I just finished reading J.D. Salinge’rs The Catcher In The Rye for about the fifth time. For those of you that don’t know me that well, Salinger’s The Catcher In The Rye is my all time favorite novel and Holden Caulfield is one of my all time favorite literary characters. I frequently joke about how I wish I could find a boy like Holden Caulfield to marry.

One thing that never fails to amaze me when reading and re-reading this novel is how many things I failed to pick up on before. J. D. Salinger’s classic novel The Catcher In The Rye is packed with a lot of action and a ton of  emotion all at once. Here is a list of 5 things I picked up on this time around that I missed the first four times I read it:

1. Holden is extremely selfless and regretful. There are many times throughout the novel when Holden Caulfield seems like a bit of a brat or a cocky teenager, but when it comes down to it most of his problems stem from being a little TOO selfless and regretful.Why does Holden never let his own parents know he got kicked out? Why was he so afraid of them catching him at home when he went to go see Phoebe? Because he feels bad. He feels like a failure for getting kicked out of Pencey Prep. He knows he let his parents down…again. He feels like a horrible son that will never ever be good enough and he just can’t bear the disappointment they will feel for him. He is already regretting getting kicked out and letting everybody down.

Think this is all that Holden Caulfield regrets? Think again. If you really perform a close reading of the text you will find that even more of his problems and his depression may be caused by the regret he feels about his younger brother Allie’s death. He can never seem to stop thinking about Allie. Towards the end of the novel he mentions how he wasn’t able to go to Allie’s funeral because he  was in the hospital. He isn’t direct in saying why he was in the hospital, but one can infer that it may have been for mental issues as Holden clearly still possesses those kinds of mental health issues. Holden also seems to have a lot of trouble accepting the fact that Allie is gone. Maybe he regrets not spending enough time with Allie in the past. He did mention earlier in the novel that one time Allie wanted to go somewhere with him (I believe he said it was to the park or something?) but he said no. He may feel bad about that now because he will never have another chance to take Allie anywhere with him.

Sometimes it seems like Holden Caulfield hasn’t realized that Allie is really gone, though.When he visits Phoebe, Phoebe challenges him to state one thing that he really loves. His answer is Allie, but Phoebe is quick to dismiss his answer since Allie isn’t around anymore. This isn’t his only time referencing Allie as if he were still alive. Right before Holden Caulfield suffers from his main breaking point in the novel he shouts out phrases to Allie asking him to save him as if he can hear him or if he is still there. And if that’s not enough for you, Holden has stated that he no longer visits Allie. He doesn’t agree with the way that Allie was buried in the ground and how people such as his parents continue to place flowers on his grave. This common, recognized practiced seems foreign to a mentally disturbed, regretful Holden. 

2. Holden’s a bit of a hypochondriac. Remember when he goes to the park and it’s rainy and cold and Holden fears that he will catch pneumonia and die shortly? He is so convinced of the reality of this situation happening. He already makes himself feel bad about dying and thinks about what his parents and Phoebe will think even though he’s no where near sick.

Or what about towards the end of the novel when he picks up the magazine on the park bench and reads about the hormones and what a person with healthy hormones should look like? Holden convinces himself that he looks identical to the guy with the unhealthy hormones. He also continues to read about how people with mouth ulcers that don’t heal quickly may have cancer. The outcome? Yep, Holden overreacts and convinces himself that he not only has cancer, but that he will die in a few weeks. 

3. Holden had a horrible childhood. Why else would he be so fascinated in Phoebe and Allie? He seems to want to make sure they have or had good childhoods or he may be seeking to connect with them as a way to get back the childhood he never had. This idea is especially strong with the final scenes at the park with Phoebe. He cries  and is amazed by Phoebe on the carousel. Maybe he never had the experience. Maybe it’s something he always wanted but never had, so he is enjoying the experience through Phoebe’s eyes now and maybe that is why he becomes so emotional. 

4. Holden may have been molested as a child. When he goes to his old English professor, Mr. Antolini’s house he is completely freaked out when he wakes up and finds Mr. Antoini patting his head. Mr. Antolini didn’t really do anything wrong, but Holden is convinced that he is a pervert that will molest him. He also mentions that he always get into situations with perverts like that, subtly suggestion that he may have been molested by an older man as a child. 

5. Holden is an extreme compulsive liar, which is very ironic/a paradox. Holden hates movies and phony people, but he may be the phoniest of them all. I don’t even think it’s possible to keep count of all the lies he tells throughout the novel because there are so many of them. He lies about his age constantly so he can order drinks and a prostitute. He lies to nuns, a classmate’s mother, and even Phoebe (but she is too smart to believe his lie) about getting kicked out of Pencey Prep. He constantly lies about where he is going.  Maybe his reasoning for lying so much is because he is so unhappy with his life that he thinks that by lying about it he can create a better version of it for himself. 


These are just five new things I picked up on with this past reading. I look forward to reading it a sixth time in the future and discovering even more things I may have missed the first few times. That’s the great things about books, they are full of hidden treasures that you continue to find every time you pick them up and read them.