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

“Sex is something I simply do not understand. I swear to God I do not,” (Salinger, 63). It may take Holden Caulfield nine chapters to confess to this, but his sexual confusion is present from the first pages of J.D. Salinger’s popular novel The Catcher in The Rye. Originating from the dichotomy of sexual openness in America, underlined by a tremendous level of sensitivity, and sprinkled with teenage confusion, Holden’s relationship with his sexuality is an unstable one. Holden experiences a consistent string of feelings concerning sexuality, spanning from excitement to regret. All of these emotions are challenging, and are a pressing internal struggle for Holden. Holden Caulfield’s disconnection from his sexuality is a significant factor to his social difficulties.Certainly the broadest cause of 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 far-off moms and dads, “the majority of sex in America had actually been pushed into the closet. Even masturbation was abhored and thought to be the source of numerous physical and mental ills. The only officially backed sexual habits was monogamous heterosexual marriage,” (Ferguson, 2). Just personal, vanilla-no-sprinkles-please sex was acceptable, and even this ultrabland intercourse was never ever discussed. In a foreseeable response to this uptight sexual culture, the more youthful generation rebelled and embraced sex, which later partly inspired the sexual transformation. We see this open sexual enjoyment in Holden’s private school, Pencey Prep. Holden tells his reader that at Pencey “all you do is speak about women and alcohol and sex throughout the day,” (Salinger, 131). While all of Holden’s pals are constructing out with girls, and then vividly retelling stories about said making out sessions, Holden can’t quite take in into that culture. A part of Holden does experience sexual excitement; he goes on dates frequently, talk about woman’s looks, and is envious of his roomie Stradlater’s sexually daring methods (Salinger, 43). But there is also an equally strong part of Holden that wants sex to be intimate and extremely individual. Both viewpoints are showcased as Holden assesses an usual sexual scene observed outside his hotel room window; “I can even see how it might be quite a great deal of enjoyable, in a crumby way, and if you were both sort of drunk and all, to get a woman and squirt water or something all over each other’s face. The important things is, however, I do not like the concept. It stinks, if you evaluate it,” (Salinger, 62). On one hand Holden is thrilled, and sometimes overwhelmed, by sex. On the other, he is disturbed by and silently conscious sexual energy. Holden is clearly confused about where he lands between these 2 opposing ends of the spectrum. Society is sending out blended signals to all young people, and Holden is a prime example of the confusion that can ensue.The Catcher in The Rye is commonly known for its exploration of turning into their adult years, and the inescapable loss of innocence. Eero Helenius connects innocence and sexuality well- “With regard to sex and sexuality, then, Holden is mainly interested in protecting the innocence of those– women, in specific– yet untainted by its ever-pervasive impact,” (Helenius, 25). The styles of innocence and adulthood are closely associated to, and supported by, a number of sexual examples. The clearest example of innocence lost to sex is discovered as Holden orders a prostitute to his hotel space. Right away after verifying his space number with the elevator kid turned pimp, Holden starts to regret his decision (Salinger, 91). When the prostitute gets here, Holden is shut off by her childish look, keeping in mind that she “(…) was young as hell,” (Salinger, 94). The woman of the street, who passes Sunny, goes into wearing a green gown and quickly takes it off. Holden’s fixation with innocence is clear as he assesses this gown- “I took her dress 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 gown] up for her. I thought of her going into a shop and buying it, and nobody in the store knowing she was a woman of the street and all. The salesperson probably just thought she was a routine woman when she purchased it. It made me feel sad as hell- I do not know why exactly,” (Salinger, 95). In spite of his lack of emotional intelligence, Holden reveals a deep pain in reaction to this innocent dress being used for prostitution. Holden may not understand why he’s so unfortunate about this dress, but readers do; experiencing an obviously routine, girl turn to the impersonal world of sex work is heartbreaking for our innocence-obsessed narrator. Holden’s pained relationship with sexual innocence is also present, and a lot more individual, in his youth good friend and love interest Jane Gallagher. To Holden, Jane represents tender youth memories and younger appeal. Holden tells a story of when Jane and he are playing checkers, making a special note of how Jane keeps all of her kings in the back row through the game. This is naturally a horrible strategy, however she” (…) liked the method they looked (…),” (Salinger, 32). Much in the exact same method Holden has impractical but reassuring tendencies, Jane puts the innocent desire of looks above the adult objective of winning the video game. Jane has a history of sexual adulteration, specifically her “boozehound” father-in-law walking around their house naked. Jane’s father-in-law, a blatant sign of harsh adult life, interrupts their checkers game to ask if they have any cigarettes, but Jane can not satisfy his eye and starts to quietly sob. (Salinger, 78). This exchange serves as proof that Jane has been sexually abused by her father-in-law. Holden attempts to comfort her, however lacks the appropriate interaction abilities. This awful example of sexual adulteration sets the stage for another Jane-related pain for Holden. Stradlater, Holden’s super-sexual roommate, goes on a date with Jane. Holden, and readers, presume that Stradlater and Jane have sex, which is heartbreaking to Holden. Holden desperately attempts to bring innocence back to the situation 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 lady kept all her kings in the back row’ (Salinger, 43), an information about Jane’s character that suggests everything to Holden however nothing to Stradlater,” (Helenius, 24). This loss of sexual innocence is experienced as death for Holden: death of youth, death of appeal, death of general innocence. Peter Shaw expands on this abstract death, writing that there are 2 parts of teenaged psychological advancement (Shaw, 101). The very first is mourning death of innocence, and the 2nd is experiencing love. According to Shaw, “If Holden is not able to proceed from mourning [the death of innocence], he is similarly not able to commence the being-in-love portion of his maturation process. He is suffering through (…) ‘the prime threat of this age’: an exceedingly prolonged ‘moratorium’ on growing up.” Jane Gallagher stands as a beacon of younger innocence throughout The Catcher in The Rye, and the mix of her father-in-law and Stradlater’s inconsiderate treatment of her are extremely uncomfortable for Holden, holding him back from a more adult frame of mind. Holden Caulfield is popular for his hypocrisy. And worrying sexuality, Holden’s hypocritical methods do not falter. Holden tells us “In my mind I’m most likely the greatest sex maniac you ever saw,” (Salinger, 62). Nevertheless, just a few lines later, Holden likewise tells us that he feels guilty and unclean when he has sexual fantasies. Despite being interested and thrilled by sex, Holden does not take any genuine 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 numerous opportunities to lose my virginity and all, however I’ve never navigated to it. Something always occurs,” (Salinger, 92). That definitely doesn’t sound like the “sex maniac” Holden had actually just described himself as. Holden’s sexual hypocrisy extends onto others too. As Holden dances with a few women at a club, he comments on how dumb and arrested they are. Nevertheless, he also notes how one “(…) when she turned around, her quite little butt twitched so nice,” (Salinger, 73). In spite of criticizing lady for not being smart enough, he likewise finds her attractive and attempts to get the 3 ladies to stay out with him. Holden experiences sexual enjoyment, however hypocritically fails to take the actions that would lead to sexual 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 certain socially divergent sexual practices. The first of these is a sexual interest in older females. This fetish arises as Holden flees from Pencey Prep to New York City City. On his train to New York, Holden encounters Mrs. Morrow, the mom of Holden’s classmate Ernest Morrow. Holden tells us “She was about forty or forty-five, I think, but she was excellent looking,” (Salinger, 54). Holden is around sixteen throughout this interaction, positioning Mrs. Morrow at nearly three times his age. Some social constraint is present in his language- Holden states “but she’s great looking.” She is old but great looking; the word “however” characterizes her appearance unanticipated, unusual. We can assume that if Holden was appreciating a woman his own age, he would say “She is 16 years of ages and very good looking,” as a girl’s attractiveness is even more accepted. The decision for Holden to compose “however she’s great looking,” reveals that he knows she should not be considered appealing to him. As Holden settles into his hotel room, he exposes more of his irregular sexual interests. Simply outside the window, Holden silently observes as 2 scenes unfold in a hotel next to his. The very first is a grey-haired organisation male who includes a complete outfit of ladies’s clothing, consisting of silk stockings, heels, a bra, and even a corset. In the adjacent window, Holden observes a male-female couple spitting water on each others deals with. Holden finds a special interest in this couple, composing “The difficulty was that type of scrap is sort of fascinating to enjoy, even if you don’t desire it to be,” (Salinger, 61). There is embarassment in Holden’s fetish interest; Holden explains his fascination as “difficulty”, and freely mentions that he doesn’t want to have an interest in it. Once again we see hypocritical habits, this time in a more specific sexual manner. An intriguing facet 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, but matter however. The possibility of homosexuality would certainly add to Holden’s tremendous sexual confusion and variation. The first, and many subtle, tip of homosexuality in Holden occurs as he sees Stradlater walk to the bathroom- “He went out of the room with his toilet package and towel under his arm. No t-shirt on or anything. He constantly walked around in his bare upper body because he thought he had a damn excellent build. He did, too. I have to admit it,” (Salinger, 26). Once again, some pity is present in his voice; he has to admit that he believes Stradlater is durable. The next nod towards homosexuality is Holden’s use of the word “flit”. The term was utilized as a derogatory term for queer and queer-appearing guys during mid 20th century, and has given that faded in popularity. Holden utilizes the term with a despiteful tone to explain two males he finds at the end of a bar. In spite of offering no basis for their homosexuality, Holden aggressively assumes their sexuality (Salinger, 142). Throughout his meeting with Carl Luce, an old classmate infamous for sexual understanding, Holden mentions that Luce knows “who every flit and lesbian in the United States was. All you needed to do was point out somebody- anybody- and old Luce ‘d tell you if he was a flit or not,” (Salinger, 143) Holden then expresses an unreasonable fear that he himself would “develop into a flit or something.” A deceptive interest with the alternative way of life of homosexuality was regular for American culture at this time, however Holden’s language shows a more emotionally charged response than interest. His fear of one day awakening a gay guy exposes a much deeper connection to homosexuality, or at the least bisexuality. We also see that Holden’s disconnection from his clearly homosexual interests creates an off-putting judgement of queer individuals, in specific other men. Worry of homosexuality arises, a lot more noticable, when Holden stays with his old instructor Mr. Antolini. Mr. Antolini is welcoming of Holden, using him a location to sleep in his apartment when Holden is in need. Holden goes to sleep on Mr. Antolini’s couch, and awakens to Mr. Antolini cuddling his head. Mr. Antolini had actually been consuming greatly, blurring his sense of what is socially proper. The move is not entirely homoerotic; it might also be referred to as fatherly, worried, or simply drunken. But, bearing in mind that Holden is using just his underwear, and that Mr. Antolini had actually simply told Holden “Goodnight, handsome,”, the interaction is unquestionably homosexual to some degree (Salinger, 192). Holden runs away the home, startled and upset by the move. Holden’s enormous worry of a homosexual encounter with Mr. Antolini avoids him from seeing any of the fatherly, caring motivations that Mr. Antolini probably held. The act definitely is inappropriate according to American social norms. However, if Holden was more in touch with his homosexual interests and desires, his reaction would not have been so intensely negative. He still would have been stunned, however maybe later would have at least considered the kind, concerned inspirations Mr. Antolini certainly held. Here Holden’s judgement of queerness cuts short any chance of an useful relationship with Mr. Antolini. All of these sexual tensions, misunderstandings, and disconnections lead to a really sexually puzzled Holden Caulfield. His confusion and disconnection result in a number of socially hindering propensities. The most clearly kept in mind would be his infamous judgemental mindset. Holden continuously judges others, a routine frequently connected with insecurity. Another element of his social troubles is his rage, certainly sustained by judgmentalism. For instance- in the start of the unique, before readers are familiarized with Holden and his lack of self-awareness, Holden enters a rageful fit, physically attacking Stradlater (Salinger, 43). Holden’s rage, unsafe and juvenile, is activated entirely by the idea of innocence lost to sexual relations. The move feels childish, both in its psychological immaturity and in Holden’s apparent physical downside versus the more powerful, bigger Stradlater. This brings us to Holden’s last preventing characteristic; masochism. Prior To Stradlater and Jane head out, Jane is waiting beyond Holden’s dorm room. Jane- the beautiful, kind, delicate character Holden loves- is alone, waiting simply outside Holden’s dormitory. Holden does not even step outdoors his dormitory, not to mention go downstairs to consult with his childhood favorite. He then consistently contemplates calling her once he’s in New york city, however can’t bring himself to go through with it. Holden’s failure to connect to Jane in spite of his feelings is a prime example of his passivity and indecision. In spite of having the chance to speak with Jane, Holden cuts himself off from this social interaction. The exact same opts for the previously explored fetishes Holden holds. He’s interested, ecstatic, by sexual adventure. But he again cuts himself off from exploring these sexual activities that would bring him delight. Holden’s mixed drink, one part rage to two parts self-restriction, intoxicates him throughout the novel, leading straight to his anxiety. The narrative of The Catcher in The Rye occurs as Holden is experiencing peak sexual confusion. Readers witness Holden checking out intrigue, guilt, and discomfort. All of these are perfectly healthy during sexual advancement, however make psychological life quite tough. Most readers of The Catcher in The Rye are simply as young and impressionable as Holden is, making it important to examine his developments. Holden is an angry, judgemental, and self-inhibiting character. These characteristics are not without good reason; Holden is lost not just in social identity development, but in finding his sexual identity as well.

Functions Cited Ferguson, Michael. “Book Review”. Journal of Homosexuality, Volume 57. Taylor & & Francis Group, LLC. 2010. Helenius, Ero. “Socialization, 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. Bit, Brown, and Company 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, edited by Jack Salzman. Cambridge University Press. 1991. The Pitt Building, Trumpington Street, Cambridge CB2 1RP.