I’m specifically looking for interpretations of Holden’s identity crisis. Here are some interpretations:

Optimistic: In The Catcher in the Rye, Holden Caulfield is a 16-year old who experiences an identity crisis. He's confused about his status, between not being a child anymore but not yet an adult, while also not wanting to become an adult. At the end of the book, Holden has gained a deeper understanding of himself and the world around him. He's a changed person, and although he isn't out of the woods entirely, he is better prepared to face the adult world. Holden goes to his little sister Phoebe for acceptance. She is one of the only people in his life that accepts him for who he is. Holden returns home to face his parents and reconciles with them. The book ends with Holden saying that he is sick but will be going to a new school in the fall.

More critical: At the end of The Catcher in the Rye, Holden Caulfield's journey does not conclude with a clear resolution of his identity crisis or a sense of belonging. Instead, the novel ends ambiguously with Holden in a rest home, recovering from a breakdown, and contemplating his future. This conclusion suggests that Holden's search for identity and place in the world is ongoing, leaving readers to ponder his fate.

Is there a consensus on which of these interpretations to choose? Is a critical interpretation more apt?

  • 1
    Duplicate of a closed question? Commented Jan 8 at 13:15
  • I edited it according to the feedback of @verbose
    – rasputin
    Commented Jan 8 at 17:00

1 Answer 1


Holden Caulfield is not going through an 'identity crisis'. The novel is an example of genre called 'coming of age'. It is a transition in life from childhood to adulthood that is often marked in many societies by ritual. In the West, these rituals vary - getting laid, getting drunk or going to college or university. Or simply being a teenager, a ritualised identity in itself.

Holden is on the point of being ejected from his prep school and so enter the real world. This can be taken as an allegory of the transition between childhood snd adulthood.

Holden at one point rants about the 'phonies' in society to Sally frightening her. She doesn't understand what he's talking about and so doesn't understand his enthusiasm and passion and hence why he is expressing this passion by shouting. It frightens her, and she asks him to quieten down which only eggs him on. In an adult couple, we would see this as a breakdown in communication. But here, they are only beginning to learn to communicate. Holden hasn't learnt yet that not everyone need share the passions he holds. And Sally hasn't learnt yet such outbursts of passions are pretty common.


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