login about faq

Holden Caulfield from A Catcher in the Rye is afraid of growing up. As explained in this video, Holden is seeking throughout the novel to be told by an adult that adulthood will not be bad. He is afraid of growing up because he feels he will lose his innocence if he does. He is waiting for someone to prove that innocence and adulthood can go hand in hand. Since he has not yet found such proof, he wants to stop time. He wants to stop time because he cannot move on. The reason this book has its reputation is because a lot of people can relate to Holden Caulfield and his fear of growing up. I don't know what answer I can get here, but the psychology behind this character is still extremely relevant.

I ask this now because Ayn Rand never focused on "growing up" in her novels. Sure, there is an entire chapter in Atlas Shrugged devoted to the backstory of Dagny and Francisco, following their years from childhood onward, but they are just archetypes. Their psychology isn't the main focus of that chapter. That section of the novel was simply establishing "philosophical exposition" to make clearer the motivations of Dagny and Francisco. I cannot be sure of A Catcher in the Rye is Romanticism, but I can say with certainty that it is mainly about the psychology of a character more than a symbolic display of what a person should or could be like.

What would a professional Objectivist say to a person like Holden Caulfield, should these two bump into each other and have a serious discussion?

asked Nov 20 '13 at 16:08

Collin1's gravatar image

Collin1
22312477

There is no collective Objectivist view on anything. Some Objectivists might not have even read Catcher in the Rye. For those that have, I am sure they have a variety of opinions on the character. I read it, long ago, but don't recall anything particular about it that I think I could offer you a satisfactory answer. Based on what you have written above, I am not even certain what it is you are seeking.

(Nov 21 '13 at 10:50) MarcMercier ♦ MarcMercier's gravatar image

It is exceedingly difficult for me to comment on the book, since I'm not familiar with it. But there is much that I can say about the description in the question and the YouTube link which the question provides. I also found a substantial article about the book on Wikipedia, including an extensive plot summary. It's really just a story, not a plot, and not much of a story, either. Caulfield is basically just an aimless wanderer having little sense of purpose in his life. He has not learned that he needs to define his own purpose and pursue it, not wait for others to define it for him.

The Wikipedia article points out the appeal of the book to young people:

[Caulfield] admires in kids attributes that he struggles to find in adults, like innocence, kindness, spontaneity, and generosity. Falling off the cliff could be a progression into the adult world that surrounds him and that he strongly criticizes.

("Catcher in the Rye" refers to children playing a game in a rye field on the edge of a cliff and being saved by a "catcher" when they accidentally fall off. Also, the book is titled, The Catcher in the Rye, not "A Catcher in the Rye.")

The question begins:

Holden Caulfield from A Catcher in the Rye is afraid of growing up. As explained in this video, Holden is seeking throughout the novel to be told by an adult that adulthood will not be bad. He is afraid of growing up because he feels he will lose his innocence if he does. He is waiting for someone to prove that innocence and adulthood can go hand in hand.

In other words, "growing up" means losing one's "innocence," and Caulfield is afraid that adult life will be "corrupting," forcing him to give up his "innocence." But what is the implicit underlying philosophy here? Caulfield sounds to me like a perfect illustration of a mystic in the making. He has adopted a malevolent universe premise and is demanding that others disprove it, instead of identifying for himself what he wants to accomplish in his life and how best to go about achieving it.

Since mysticism is incompatible with the requirements of man's life, most people do, indeed, compromise in their embrace of mystical ideas (or reject mysticism entirely in favor of an explicitly life-serving philosophy of reason, individualism, and freedom). Mysticism-altruism-collectivism is not a path to personal happiness and prosperity; reason-individualism-capitalism is.

However, I must reiterate that I cannot vouch for the accuracy of the question's description of the story. I am responding to the question's characterization of it.

Since he has not yet found such proof, he wants to stop time. He wants to stop time because he cannot move on.

In other words, he is at war with reality. But A is A; time is time; and time moves on relentlessly. Caulfield has not learned to make the most of it. (I didn't find the stopping of time mentioned in the Wikipedia article, however.)

The reason this book has its reputation is because a lot of people can relate to Holden Caulfield and his fear of growing up.

The Wikipedia article confirms that there have been sharp differences of opinion about this book, including the banning of it in many high school curricula and libraries -- while it gradually becomes popular with increasing numbers of young people.

I ask this now because Ayn Rand never focused on "growing up" in her novels. Sure, there is an entire chapter in Atlas Shrugged devoted to the backstory of Dagny and Francisco, following their years from childhood onward, but they are just archetypes ... [which] make clearer the motivations of Dagny and Francisco.

In Ayn Rand's writings, one can readily find a radiantly "benevolent universe" view of youthful aspirations and later life, which is Ayn Rand's answer to the kind of youthful "innocence" and adult "corruption" that Caulfield evidently represents and/or fears. Ayn Rand rejects the view that any "corruption" is necessary or inevitable, if one proceeds from proper life-serving premises at the outset. She concretizes this in the very chapter of Atlas Shrugged that the above excerpt refers to, which actually included two additional characters besides Francisco and Dagny: Dagny's brother James, and especially Eddie Willers. That chapter (and the rest of the story as well) concretizes Eddie's state of mind highly insightfully. He is very similar to Caulfield in the sense of longing for the "ideal," but not knowing what the ideal is. He has also accepted the common ideas regarding "business and earning a living" as anti-ideal (with the "ideal" implicitly taken from mysticism-altruism-collectivism). But Eddie is largely saved by the opportunity to see and associate with Dagny and Francisco. They give him fuel to keep going (especially Dagny). It carries Eddie all the way to the very end of the story, in a poignant scene of effectively praying to a stuck locomotive, where he finally realizes that business and earning a living are the ideal.

I cannot be sure of[if] A Catcher in the Rye is Romanticism...

What is romanticist about a plotless journalistic story of an aimless wanderer who happens to have a "heart of innocence"? What does he do with it, and why? And does he live in a benevolent universe, or a malevolent universe rigged to defeat him at his every turn?

... I can say with certainty that it is mainly about the psychology of a character more than a symbolic display of what a person should or could be like.

Yes. Evidently the story is fundamentally a photograph or journalistic account. Naturalism characteristically emphasizes characterization over man's power to choose his own values and act on them. Naturalism emphasizes psychology over story.

What would a professional Objectivist say to a person like Holden Caulfield, should these two bump into each other and have a serious discussion?

Howard Roark might recognize him as a young precursor to a future Ellsworth Toohey and give him the same response he once gave to Toohey: "But I don't think of you."

Also, there are no "professional Objectivists" involved with this website as far as I know, except possibly Diana Hsieh, who is listed as a site administrator (along with Greg, John, Jason and Andrew) but who seldom contributes to the website visibly.

There are many passages in Ayn Rand's writings where Ayn Rand comments deeply insightfully on youthful aspirations and later life. Here is one example, from her Introduction to the 25th Anniversary Edition of The Fountainhead:

It is not in the nature of man -- nor of any living entity -- to start out by giving up, by spitting in one's own face and damning existence; that requires a process of corruption, whose rapidity differs from man to man. Some give up at the first touch of pressure; some sell out; some run down by imperceptible degrees and lose their fire, never knowing when or how they lost it. Then all of these vanish in the vast swamp of their elders who tell them persistently that maturity consists of abandoning one's mind; security, of abandoning one's values; practicality, of losing self-esteem. Yet a few hold on and move on, knowing that that fire is not to be betrayed, learning how to give it shape, purpose and reality. But whatever their future, at the dawn of their lives men seek a noble vision of man's nature and of life's potential.

Other related passages can be found in "The Inexplicable Personal Alchemy" (ROP), The Romantic Manifesto (Introduction), and Ayn Rand's review of Hugo's Ninety Three (published in The Ayn Rand Column, "When people look back at their childhood or youth, their wistfulness comes....").

answered Nov 21 '13 at 22:26

Ideas%20for%20Life's gravatar image

Ideas for Life ♦
467718

Follow this question

By Email:

Once you sign in you will be able to subscribe for any updates here

By RSS:

Answers

Answers and Comments

Share This Page:

Tags:

×72
×65
×4

Asked: Nov 20 '13 at 16:08

Seen: 2,475 times

Last updated: Nov 21 '13 at 22:26