Edwin Haviland Miller


IN MEMORIAM:
ALLIE CAULFIELD

Although J. D. Salinger's Catcher in the Rye deserves the affection and accolades it has received since its publication in 1951, whether it has been praised for the right reasons is debatable. Most critics have tended to accept Holden's evaluation of the world as phony, when in fact his attitudes are symptomatic of a serious psychological problem. Thus instead of treating the novel as a commentary by an innocent young man rebelling against an insensitive world or as a study of a youth's moral growth, 1 I propose to read Catcher in the Rye as the chronicle of a four-year period in the life of an adolescent whose rebelliousness is his only means of dealing with his inability to come to terms with the death of his brother. Holden Caulfield has to wrestle not only with the usual difficult adjustments of the adolescent years, in sexual, familial and peer relationships; he has also to bury Allie before he can make the transition into adulthood. 2

Life stopped for Holden on July 18, 1946, the day his brother died of leukemia. Holden was then thirteen, and four years later—the time of the narrative—he is emotionally still at the same age, although he has matured into a gangly six-foot adolescent. "I was sixteen then," he observes concerning his expulsion from Pencey Prep at Christmas time in 1949, "and I'm seventeen now, and some times I act like I'm about thirteen." 3

On several occasions Holden comments that his mother has never gotten over Allie's death, which may or may not be an accurate appraisal of Mrs. Caulfield, since the first-person narrative makes it difficult to judge. What we can deduce, though, is that it is an accurate appraisal of Holden's inability to accept loss, and that in his eyes his mother is so preoccupied with Allie that she continues to neglect Holden, as presumably she did when Allie was dying.

The night after Allie's death Holden slept in the garage and broke "all the goddam windows with my fist, just for the hell of it. I even tried to break all the windows on the station wagon we had that summer, but my hand was already

____________________
From Mosaic 15, No. I ( Winter 1982): 129-40.

-132-

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Holden Caulfield
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Major Literary Characters *
  • Holden Caulfield *
  • Contents *
  • The Analysis of Character ix
  • Editor's Note xv
  • Introduction i
  • Critical Extracts 5
  • Critical Essays 41
  • The Language of the Catcher in the Rye 41
  • Huck Finn and Holden Caulfield: the Situation of the Hero 50
  • On J. D. Salinger's Novel 58
  • The Saint as a Young Man 64
  • Character and Detail in the Catcher in the Rye 74
  • Allie and Phoebe 80
  • The Catcher in the Rye 87
  • "Don't Ever Tell Anybody Anything" 105
  • Against Obscenity 114
  • In Memoriam: Allie Caulfield 132
  • Adlerian Theory and the Catcher in the Rye 144
  • Holden and the Cold War 153
  • Contributors 166
  • Bibliography 169
  • Acknowledgments 173
  • Index 177
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