Catcher in The Rye Ending Analysis

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About this sample


Words: 507 |

Page: 1|

3 min read

Published: Mar 25, 2024

Words: 507|Page: 1|3 min read

Published: Mar 25, 2024

Table of contents

  1. Introduction:
  2. Body Paragraphs:
  3. Counterarguments:
  4. Conclusion:


J.D. Salinger's "The Catcher in the Rye" remains a seminal work in American literature, lauded for its profound exploration of adolescent alienation and angst. This essay will delve into the novel's enigmatic ending, focusing on the ambiguity of Holden Caulfield's redemption and the implications of his final actions.

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Body Paragraphs:

a. The novel concludes with Holden's vague statement about feeling "sick" and his subsequent hospitalization, followed by his contemplation of returning home (Salinger, 1951). This ambiguous ending invites readers to question Holden's mental state and the extent of his redemption. The absence of a definitive resolution underscores the complexity of adolescent struggles and the non-linear path to maturity.

b. Critics such as John Updike argue that Holden's decision to tell his story signifies his acceptance of adulthood and its responsibilities (Updike, 1960). This interpretation suggests a positive trajectory for Holden's future. However, others like Joyce Maynard contend that Holden's narrative voice remains unchanged, indicating a lack of significant growth (Maynard, 1998).

c. An example of this ambiguity can be seen in Holden's final interaction with Phoebe. His decision to protect her from the carousel symbolizes his acceptance of the inevitability of change. Yet, his emotional breakdown afterwards suggests lingering resistance to the adult world. Another instance is Holden's recurring dream about the rye field, which he interprets as his desire to save children from the harsh realities of adulthood. The persistence of this dream, even after his breakdown, raises questions about the extent of Holden's acceptance of change.


Critics might argue that the novel's ending is not ambiguous but rather reflects the cyclical nature of life, with Holden's return home symbolizing a new beginning. They might point to Holden's statement about missing his former schoolmates as evidence of his acceptance of the past and readiness to move forward. However, this interpretation overlooks the nuances of Holden's character development and the open-endedness of his future. It also fails to account for the lingering ambiguity surrounding Holden's mental health and his ability to fully integrate into adult society.

Furthermore, some might argue that Holden's breakdown is not a sign of failure, but a necessary step towards healing and growth. This perspective posits that Holden's emotional collapse is a cathartic release, allowing him to confront and process his feelings of alienation and loss. While this interpretation offers a more optimistic view of Holden's future, it does not fully address the ambiguity of the novel's ending. The text does not provide clear evidence of Holden's recovery or his ability to navigate the adult world in a healthier way.

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The ambiguity of "The Catcher in the Rye's" ending underscores the complexities of adolescent development and the ongoing struggle for self-understanding. The lack of a definitive resolution invites readers to critically examine Holden's journey and reflect on their own experiences of growth and change. Future research could explore the implications of this ambiguity for readers' engagement with the text and their understanding of adolescent development. It could also investigate the potential for Holden's breakdown to serve as a catalyst for growth, delving deeper into the psychological aspects of his character.

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This essay was reviewed by
Dr. Charlotte Jacobson

Cite this Essay

Catcher In The Rye Ending Analysis. (2024, March 25). GradesFixer. Retrieved April 20, 2024, from
“Catcher In The Rye Ending Analysis.” GradesFixer, 25 Mar. 2024,
Catcher In The Rye Ending Analysis. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 20 Apr. 2024].
Catcher In The Rye Ending Analysis [Internet]. GradesFixer. 2024 Mar 25 [cited 2024 Apr 20]. Available from:
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