. When Holden leaves
Pency, he states that, “I was sort of crying. I don’t know why”.
“Sleep tight, ya morons!”
Holden becomes more desperate when he realizes that his old friend Jane
Gallagher was going on a date with his roommate Stradlater. He realizes that Stradlater
was going to take away Jane’s innocence by treating her like he treats other girls. That is
why Holden tries to remind Jane of her childhood when he asks Stradlater to ask her
about keeping her kings in the back row. He wants to save Jane from falling off the rye
Ironically, Phoebe, who is one of the innocent children he is trying to protect, is
the one who brings him to reality and to his final breakdown. Phoebe is the one who
challenges his plan to escape out west. As he tells Phoebe that she cannot run away, he
discovers that he too cannot run away. “You can’t ever find a place that is nice and
peaceful, because there isn’t any”.
“All the kids were trying to grab for the gold ring, and so was
old Phoebe, and I was sort of afraid she’d fall off the goddamn
horse, but I didn’t say anything or do anything. The thing with kids
is, that if they want to grab the gold ring, you have to let them do it,
and not say anything. If they fall off, they fall off, but it’s bad if
The gold rings are not gold, but are really brass plated iron which represents the
corrupt world which wears a shinny surface to hide the evil. Holden finally realizes that
he cannot stop children from growing up or reaching for that gold ring. If they fall, they
fall; and there is nothing he can do about it.
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