Essay Critique...please


living on the border
This is probably my 4th time this school year doing this but I've found it helpful every other time and you guys help helped me get a better grade.

Here's the directions:

You will write a five-page literary research paper on one of the following literary works: Great Expectations, A Raisin in the Sun, The Odyssey, Jane Eyre, Romeo and Juliet, Not Without Laughter, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, or The Catcher in the Rye.

You paper will address the following question: How does your chosen bolvel play/deal with the themes of coming of age and alienation.

You must create a thesis and use three credible sources to support your assertations.

Your paper must include quotations from the primary text and your research material.
I chose to do mine on The Catcher in the Rye. A few weeks ago my teacher read my first draft and said I was off to a good start, now the final is due tomorrow.

I would greatly appreciate it if you could read, or skim, my essay and let me know what you think and some suggestions that could make it better. Here it is:

She’Davia Williams
English 51

Striving to Stay a Child

In The Catcher in the Rye J.D. Salinger introduces the character Holden Caulfield. Holden is about seventeen and the novel takes the reader on an adventure of Holden trying to find his place in the world. As he does this he goes many places and goes through many obstacles, from hiring a prostitute to planning to hitch hike out west. While doing these things Holden shares his views on the world and how he doesn’t really like anyone. He is a loner. In The Catcher in the Rye, Holden Caulfield alienates himself from society in an attempt to stay a child. “Holden's quest [one of maintaining his innocence] takes him outside of society” (Hieserman).

One reason why Holden alienates himself from society is so that he will not become “phony”. Holden considers almost everything, from actors and headmasters to love stories and clapping, to be phony. Holden will do anything to avoid being “phony”. “I figured that anybody that hates the movies as much as I do, I’d be a phony if I let them stick me in a movie short” (77), he explains as he tells us about the time that he was offered a role in for a movie short.
While Holden becomes preoccupied with obsessing over other people’s phoniness, he doesn’t realize that he himself is phony. Towards the end of the novel, when Holden is about to run away, he plans out his journey. His plan is to hitchhike out west, and pretend to be a deaf mute. While explaining this Holden shows even more his attempt to stay isolated from the rest of society. “Everybody’d think I was just a poor deaf-mute bastard and they’d leave me alone.” With doing this, Holden, by the definition of someone who is phony, “an insincere, pretentious, or deceitful person” (, has become phony himself.

Even though his goal throughout the book is to stay a child Holden shows signs of trying to act older than he is. Holden has gray hair that he tries to use to his advantage. With this and his height, he can come off to look older than seventeen. He is on a train talking to the person sitting next to her when he asks her to join him for a cocktail. When she questions him about his age he says “I can usually get them on account of my height and I have quite a bit of gray hair” (57). Holden tries to advance his age again later on when he attempts to have sex with a prostitute. First he lies about his age, saying that he is twenty-two. The prostitute doesn’t believe him. He still shows his true age, when in the end he is not able to have sex with her. He is too nervous and decides that he just wants to talk to her. He actually gets agitated with her when she continues to make advances, saying “Do you mind cutting it out? I’m not in the mood, I just told you” (97). This scene shows that while Holden may have made an attempt at being older, he still wants to be the seventeen year old boy that he is.

In the same way that he doesn’t want to grow up, Holden wishes that things would not change and that they would stay the same way forever. Holden goes to the Museum of Natural History and stated, “The best thing about the Museum was that everything always stayed right where it was….Nobody’d be different. The only thing that would be different would be you” (121). He idolizes how the museum never changes, while change is something that Holden must go through. He even goes as far as to say “I loved that damn museum” (120).

Holden would like to be the “catcher in the rye” so that he can save the children from the “phoniness” and “impureness” that comes with being an adult. “I have to catch everybody if they start to go over the cliff…That’s all I’d do all day. I’d just be the catcher in the rye and all” (173), he explains to Phoebe. The cliff symbolizes the jump that children make when they enter the “adult world”. It is at this point that Holden's quest is first learned. “In one sense his quest is a quest to preserve and innocence that is in peril of vanishing – the innocence of childhood” (Miller). Holden appreciates the pureness in children so he wants to be the person that helps them stay this way. He is beginning to realize that he cannot stay a child for ever saying “Thousands of little kids and nobody’s around - nobody big, I mean - except me.” He knows that he is going to become an adult soon and he would not like for this “tragedy” to happen to anyone else.

Holden Caulfield’s little sister, Phoebe exhibits the type of pureness that every child has. She changes her middle name from, to “Phoebe Weatherfield Caulfield” (160), when her middle name is actually “Josephine”. She doesn’t want boys to like her, “I don’t want him to like me” (164), she states as she tells Holden about a boy that has been bothering her. Phoebe can be called the “poster-child” for what pureness in children is supposed to be like. Holden notices this about Phoebe, and he “idolizes” her because of it. He sometimes feels that she is too mature for her age and he would like to save her from this.
One of the instances where Holden notices that Phoebe is growing up is when she hugs him while he is visiting him at their house. “She’s quite affectionate, for a child. Sometimes she’s even too affectionate” (161). Affection, a strong feeling of love, is something that is normally used to describe the emotions of adults. By saying that Phoebe is too affectionate he is stating that she is becoming an adult, which is exactly what he is trying to save her from.

Holden is serious enough about wanting to save children that while in Phoebe’s school he gives the reader another glimpse at how he wants to keep the pureness of children intact. “Somebody’d written ‘fuck you’ on the wall. It drove [him] damn near crazy” (201). Holden is worried that the children might read it and become worried about it. This makes Holden mad enough to want to “kill” the person that wrote it. He extensively explains how he would do this, but then goes on to say that when it came down to it he wouldn’t “have the guts to do it” and he just rubs off the comment.

“Although ‘youth’ is supposed to mean an enthusiasm for change, young people don’t want to change anymore than anyone else does and possibly less”, states Louis Menand. Although Holden is a fictional character, he is a prime example of what Menand means when he states that most people do not want to go through changes. Holden's isolation from society, and his constant remarks on how he doesn’t want anything to change, shows that Holden does not have an “enthusiasm for change”. Menand points out that Holden shows that he does not want to change, while others who feel the same way do not share their feelings, by saying, “What hey secretly want is what Holden wants: they want the world to be like the Museum of Natural History, with everything frozen exactly the way it was the first day they encountered it.” In one sense, Holden is considered immature because he shows his true feelings, while the rest of society does not.

Towards the end of the novel, after Holden explains to Phoebe that he is going to hitchhike out west, she begins to give him the “silent treatment”. She is bitter that Holden told her that she could not go with him, and because of this she won’t talk or walk next to him. Deep down, Holden refuses to take Phoebe with him because if he did she would mature quicker, doing exactly what Holden is trying to protect her from. It is his sister’s reaction that finally leads to Holden deciding to stay. By making this crucial decision Holden reaches his own turning point; he “is finished with childhood and is prepared for the burdens of maturity” (Strauch). Burdens that include dealing with his father’s reaction about him being expelled from school and dealing with all of the “phonies” in the world, among other things. At this point, Holden has finally acting like the mature adult that he is, age wise, about to become.

As people grow up they tend to forget that the little things in life are important. They change completely in the journey from being a child to becoming an adult. Holden did not want to make this change. While not directly saying it, throughout the novel, Holden sought out to keep this pureness that is still within children. He didn’t want to become one of the “phonies” that adults are. But in the end, Holden realizes that he must not try to run in the opposite direction, and that he must grow up. Carl F. Strauch best sums this up saying, “If Holden symbolically and psychologically dies only to be reborn into the world of Phoebe’s innocence and love, he has all throughout the novel been announce the theme of regeneration in the ‘wake up’ pattern.” It is when Holden decides not to hitchhike out west that he reaches this personal turning point, and this is what he has truly been striving for throughout the novel.
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A Darker Knight
oo. This is good stuff. We've just started reading Catcher right now. I think I might...ahem...borrow...some of these ideas since I'm pretty sure we'll be writing an essay on it soon enough.

which reminds me. I need to get started on my english homework as well...

Based on a quick run through, you might want to start with an introductory sentence at the start of each paragraph that basically explains what your example/support is. It sounds to choppy when the first thing you say is your example. It's almost like listing.


living on the border
oo. This is good stuff. We've just started reading Catcher right now. I think I might...ahem...borrow...some of these ideas since I'm pretty sure we'll be writing an essay on it soon enough.

which reminds me. I need to get started on my english homework as well...

Based on a quick run through, you might want to start with an introductory sentence at the start of each paragraph that basically explains what your example/support is. It sounds to choppy when the first thing you say is your example. It's almost like listing.

kk, thanks. I'll be sure to fix those

We havent read it in class yet, but I had to read it last year at my old school. And have a completely different essay for when I read it that time.


Guardian of the Light
You should edit the first paragraph to get a good thesis statement. The last sentence in the first paragraph should tell overall what the entire paper is about. That's one thing to look into.:D


living on the border
thanks guys, i just edited it. I switched around the 2nd to last and last sentences in the first paragraph and I put a better opening sentence at the start of most of the paragaphs. I should get the back by the end of the week so hopefully I get a good grade.