As part of this continuum of denial, Holden is often uncertain about his emotional states. He leaves school for the final time and cries, for example, unable to explain why. Feeling upset would be a ‘normal’ response but Holden doesn’t see it that way:
Holden’s apparent hypocrisy – that he spends money recklessly, that he drinks and pursues women while, at other times, decrying this very behaviour – signifies for us the character of child who is acting out the role of a man. If we see The Catcher in the Rye as an odyssey, then Holden’s Ithaca is the apogee of adolescence; sexual awakening.
J.D. Salinger, The Catcher in the Rye, (Penguin, 1994). p. 1
Salinger provides us with evidence in dialogue, narrative and meta-narrative that Holden is seeing things differently to us. What does that mean for our reading of the text? The easiest and first response is that we begin to doubt other aspects of the telling – even when contextual cues confirming Holden’s veracity are missing. For example, when Holden arrives at the Edmont Hotel, he describes a tableau of ‘perverted’ activity taking place within view of his window. A middle aged man dresses in drag; a couple spit cocktails at each other. As this follows on shortly after his encounter with Mrs. Morrow, how much of this apparently exaggerated scene should we believe?
SparkNotes: The Catcher in the Rye: Chapters 18–20 …
Holden Caulfield is the first-person protagonist of J.D. Salinger’s novel The Catcher in the Rye and frequently thought of as a classic ‘unreliable narrator’.
The Catcher in the Rye | Questions & Answers for students
When we learn that Holden talks to his dead brother, that he cries sometimes for no reason and that, at the novel’s close, he literally loses control of his own actions, compulsively pacing the sidewalks of New York, seeing Allie at every turn – we know that there is something more at work here than inconsistency for its own sake, that The Catcher in the Rye is an inventory of extreme loss and change.
D Salinger, the author of ‘The catcher in the Rye’, ..
Shortly after publication, the text was discussed as a record of 50s teenage vernacular that may later acquire the importance of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn in Donald P. Costello, The Language of ‘The Catcher in the Rye’ in American Speech, Vol. 34, No. 3 (1959), Duke University Press