All humans make mistakes, unfortunately, Holden Caulfield is notorious for committing one too many. J. D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye appears to be a long string of consecutive failures for the protagonist. The novel describes his attempt to reconcile with these failures and find a path that suits his qualities and desires. However Holden can not find a way to succeed and even Mr. Antolini says, “This fall I think you’re riding for – it’s a special kind of fall, a horrible kind. The man falling isn’t permitted to feel or hear himself hit bottom.
He just keeps falling and falling” (187). This whole fall that Holden is heading on seems to have started with the flunking out of school. Holden’s largest failure appears to be his inability to apply himself at school and achieve an educational degree. Dropping in and out of school results in immediate consequences such as wasting his parent’s money and receiving much criticism from family and friends. He won’t be able to make any long term friends by switching schools every year and will continue in the cycle of academic failure unless he decides to change.
Holden’s parents might finally get fed up with his lack of effort in school and cut off the flow of parental funding and make him live on his own. Holden will find it tough to live on his own since he had trouble with those few lonely days living in hotels without a support group. It will also be difficult for Holden to find a job since some type of degree is required for most jobs. Holden must adjust to this new lifestyle of self sufficiency that does not come natural being raised in a rich family. After several years, the long term effects begin to set in.
He will regret not taking the opportunity to receive an education, but can not go back to get a degree because he has to work several jobs to keep up with the expense of living in the big city. Holden will have faced alienation from past friends and acquaintances as he is labeled a misfit and failure by those who were once close. Holden will realize that he has to change in order to become accomplished and this might have to include accepting some of those phony attributes that control society and its mannerisms. One change he has to make is learning how to apply himself at one aspect of his life. He did ot strive to do well at Pencey and that has led him down the wrong path. Often when one does not apply themselves at school, it can spread to other areas of their life. Holden may soon not try hard at anything else he does, hence prolonging the eminent fall he is “riding for. ” Holden must be able to learn from his failure and change in order to avoid future mistakes that may follow. So far the only way Holden has learned is from trial and error, and he has suffered many tragedies because of this method. Without love and care, Holden finds himself lost and he eventually visits an old teacher, Mr.
Antolini for guidance. Mr. Antolini reinforces the importance of school and how it is significant to Holden personally, “… apply yourself in school. You’ll have to. You’re a student – whether the idea appeals to you or not. You’re in love with knowledge” (189). One can tell from the novel that Holden is intellectual but it seems that he picks and chooses when and what he wants to learn. Mr. Antolini urges him to continue his education till he discovers that special kind of information that is dear to him and stimulates his thirst for knowledge.
Working hard for an education pays off because one achieves satisfaction and enjoyment in life after accomplishing something great they have worked on. Hopefully Holden has benefitted from these learning experiences and sets himself on track to attain a diploma and continue to pursue knowledge that makes one both wise and powerful. At this point in his life Holden is just confused and overwhelmed with growing up and having to enter adulthood. He is afraid of what he doesn’t understand and reverts to a cynical view of society to shield himself from the painfulness of growing up.
Holden wishes he could live in a simple and understandable world but he must face the realities of life and the complexities that come with it. Confronting failure is often the most difficult thing to do especially at a young age for adolescences, however education is able teach not only book work, but life values as well. By obtaining an education, Holden will be able to transgress his previous conceptions about society and learn to succeed in the rapidly changing society he is thrown into.