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What are the themes of The Catcher in the Rye? Show more Show less

J. D. Salinger's novel The Catcher in the Rye is a well-known coming of age story. It has also caused controversy because of its sexual content and use of profanity. What are the themes of The Catcher in the Rye, and how does the main character, Holden Caulfield, react to the world around him?

The Catcher in the Rye is about sexuality Show more Show less

Holden Caulfield has a complex relationship to his sexuality.
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Holden Caulfield's sexuality is a notable theme in The Catcher in the Rye

Throughout the Catcher in the Rye Holden Caulfield is struggling with his sexuality and has trouble establishing physical relationships. He is unable to clearly differentiate between the emotional responses related to being intimate and having sex.
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The Catcher in the Rye books education literature reading sexuality

Context

The Argument

Holden Caulfield struggles with sexuality for the duration of the novel. He only shows interest for girls whom he has known for a long time, and has difficulty expressing his sexual interests. In reality, Holden is clueless about sex. He brags to readers about being sexy and calls himself a "sex maniac", yet there are no sex scenes. He also admits to finding sex confusing, which is proven by his conversations and body language with Sally Hayes. Readers can tell that Holden is pretending to know about sex and that he is insecure in his own sexuality.[1] A reason Holden struggles with sex is that he cannot distinguish it from love and compatibility. He still has a crush on Jane Gallagher because they have known each other for so long and so well. Because of their preexisting relationship, Holden feels comfortable thinking about her in an intimate way. When he identifies someone as a phony, they also become unattractive and unappealing.

Counter arguments

Holden is not struggling with his sexuality since he is still able to have crushes on others. He only struggles to be intimate with people he doesn't trust, proving he needs an emotional connection to have sexual feelings. Since his classmates are obsessed with dating and sex, Holden feels like an outcast because he develops crushes instead. But Holden is not struggling with identifying his sexuality.

Framing

Premises

[P1] Holden Caulfield is only attracted to a girl if he knows her well. [P2] Holden Caulfield has no sexual experience. [P3] Holden Caulfield is insecure about his sexuality. [P4] Holden Caulfield can't separate love and sex. [P5] Therefore, the theme of The Catcher in the Rye is sexuality.

Rejecting the premises

[Rejecting P2] Holden Caulfield tells readers how he has "necked" girls before.

Proponents

Further Reading

References

  1. https://trepo.tuni.fi/bitstream/handle/10024/95706/GRADU-1402991724.pdf?sequence=1&isAllowed=y

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This page was last edited on Friday, 3 Jul 2020 at 01:50 UTC