Holden’s Character Development
In the incipient stages in the novel, Holden is critical and disdainful of everyone he encounters. Holden strongly believes that humanity’s actions are not an appropriate response to their emotions, this is alluded to by his reoccurring use of the adjective “phony.” In addition to the misalignment of emotions and actions, he uses “phony” to describe those whom he believes have inflated reactions, or are generally pretentious. All this skepticism had led him to not only questioning his own meaning, but others as well, for instance he wondered “what the hell he [Mr. Spencer] was still living for” (pg. 6). His criticism of the few that cared about him ultimately lead to further emotional insecurity “he was even more stupid than Stradlater, Stradlater was a goddam genius next to Ackley.”
His realization of a personal atypical emotional response to the actions (the same abnormality he saw in others) of the prostitute set the groundwork for recovery. “Then all of a sudden she pulled her dress over her head, I know you’re supposed to feel sexy and all when a girl pulls her dress over her head but I didn’t feel very sexy at all, I felt more depressed than sexy.” (pg. 100) Unfortunately, this realization of disconnect of emotions and actions led to nothing beyond being noted, however it does signify character development, in that he was able to recognize this disconnection. His emotional volatility was seen at the rise of a trivial quarrel between the pimp and himself. “All of a sudden, I started to cry. I’d give anything if I hadn’t, but I did.” (pg. 103)His emotional state was further exacerbated after being assaulted by Maurice, “I stayed on the floor for a while... I felt like I was dying...” (pg. 103). Becoming more in tuned with his emotions allowed Holden to begin a recovery.
The level of introspection seen in Holden’s conversation with Sally, further supports his development during the book. “I don’t get hardly anything out of anything. I swear, I’m in bad shape.” (pg. 131). This is a pivotal moment in the book because Holden begins to refine his previous observation of his apathetic attitude towards what are typically rewarding stimuli and attribute the fault to himself rather than the environment. For the first time in the novel, he proposes the alternative of escaping with Sally to the country and survive on scarce to no income. He claims that in relation to a normal life, this alternative “wouldn’t be the same at all, it’d be entirely different.” (pg. 133). His desire for this specific “escape” is attributed to a conclusion error he has made as to the reason for his unhappiness. Prior to his proposal of an alternative life, he had expressed to Sally that he resented the city, and every entity it contained (people, cars). He believed that if he were to entirely reverse his environment, his attitude towards it would reverse, and thus, he would be happy. Although he conducted a false analysis, his introspective observations were accurate and occurrent, which signifies character development.
In the book’s conclusion, Holden accepted the obscurity of live, and its future. “I mean how do you know what you’re going to do, until you do it?” (pg. 213). In addition to his acceptance of being unable to predict his actions, this question also shows that he understands he cannot predict his feelings as a result of those actions. Imbedded is the question, “how do you know how you’re going to feel about it, until you actually do it?” In the conclusion, he also accepts that he is unable to control others, and believes that freedom of experimentation and the consequent risk of harm, may be the derivation of pleasure. “If they want to grab for the gold ring, you gotta let them do it.” (pg. 211).
Holden is finally less skeptical of his surroundings, and he begins to accept them. His thoughts signify that he is more open to help and kindness: “even if he was a flit, he had certainly been very nice to me.” (pg. 195). He begins to question the validity of his actions, and although he was unable to revert his actions, his subsequent actions will be affected positively by this questioning.
Battle of the non-conformists
Both Holden and Paikea fought against something that is much larger than themselves. This similarity of enemy, led to similar experiences during their rebellion. Throughout the novel, Holden often believes that his rebellion is hopeless, and that he is insignificant; for instance his feeling of disappearing when crossing the street. Paikea experiences something similar, when she is led to believe that she will never obtain the acceptance of her grandfather. As a result, both Holden and Paikea have a negative outlook on their environment and community. This feeling of hopelessness leads to a another significant similarity, they are both very emotional. Both Holden and Paikea cry at numerous points in the stories, often when they feel overwhelmed by their opposition.
Unlike Holden, Paikea was aware of who she was fighting, and what she was fighting for. He was fighting her tradition and for her right to be noticed as a leader. This gave her a great advantage because she had the ability to know her objectives, and as a result, she was not taking shots in the dark like Holden. Holden was at a further disadvantage because he was either unwilling or unable to effectively explain his position. For instance, when speaking to Sally about all he resented about the city, she continued to exclaim that he “wasn’t making any sense” or he was “you keep jumping from--[she was cut off by his rant].” Another difference, likely the one most essential to success, was the public’s view of their rebellion. Holden made no progress, and was seen by others as a misanthrope. Paikea made incremental progress, and was seen as an activist, fighting for what she believed. This ultimately lead to Holden’s downfall, and Paikea’s success.
Paikea is more successful because she proves herself as the Whale Rider, and thus wins her grandfathers acceptance. Non-conformists must know and understand their opposition. This is what led to Holden submitting to the resistance. A non-conformist must effectively describe their argument effectively, to at least allow others to understand their frustration. Throughout Holden’s experience, others saw him as a hopeless young boy, who was confused with the world. At no point did anyone say to him that they “understood” his discontent with life. Paikea was seen as a naive young girl at some points of the story, but in others she was seen (mainly by the woman) as a righteous warrior, who stood for what she believed in. Finally, a non-conformist must propose an alternative, and give specific examples of its success. Holden’s alternative was not understood, and could thus not be accepted. Paikea demonstrated her leadership abilities at multiple points during the story, when she fixed the motor boat, defeated the boy in fighting, and many others. Paikea was thus, a successful non-conformist.