Hooking Up With Holden: Exploring Sexuality in The Catcher in the Rye Anonymous College

“Sex is something I just don’t understand. I swear to God I don’t,” (Salinger, 63). It might take Holden Caulfield 9 chapters to admit to this, however his sexual confusion exists from the first pages of J.D. Salinger’s famous novel The Catcher in The Rye. Stemming from the dichotomy of sexual openness in America, underlined by an enormous sensitivity, and sprayed with teenage confusion, Holden’s relationship with his sexuality is an unstable one. Holden experiences a continuous string of feelings concerning sexuality, covering from enjoyment to regret. All of these emotions are hard, and are a pushing internal struggle for Holden. Holden Caulfield’s disconnection from his sexuality is a significant factor to his social difficulties.Certainly the broadest reason for sexual problems in The Catcher in The Rye is Holden’s relationship to social sexual expectations. America during this time includes contrasting beliefs surrounding sex. For the older generation, which includes Holden’s remote moms and dads, “most sex in America had been pushed into the closet. Even masturbation was despised and thought to be the source of many physical and mental ills. The only officially endorsed sexual habits was monogamous heterosexual marriage,” (Ferguson, 2). Only personal, vanilla-no-sprinkles-please sex was acceptable, and even this ultrabland intercourse was never ever discussed. In a predictable response to this uptight sexual culture, the more youthful generation rebelled and accepted sex, which later on partially motivated the sexual revolution. We see this open sexual enjoyment in Holden’s private school, Pencey Prep. Holden informs his reader that at Pencey “all you do is talk about ladies and liquor and sex all day,” (Salinger, 131). While all of Holden’s pals are constructing with women, and after that clearly retelling stories about said making out sessions, Holden can’t quite take in into that culture. A part of Holden does experience sexual enjoyment; he goes on dates regularly, discuss woman’s looks, and is envious of his roommate Stradlater’s sexually adventurous ways (Salinger, 43). But there is also an equally strong part of Holden that desires sex to be intimate and extremely individual. Both viewpoints are showcased as Holden reviews a normal sexual scene observed outside his hotel space window; “I can even see how it may be quite a lot of fun, in a crumby method, and if you were both sort of intoxicated and all, to get a woman and squirt water or something all over each other’s face. The thing is, however, I do not like the concept. It stinks, if you analyze it,” (Salinger, 62). On one hand Holden is thrilled, and at times overwhelmed, by sex. On the other, he is distressed by and silently conscious sexual energy. Holden is clearly puzzled about where he lands in between these two opposing ends of the spectrum. Society is sending blended signals to all young people, and Holden is a prime example of the confusion that can ensue.The Catcher in The Rye is frequently understood for its exploration of turning into their adult years, and the unavoidable loss of innocence. Eero Helenius links innocence and sexuality well- “With regard to sex and sexuality, then, Holden is mostly worried about protecting the innocence of those– ladies, in specific– yet untainted by its ever-pervasive impact,” (Helenius, 25). The themes of innocence and adulthood are carefully associated to, and supported by, a number of sexual examples. The clearest example of innocence lost to sex is found as Holden orders a woman of the street to his hotel room. Immediately after validating his room number with the elevator young boy turned pimp, Holden begins to regret his choice (Salinger, 91). When the woman of the street gets here, Holden is switched off by her childish look, keeping in mind that she “(…) was young as hell,” (Salinger, 94). The woman of the street, who passes Sunny, enters wearing a green dress and rapidly takes it off. Holden’s fixation with innocence is clear as he assesses this dress- “I took her gown over to the closet and hung it up for her. It was funny. It made me feel sort of sad when I hung it [the green dress] up for her. I considered her entering into a store and purchasing it, and no one in the store understanding she was a woman of the street and all. The salesperson most likely simply thought she was a routine lady when she bought it. It made me feel unfortunate as hell- I don’t know why precisely,” (Salinger, 95). Regardless of his lack of emotional intelligence, Holden expresses a deep pain in reaction to this innocent gown being utilized for prostitution. Holden might not understand why he’s so sad about this dress, however readers do; witnessing an apparently regular, young girl rely on the impersonal world of sex work is heartbreaking for our innocence-obsessed narrator. Holden’s pained relationship with sexual innocence is likewise present, and a lot more individual, in his childhood buddy and love interest Jane Gallagher. To Holden, Jane represents tender childhood memories and youthful beauty. Holden tells a story of when Jane and he are playing checkers, making an unique note of how Jane keeps all of her kings in the back row through the video game. This is of course a dreadful technique, but she” (…) liked the method they looked (…),” (Salinger, 32). Much in the very same way Holden has impractical but reassuring propensities, Jane puts the innocent desire of visual appeals above the adult objective of winning the game. Jane has a history of sexual adulteration, namely her “boozehound” father-in-law walking their house naked. Jane’s father-in-law, an outright sign of extreme adult life, interrupts their checkers video game to ask if they have any cigarettes, however Jane can not satisfy his eye and begins to calmly cry. (Salinger, 78). This exchange works as proof that Jane has been sexually abused by her father-in-law. Holden tries to comfort her, but lacks the appropriate communication skills. This terrible example of sexual adulteration sets the stage for another Jane-related discomfort for Holden. Stradlater, Holden’s super-sexual roommate, goes on a date with Jane. Holden, and readers, infer that Stradlater and Jane make love, which is heartbreaking to Holden. Holden desperately tries to bring innocence back to the scenario by asking Stradlater about Jane’s delicate back row of checkers, to no obtain. As Eero Helenius puts it “Stradlater does not ‘even care if a woman kept all her kings in the back row’ (Salinger, 43), a detail about Jane’s character that suggests everything to Holden however absolutely nothing to Stradlater,” (Helenius, 24). This loss of sexual innocence is experienced as death for Holden: death of childhood, death of charm, death of general innocence. Peter Shaw expands on this abstract death, writing that there are two parts of teenaged psychological development (Shaw, 101). The very first is mourning death of innocence, and the 2nd is experiencing love. According to Shaw, “If Holden is unable to carry on from grieving [the death of innocence], he is equally not able to start the being-in-love portion of his maturation procedure. He is suffering through (…) ‘the prime danger of this age’: an excessively extended ‘moratorium’ on maturing.” Jane Gallagher stands as a beacon of vibrant innocence throughout The Catcher in The Rye, and the mix of her father-in-law and Stradlater’s inconsiderate treatment of her are exceptionally agonizing for Holden, holding him back from a more adult frame of mind. Holden Caulfield is popular for his hypocrisy. And concerning sexuality, Holden’s hypocritical ways do not fail. Holden informs us “In my mind I’m probably the biggest sex maniac you ever saw,” (Salinger, 62). However, just a couple of lines later, Holden also informs us that he feels guilty and unclean when he has sexual fantasies. Despite being interested and delighted by sex, Holden does not take any legitimate actions towards have sex. And ultimately, it is exposed that Holden has not yet had sex at all. “I’m a virgin. I truly am. I have actually had many opportunities to lose my virginity and all, however I’ve never navigated to it. Something constantly occurs,” (Salinger, 92). That definitely doesn’t seem like the “sex maniac” Holden had actually just explained himself as. Holden’s sexual hypocrisy extends onto others too. As Holden dances with a couple of girls at a club, he discusses how dumb and simple-minded they are. However, he also notes how one “(…) when she reversed, her quite little butt twitched so great,” (Salinger, 73). In spite of criticizing woman for not being intelligent enough, he likewise discovers her appealing and tries to get the three women to stay out with him. Holden experiences sexual excitement, however hypocritically fails to take the actions that would lead to intercourse. Holden Caulfield’s hypocrisy extends into the world of sexual fetishes, which he holds a restrained interested in. Although Holden once again takes no actions to explore his fetishes, he plainly holds interest in specific socially divergent sexual practices. The very first of these is a sexual interest in older females. This fetish occurs as Holden flees from Pencey Prep to New York City City. On his train to New York, Holden encounters Mrs. Morrow, the mother of Holden’s classmate Ernest Morrow. Holden tells us “She had to do with forty or forty-five, I guess, but she was very good looking,” (Salinger, 54). Holden is roughly sixteen throughout this interaction, positioning Mrs. Morrow at almost three times his age. Some social restriction exists in his language- Holden says “but she’s very good looking.” She is old but excellent looking; the word “but” characterizes her beauty unanticipated, unusual. We can presume that if Holden was admiring a woman his own age, he would say “She is 16 years of ages and excellent looking,” as a young girl’s attractiveness is even more accepted. The choice for Holden to write “but she’s great looking,” reveals that he understands she must not be considered appealing to him. As Holden settles into his hotel room, he exposes more of his atypical sexual interests. Just outside the window, Holden calmly observes as 2 scenes unfold in a hotel next to his. The first is a grey-haired company male who adds a complete outfit of females’s clothes, including silk stockings, heels, a bra, and even a corset. In the nearby window, Holden observes a male-female couple spitting water on each others faces. Holden finds an unique interest in this couple, composing “The problem was that type of scrap is sort of remarkable to enjoy, even if you do not want it to be,” (Salinger, 61). There is embarassment in Holden’s fetish interest; Holden explains his fascination as “problem”, and honestly specifies that he does not want to be interested in it. Once again we see hypocritical habits, this time in a more explicit sexual manner. A fascinating aspect of Holden’s sexual disconnection is the possibility of homosexuality. The homosexual nods in The Catcher in The Rye are more subtle than the heterosexual ones, however are relevant nonetheless. The possibility of homosexuality would certainly add to Holden’s immense sexual confusion and variation. The very first, and many subtle, tip of homosexuality in Holden develops as he views Stradlater stroll to the bathroom- “He headed out of the space with his toilet kit and towel under his arm. No t-shirt on or anything. He constantly walked around in his bare upper body since he believed he had a damn great construct. He did, too. I have to admit it,” (Salinger, 26). Once again, some embarassment exists in his voice; he has to admit that he believes Stradlater is sturdy. The next nod towards homosexuality is Holden’s usage of the word “flit”. The term was utilized as a derogatory term for queer and queer-appearing men during mid 20th century, and has given that faded in popularity. Holden uses the term with a despiteful tone to explain 2 males he identifies at the end of a bar. Regardless of supplying no basis for their homosexuality, Holden strongly assumes their sexuality (Salinger, 142). During his conference with Carl Luce, an old schoolmate well-known for sexual understanding, Holden mentions that Luce understands “who every flit and lesbian in the United States was. All you had to do was mention somebody- anybody- and old Luce ‘d inform you if he was a flit or not,” (Salinger, 143) Holden then reveals an unreasonable worry that he himself would “develop into a flit or something.” A deceptive interest with the alternative way of life of homosexuality was typical for American culture at this time, but Holden’s language shows a more emotionally charged reaction than interest. His worry of one day awakening a gay guy exposes a much deeper connection to homosexuality, or at the least bisexuality. We likewise see that Holden’s disconnection from his clearly homosexual interests develops an off-putting judgement of queer people, in particular other men. Fear of homosexuality emerges, even more pronounced, when Holden sticks with his old teacher Mr. Antolini. Mr. Antolini is welcoming of Holden, offering him a place to oversleep his apartment when Holden remains in requirement. Holden falls asleep on Mr. Antolini’s sofa, and awakens to Mr. Antolini petting his head. Mr. Antolini had been consuming greatly, blurring his sense of what is socially proper. The move is not entirely homoerotic; it could also be referred to as fatherly, concerned, or simply drunken. However, keeping in mind that Holden is wearing only his underclothing, and that Mr. Antolini had just informed Holden “Goodnight, good-looking,”, the interaction is undeniably homosexual to some level (Salinger, 192). Holden runs away the house, startled and disturbed by the relocation. Holden’s tremendous worry of a homosexual encounter with Mr. Antolini prevents him from seeing any of the fatherly, caring motivations that Mr. Antolini probably held. The act definitely is inappropriate according to American social standards. Nevertheless, if Holden was more in touch with his homosexual interests and desires, his reaction would not have actually been so extremely negative. He still would have been shocked, however possibly later on would have at least thought about the kind, worried motivations Mr. Antolini definitely held. Here Holden’s judgement of queerness cuts brief any opportunity of an advantageous relationship with Mr. Antolini. All of these sexual stress, misconceptions, and disconnections cause a really sexually confused Holden Caulfield. His confusion and disconnection result in a variety of socially preventing propensities. The most clearly kept in mind would be his notorious judgemental mindset. Holden constantly judges others, a habit regularly related to insecurity. Another component of his social difficulties is his rage, definitely sustained by judgmentalism. For example- in the start of the unique, before readers are acquainted with Holden and his lack of self-awareness, Holden goes into a rageful fit, physically assaulting Stradlater (Salinger, 43). Holden’s rage, unsafe and juvenile, is triggered completely by the thought of innocence lost to sexual intercourse. The move feels childish, both in its emotional immaturity and in Holden’s obvious physical disadvantage versus the more powerful, bigger Stradlater. This brings us to Holden’s last inhibiting quality; masochism. Before Stradlater and Jane go out, Jane is waiting beyond Holden’s dorm room. Jane- the charming, kind, delicate character Holden loves- is alone, waiting just outside Holden’s dormitory. Holden does not even step outdoors his dormitory, let alone go downstairs to consult with his youth favorite. He then repeatedly contemplates calling her once he’s in New York, but can’t bring himself to go through with it. Holden’s inability to connect to Jane regardless of his sensations is a prime example of his passivity and indecision. Despite having the opportunity to talk to Jane, Holden cuts himself off from this social interaction. The same goes for the previously checked out fetishes Holden holds. He’s interested, ecstatic, by sexual experience. But he again cuts himself off from checking out these sexual activities that would bring him delight. Holden’s mixed drink, one part rage to 2 parts self-restriction, intoxicates him throughout the unique, leading directly to his depression. The story of The Catcher in The Rye occurs as Holden is experiencing peak sexual confusion. Readers witness Holden exploring intrigue, guilt, and pain. All of these are perfectly healthy throughout sexual advancement, but make emotional life quite challenging. Many readers of The Catcher in The Rye are just as young and impressionable as Holden is, making it crucial to examine his developments. Holden is an angry, judgemental, and self-inhibiting character. These traits are not without great factor; Holden is lost not just in social identity development, but in finding his sexual identity also.

Functions Cited Ferguson, Michael. “Reserve Review”. Journal of Homosexuality, Volume 57. Taylor & & Francis Group, LLC. 2010. Helenius, Ero. “Socializing, Sexuality, and Innocence in The Catcher in the Rye”. University of Tampere School of Language, Translation and Literary Studies. May 2014. Salinger, J.D. The Catcher in The Rye. Little, Brown, and Business Edition. Warner Books. May 1991. United States of America.Shaw, Peter. “Love and Death in The Catcher in the Rye”. New Essays on Catcher in the Rye, modified by Jack Salzman. Cambridge University Press. 1991. The Pitt Building, Trumpington Street, Cambridge CB2 1RP.

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