J.D. Salinger described The Catcher in the Rye as a novel about “an individual’s alienation in a heartless world.” Indeed, one of the primary themes that is highlighted throughout Holden Caulfield’s whirlwind narrative of mental breakdown is alienation. Holden seems only to connect with children younger than himself, those who have not yet been scarred or corrupted by the heartless world around them. He increasingly isolates himself by finding fault with others (everyone is a “phony”), getting tossed out of school after school, ruining every chance he has to establish a romantic relationship, and voicing his paranoia and disdain about the world to anyone who will listen. This narrative gives readers a look into the mind of a character whose world is crumbling around him, and his crumbling with it.
A growing trend in literature, on screen, and on stage has moved to produce more flawed human protagonists. Gone are the days of perfect role models - paragons of virtue who are brave, capable, and who always do the right thing. Instead of these inspirational heroes, many works feature a complementary archetype: the anti hero.
Catcher in the Rye Holden Caufield as Anti-hero with a storyboard - Anti-hero definition and examples
Let's go up to Vermont, or Massachusetts and get jobs, and build a cabin...
That's stupid, Holden.
My name is Rudolf Schmidt. Your son Ernie is the most popular kid at Pencey.
Antihero: a central character in a story, movie, or drama who lacks conventional heroic attributes such as idealism, moral goodness, and altruism.
HOLDEN AS AN ANTIHERO
Holden is an antihero because he is a perpetual liar, he frequently judges and finds fault with others, and he fails to follow through with any plans.
Hey! There's Gary Cooper!
You flunked out AGAIN?! Dad's going to kill you!
Holden meets three girls in a bar and dances with them, but he thinks they’re all morons. He eventually tells one girl that he has just seen Gary Cooper, the movie star, to mess with her because he can’t stand her. When she tells the other girls she even caught a glimpse of him, Holden gets a good laugh.
Phoebe is the opposite of Holden. She is sweet, innocent, and genuinely concerned for Holden. When she finds out he’s failed out of school, she’s afraid of the punishment he’ll get from their father. When he tells her he’s hitchhiking out West, she tries to come along, and follows him to the zoo afterwards, even though she’s upset.