“No man knows the value of innocence and integrity but he who has lost them”(William Godwin). In The Catcher in the Rye by J.D Salinger, Holden Caulfield is a conflicted 16 year old boy struggling to find his place in the world, and in this world, he can no longer hold onto his innocence and has to endure the painfulness of growing up. Over the course of three days, the novel follows Holden’s struggles with growing up and losing his innocence. As the novel progresses Holden clings onto innocence more and more which eventually leads to his downfall. Salinger uses representations such as, the Museum of Natural History, Allie? baseball glove, and Phoebe to demonstrate Holden? rejection to growing up and maintaining his innocence.
Holden explains to Phoebe that his main goal in life is to be The Catcher in the Rye, “Anyway I keep picturing all these little kids playing in some game in this big field I’d just be the catcher in the rye and all. I know it? crazy but that’s the only thing i’d really like to be”(Salinger 173). Holden pictures himself catching the lives of children before they fall off the cliff. The rye represents adolescence and childhood. .The fall from the cliff represents the fall from adolescence. Holden symbolizes the hero, ready to rescue kids from the painfulness of growing up. Holden’s sister Phoebe represents the innocence that Holden prizes the most . When Holden visits Phoebe school he is shocked and angered to see swear words written on the wall. ” I saw something that drove me crazy. Somebody’d written “F*ck You”on the wall. It drove me damn near crazy. I thought how Phoebe and all the other little kids will see it”(Salinger 201). Holden was infuriated because in his mind the innocent world of children, has already been corrupted by the cruelties of the adult world. The expostre to the swear words creates Holden to believe that he has to protect all children’s innocence.
Childhood Places have a major effect on Holden’s attitude and outlook in life. Towards the middle of the novel Holden visits his favorite childhood place, The Museum of Natural History. The Museum always uplifts Holden because the museum symbolizes a world in which nothing changes, time is frozen, steady. The world in which Holden wants to live in, where nothing changes and he can still preserve his innocence. “The best thing though, in that museum was that everything always stayed right where it was. Nobody’d be different. The only thing that would be different is you”(Salinger 121). The concept of this quote makes it evident that Holden is truly afraid of becoming an Adult and losing his innocence for good. The visit to the museum makes Holden realize the only thing changing is him and that he is truly losing his innocence.