TheThinking ManThe Catcher In The RyeMargaret Atwood once described thethinking man as on who resists, believes survival is a necessity, is isolatedand alienated, and who is aware of the elements that make one’s psyche andphysical being disappear. Atwood’s “thinking person” is exhibited in HoldenCaulfield through the use of character, plot, & symbolism.
To begin with,the “thinking person” is portrayed through Holden Caulfield’s character. Oneof the characteristic’s of Atwood’s “thinking person” is one of being isolatedand alienated. Holden is a very lonely character.
An example that shows thisis his direct reference to David Copperfield in the first paragraph of thenovel when he says “…and all that David Copperfield kind of crap.”(pg.1)When David Copperfield was a child he was alienated from his mother, and wasvery lonely.
This points to the fact that Holden had a very lonely childhoodand, like David Copperfield, his innocence as well. Like the “thinkingperson” Holden was aware of the elements that make one’s being disappear. Thissegment of Holden’s character is helped by symbolism. For Holden, it was toolate to stop himself from entering adulthood, a kingdom he resisted entering,a kingdom he viewed with disgust. For this reason he wanted to help otherchildren, and save them from “disappearing” over the edge of the rye fieldtoo, to preserve their innocence and to save them from the dreaded adulthood.Also, Holden had resisted one of the factors leading towards the loss ofhis innocence; losing his virginity. He “had quite a few opportunities tolose his virginity.
..he came quite close to doing it a couple of times…shekeeps telling him to stop, and he stops.” This not only shows that hedoesn’t want to lose his purity, but that he cares for the girl’s innocencetoo, and does not want her to lose it.Next, “Catcher In The Rye” uses plotto create the “thinking person”.
Holden Caulfield has a deep struggle withinhimself. He wants to be positive, and her wants to work with and for the positive,and yet he is continually drawn to the negative aspects of life. In one scenehe is at a food stop eating, when two nuns approach him. Even though theydidn’t ask for money, Holden donates $10 from his fast depleting funds.
Nevertheless,he is drawn to the negative aspects of life too. He hires prostitutes, hegets into fights, and he become terribly over-intoxicated. Another exampleof the positive/negative struggle is one dealing with his “love life”. Holdenis always thinking of his legendary Jane Gallagher (mentioned “legendary” becausethroughout the course of the novel, the reader never meets face-to-face withJane, but only hears hearsay information about her), and his fingers are alwaysitching to phone her and ask her to get together with him. Conversely he ispulled to the negative: Sally Hayes.Sally is one of the hated phonies whoabound in the adult world. Unfortunately for him, Holden in continually caughtin this struggle.Another part of the plot that demonstrates Holden as the”thinking man” is his constant role as the anti-hero, where he experiencesa downfall.
There are several situations, like getting beaten up by Stradlateror Maurice, where Holden is set down. Another situation of his downfall wouldbe where he almost kills himself by falling into the Central Park lagoon. Yet through it all Holden remains (somewhat) strong, and pulls through. Inthat way, the plot is make through so that Holden becomes a survivor like ananti-hero; like the “thinking person”. Last but not least is how “CatcherIn The Rye” uses symbolism to create the “thinking person”. In the situationof the dreaded “Fuck You”s on the walls of the elementary school, Holden triesto erase the blasphemy, in hopes that he will save the children (and in a wayhimself), from the horrors and crudeness of the outside world.
This showshow, like the “thinking person”, he resists the corrupted “real world.”Thesymbolism of Holden’s “fall” is widely used through out the novel. In placessuch as the lagoon, the Pencey staircase, and even the New York Streets, Holdenis literally and mentally falling. Especially in the case of the New York’sFifth Avenue. Each step Holden makes down the curb he thought he would “justgo down, down, down, and nobody’d see him again.”(pg.199) The literal fallin this case is very small, but the mental one is quite big. His psyche diminishes,and he even asks for his dead brothers assistance to aid him from disappearing.
However, he would always come back up, never forgetting to thank Allie. Thus,Holden displays the survivor role of the “thinking person. In additionto symbolism in the novel, Holden’s red hunting hat (with ear flaps and all!)is used. The almost eccentric piece to Holden’s attire symbolizes his viewson life. He wears it backwards on his head, to show how obsessed he is withthe past, and to display his wanting to return to the innocence and purityof his childhood. Also, he wears it as protection from the cold, or is itreally protection from the outside world? These are the reasons for Holden’sgreat value of the hat, and for which he passed it down to Phoebe; that itmight be her shield as well.Holden Caulfield, as it appears, is very muchlike Atwood’s “thinking person”.
He resists and rebels against life’s evils,and in consequence, is alone and alienated for much of the time. As is Shown,a thinking person is not always a comforted person, but still the thinker liveson, eking his way through the world, refusing to disappear.