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What I was really hanging around for, I was trying to feel some kind of a good-by.

I mean I've left schools and places I didn't even know I was leaving them. I hate that. I don't care if it's a sad goodby or a bad good-by, but when I leave a place I like to know I'm leaving it. If you don't, you feel even worse. On one level, this appears to be about closure, the sense that a chapter of ones life has ended, with a certain level of consent to leaving a place, letting it go. However, it seems that, sometimes, suspension and expulsion were in effect before Holden had a chance for these feelings of nostalgia. More broadly, his entire journey throughout the novel is an attempt to reconnect with feelings and long buried emotions, to get all the goodbyes out of the way and clear his troubles so that he can finally move on after Allies death. At a deeper level, however, Holden realizes that he has trouble getting to that particular feeling of closure, indeed; he appears to have a hard time accommodating many feelings. Hanging around, he is hoping to get to the feeling of goodbye. When he leaves Pencey, he wants to feel a sense of vindication, triumph, or at least sadness or regret. He seems to feel little or nothing, however, reinforcing how disconnected he feels from himself and others. People never notice anything. Many of the most famous lines in this novel begin with the word People. For Holden, this marks his constant attempts at separating himself from others. To him, he is not like other people, and the world is against him. Generalizing in this way, and setting himself apart, makes him feel better about his own eccentricities and low self-esteem. This gives him a sense that he is better than the general masses of people who fail to notice what he perceives. Holden sees through phoniness while others accept it. I don't even know what I was running for--I guess I just felt like it. This telling statement about Holdens inclination toward his present life shows that he is running from his feelings, often not for any conscious or particular reason but to avoid what may happen if he stops long enough to comprehend them. When he is choosing to avoid genuine human interaction in order to avoid the future pain of loss, it is more of an emotional choice than a rational comparison of one against another.

Anyway, I keep picturing all these little kids playing some game in this big field of rye and all. Thousands of little kids, and nobody's around - nobody big, I mean - except me. And I'm standing on the edge of some crazy cliff. What I have to do, I have to catch everybody if they start to go over the cliff - I mean if they're running and they don't look where they're going I have to come out from somewhere and catch them. That's all I do all day. I'd just be the catcher in the rye and all. I know it's crazy, but that's the only thing I'd really like to be. This is probably the most famous passage in Salinger's novel. It confirms to Holden's desire to play rescuer to all children who might suffer during their lives. They can continue along in their innocence, and Holden will always be there to make sure that the one deadly boundary is not crossed. Moreover, they do not know he is there to watch over them, godlike, unless they really need his help at the last moment. This is Holden's fantasy because a catcher would have caught Allie or, failing that, would have caught Holden and saved him from his descent into loneliness and pain.

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