The Catcher in the Rye

by: J. D. Salinger

Themes

Perhaps surprisingly given his criticism of performance, Holden cannot exempt himself from the charge of inauthenticity. This is evident as early as Chapter 4, when he gleefully proclaims his need to act out for attention: “All I need’s an audience. I’m an exhibitionist.” Whether tap dancing for Stradlater in the dorm bathroom, taking on the alter ego of Rudolph Schmidt on the train to New York, or trying to play it cool in city bars, Holden performs and exaggerates constantly. He even admits to exaggerating his own immaturity. As he notes in Chapter 2, “I act quite young for my age sometimes. I was sixteen then, and I’m seventeen now, and some times I act like I’m about thirteen.” Holden makes a similar performance during his encounter with Carl Luce, who comments on Holden’s persistent immaturity and repeatedly asks him, “When are you going to grow up?” Throughout The Catcher in the Rye, then, Holden is an actor in search of a sympathetic audience.