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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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Mr. Antolini

Holden Caulfield has a questionable encounter with his former teacher, Mr. Antolini.
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The Catcher in the Rye books education literature reading sexuality

Context

The Argument

Finally, nearing the end of The Catcher in the Rye, Holden Caulfield finds someone that he trusts to talk to. After aimlessly wandering New York City, he calls his former teacher, Mr. Antolini, for help. At first, Mr. Antolini is kind and caring to Holden, providing him a place to sleep. Holden is surprised to wake up in the middle of the night and see his former teacher petting his hair and staring at him. Immediately, he leaves Mr. Antolini's house to escape the strange sexual tension.[1] Holden sought help from an adult he trusted, but again he is left betrayed and alone with his feelings. After the scene, he tells readers that those encounters have been happening since he was a child. Mr. Antolini is the person that sets Holden into a downward spiral, leading him to become more depressed.

Counter arguments

Holden was overexaggerating what Mr. Antolini was doing; instead, his actions could be seen as caring and nurturing. Mr. Antoloini knows Holden's mental health is poor and wanted to show support and affection. Petting his head mimics what a parent would do for a child in a time of distress. Because he has had past traumas, he associated his former teacher's actions with something perverted and wrong instead of loving.

Framing

Premises

[P1] Holden Caulfield trusted Mr. Antolini, who then betrayed him by trying to engage sexually with him. [P2] Holden Caulfield has had similar past traumas. [P3] Therefore, the theme of The Catcher in the Rye is sexuality.

Rejecting the premises

[Rejecting P1] Mr. Antolini did not betray Holden - he was simply trying to be caring.

Proponents

Further Reading

References

  1. https://themillions.com/2018/02/the-catcher-in-the-rye.html

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This page was last edited on Friday, 3 Apr 2020 at 09:58 UTC