The Portrayal of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs in the Character of Holden Caulfield in The Catcher in the Rye, a Novel by J.D. Salinger

In Abraham Maslow’s revolutionary paper that was published in 1943, he specified that there was a rising hierarchy of needs for a person to attain which was crucial to our understanding of human motivation. Studying only people of a high intelligence and character, Maslow recognized that they all shared a common hierarchy of requirements that needed to be satisfied in order to achieve the highest level of mankind, likewise known as self actualization. The levels are Physiological Requirements (food, water, shelter, etc), Security needs (defense), Love Needs (sense of belonging), Esteem Needs (self love), and the acme of Self Actualization. A person can not advance from a specific level to another without satisfying the previous level. For instance, one might not get to Self Actualization from Love Requirements without satisfying their Esteem Requirements. In his later years Maslow realized that there is an even higher level than the previous ceiling of Self Actualization and this is called Transcendence. Transcendence is the ability to discuss the path of Self Actualization to others and assist them obtain it. Maslow also classified these requirements into Shortage requirements and Growth requirements. Deficiency requirements are characterized by lack thereof; such as the need for food and water. Growth requirements are necessary to psychological growth and require to be gotten to get psychological maturity. These needs can be interrupted by terrible occasions such as death, loss of an enjoyed one, and so on (McLeod). This interesting check out the human mind is not only extremely widespread in the real world however in literature as well. In J.D. Salinger’s unique The Catcher in the Rye, the main character, Holden Caulfield, fluctuates between the levels of Maslow’s Hierarchy; nevertheless, by the end of the unique, he has finally reached transcendence.

In the beginning of the unique, Holden Caulfield, the lead character, is in rather a despairing situation. When we first fulfill Holden he is “standing method up on Thomsen Hill” where “virtually the entire school existed however [him] (Salinger 3). Holden is entirely isolated from society and is unable to integrate. The reason for this despairing outlook on life is that Holden experienced a terrible death of his bro, Allie, which ended with Holden oversleeping the garage and “breaking all of the goddam windows with [his] fist, just for the hell of it” (Salinger 39). Holden is so shocked he can not pursue anything else and he is still not over the death of his brother which is learned when he states that his “hand still harms [him] occasionally when it rains and all” (Salinger 39). This is a really evident example of how deep the scars of Allie’s death are to Holden’s mind. Due to the youth traumas of his life, Holden arguably is at the extremely bottom of the hierarchy due to the fact that he can just satisfy his standard requirements of food and water. He has no sense of love or belonging at all due to the fact that he can not interact with others. In turn he has no sense of security either because he lost his sibling at a young age and fears the things he enjoys being lost and taken away from him. He gets tossed out of boarding school because he can not focus on anything greater than his basic human needs of food and water; a best example of Maslow’s Hierarchy at work. Holden even describes himself as feeling “miserable [he] felt so depressed you can’t even envision”(Salinger 98).

As the unique progresses, Holden has the ability to see a higher level of emotional intelligence as he feels safe when alone in New York. Therefore, Holden is gaining a level on the pyramid of needs yet he is constantly knocked down while attempting to obtain a greater level. A prime example of this would be his effort to reach the level of love and belonging by employing a prostitute, which just ends bitterly as he is battered and brought back down to where he was in the past. Holden is so emotionally damaged by this experience that he “believed [he] was dying. I believed I was drowning or something. The difficulty is I might hardly breathe”(Salinger 103). Our protagonist is effectively reduced to square one of the hierarchy and he even struggles to breathe which is an apparent human necessity.

This theme of Holden efficiently taking 2 actions back prior to he takes a leap forward is quite recurring throughout the novel. Salinger is attempting to reveal the reader that to gain emotional intelligence one needs to have a hard time greatly. Holden eventually regains his footing upon the mount of psychological intelligence, and is able to overcome the point he previously lost by getting a sense of love with Sally and realizing he does not require it. He even gets to the level of self-confidence needs and has the ability to feel a little positive in himself. However when he is so near being emotionally fully grown, perhaps in the incorrect way, the carpet is successfully pulled out from under him when he loses his psychological and physical security while remaining at Mr. Antolini’s apartment. When Holden wakes up from a tranquil sleep, to in his words, Mr. Antolini “petting or patting me on the goddam head … Boy, I’ll bet I leapt about a thousand feet” (Salinger 192). Holden is disturbed and lowered substantially in his psychological level.

All of these substantial gains and losses are not for nothing. Holden eventually regains his footing another time and has the ability to finally have his surprise that he can not save kids from the adult years. He sees that “All the kids kept attempting to grab for the gold ring, therefore was old Phoebe, and I was sort of afraid she ‘d fall off the goddam horse …” and he recognizes that in life the “thing with kids is, if they wish to grab for the gold ring, you need to let them do it, and not say anything.”( Salinger 211), which brings him to the high point of self actualization. Nevertheless then the concern occurs, “But how is Holden self actualized if he remains in a ridiculous asylum?” Ultimately when Maslow realized that the greatest level of his pyramid is transcendence or assisting others reach self actualization, he added it to his hierarchy. Efficiently, Salinger’s positioning of Holden in an asylum and having him write the book puts Holden on the highest level of transcendence. He is entirely, by composing the book, by informing his story to others, assisting others reach self actualization.

Through the illustrations of J.D. Salinger in the life of his character, Holden Caulfield, the picture of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Requirements is quite visible through a psychological lens in The Catcher in the Rye. Holden endures many stages of Maslow’s Hierarchy however eventually ends up at the acme of transcendence after his virtual odyssey through New york city. It remains in this way that Holden Caulfield represents something that all people can associate with which is the struggle to discover significance in life which he eventually does after a frenzied time. He rises from despair and grief to a higher point and helps others attain that. If one were to venture a guess regarding what takes place to Holden afterwards it is extremely possible that he has signed up with the society he had actually hated and helps others recognize their functions in life hence being ultimately transcendent.