A novel in which a character is shown to be isolated is ‘Catcher in the rye ‘ by JD Salinger. The author portrays the main protagonist, Holden Caulfield, to be a troubled, confused and unreliable individual who struggles through much turmoil. This state eventually climaxes when Holden suffers a physical and emotional collapse caused by his resistance to change, the alienation he suffers and to a great extent by the isolation he experiences during the course of his transition from childhood to adulthood.
‘The Catcher in the Rye’ is the story of teenager Holden Caulfield’s turbulent last few days before his Christmas vacation. During these days, Holden leaves Pencey Prep, an all boys school he’s been expelled from, and embarks of a few lonely nights in New York City. As a result of Holden’s resistance to grow up, he isolates himself from the world around him leaving him alone and vulnerable. Following several negative encounters, Holden reaches an emotional collapse. He tells the story as a monologue from a mental facility where he has been recovering from the stress of the experiences he reflects upon.
The obvious signs that Holden is psychologically troubled are manifold : he fails in the four schools he has attended; he manifests complete apathy towards his future; he is hospitalised; he is visited by a psychoanalyst for an unspecified complaint and he is unable to connect with other people in his life. We read of two traumas in his past that clearly have something to do with his emotional state and wellbeing : the death of his brother Allie and the suicide of one of his schoolmates.
Death has a deep impact on the mental stability of everyone who has experienced it but especially so on someone so young and particularly where it is the death of a close friend or relative. He is haunted by the thought of Allie in the rainy cemetery surrounded by tombstones and dead people and he associates death with the mutability of time. He feels isolated and unsupported in the suffering of the death of his younger brother and he wishes that time could standstill.
Allie’s left handed baseball glove is a physical reminder of Holden’s love for his deceased brother and provides Holden with some comfort from the loneliness he feels. Throughout the novel, Holden experiences exclusion and victimisation from the world around him. As he says to Mr Spencer, he feels trapped on “the other side” of life and he continually attempts to find his way in a world in which he feels he simple does not belong. As we progress through the novel we perceive that Holden’s isolation and alienation is his way of protecting himself.
His isolation is highlighted in the description of the school football game attended by most of the school where Holden and Ackley remained at the dormitory “Only guy in the whole dorm beside me that wasn’t down at the game”. In the same way as he wears his hunting hat to avoid interaction with others and serves to cut people off from communicating with him. “ This is a people shooting hat. I shoot people in this hat”. The hat is red, the same colour as Phoebe and Allie’s hair and he purposely never wears it around people he knows.
The real truth is that interactions with other people serve to confuse and overwhelm him, and his cynical sense of successful but “phony” individuals acts as a type of self protection. Furthermore, Holden’s inability to communicate with others is represented symbolically in the uncompleted phonecalls and undelivered messages which appear throughout the novel. On fifteen separate occasions Holden gets the urge to phone, yet only four calls are completed. One of the most intriguing points in Holden’s desire for isolation is his intention to become a deaf mute “ I‘d pretend that I was one of those deaf mutes.
That way I wouldn‘t have to have any god dam stupid useless conversation with anybody“. Therefore, Holden’s isolation and alienation from others are the main source of the little stability he has in his life. The alienation is the cause of most of his pain and he never addresses his own emotions directly nor does he attempt to discover the source of his troubles to effect a cure. The extent of his isolation is felt when we read about his desperation to feel human contact and love, but his protective wall of bitterness prevents him from looking for a cure that could be provided by the interactions with others.
The alienation is both the source of Holden’s strengths and problems. His loneliness propels him into a date with Sally Hayes, and we see while he is on the date that he has mixed feelings about being in her company and he is confused when he says ’I was in love with her and wanted to marry her’ because not long after he admits that he ’hated’ her and she was a ’pain in the ass’ this shows how his need for isolation causes him to insult her and drive her away so he can be alone again.
Similarly he longs for a meaningful connection he once had with Jane Gallagher but he is too frightened to make any real effort to contact her in case she has matured which would change the happy memories he has of her and he is afraid of that because he wants to protect her innocence. He depends on his alienation but it only serves to destroy him. In conclusion I believe that “Catcher in the rye” by JD Salinger is a perfect example f a novel which raises a number of moral issues and describes the psychological battles encountered by the main character Holden Caulfield.
Caulfield’s self destruction over a period of days resulting from incidents of depression, emotional and mental breakdown which led to his isolation and alienation from others. The isolation he experiences during the course of his transition from childhood to adulthood as a result of his reluctance to change led to his emotional collapse. His inability to communicate and his desperate desire for human love and affection emphasise Holden’s feelings of loneliness, isolation , alienation and lack of interaction with others.