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Catching Up with Expectations in J. D. Salinger’s The Catcher in The Rye

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Expectations are created with a desired outcome in mind. These expectations are used as goals and shape the way that one acts and develops while trying to reach the goal. In J. D. Salinger’s novel The Catcher in the Rye, the protagonist, Holden Caulfield, shows a variety of actions, some which compare and some which contrast Don Bosco Technical Insitute’s Integral Student Outcomes (ISOs), which are skills that a student is expected to have once they have graduated from Don Bosco Technical Institute. While waiting for Phoebe in the Museum of Natural History, Holden horses around with two young boys and then walks them over to the mummy exhibit because they do not know where it is. Giving, being the catcher in the rye, and flunking out demonstrates how Holden compares and contrasts with the ISOs by showing his Salesian Spirit through his diligent motivation to help his community, displaying the well-intended motif of preserving childhood innocence by understanding how to be A Leader, and creating unnecessary conflicts that could have been avoided if he were Academically Proficient.

Giving shows how Holden is tirelessly motivated to help the people around him, which compares him to the ISO of Salesian Spirit. While Holden was in a sandwich bar before his date with Sally Hayes, he meets two nuns and “gives them ten bucks” as a contribution to help them with their collection. The donation of ten bucks indirectly characterizes him as kind and shows appreciation of faith, morals, and practices of Catholic Identity. Holden’s diction is also more considerate when he talks to the nuns than he does with school staff and other people that he finds to be phony, revealing his ability to talk respectfully to people are dedicated to the welfare of the community. When Holden is in the park looking for Phoebe, he sees a girl struggling with her skates and “gives her a hand” by using the skate key to tighten her skates. Holden helps the girl with her external conflict and saves her from her struggle of trying to tighten her skates. This also shows how he is an archetypal earth mother and how he provides service to others, especially the youth. Salesian Spirit is shown through Holden’s beneficial interactions with his community.

Being the catcher in the rye compares Holden to being A Leader through the agreeable motif of protecting the innocent from the corrupt world. While Holden was at his house talking to Phoebe about what he wants to do when he grows up, he states that he wants to be the catcher in the rye to come out from somewhere and “catch everybody” if they were to fall off the cliff because that is the only thing that he wants to be. The imagery that he creates shows that he is passionate about wanting to be the catcher in the rye and to save people before it is too late for them to turn back. Holden uses the analogy of catching people falling over a cliff as a way to show him sheltering people from the evil world, displaying his vision for future growth. When Holden was at the Central Park Zoo watching Phoebe on the carousel after he had time to think and reflect, he realizes that he cannot stop kids from grabbing the gold ring and that he “has to let them do it”, even if they are in danger of falling off. This epiphany changes the way he looks at the world; he stops trying to protect the innocent from danger and lets them try things out for themselves, even if it puts them into danger. In the beginning of the novel, Holden did not want to give children the chance to fail, however he was able to evaluate and synthesize new information and change his views, making him a dynamic character. Holden displays good intentions that compare him to being A Leader.

Flunking out creates avoidable conflicts and contrasts Holden with the ISO of being Academically Proficient. Before winter break, while Holden was at Mr. Spencer’s house talking about the history test that he had taken, Mr. Spencer says that he flunked Holden because Holden knew “absolutely nothing”. Holden was directly characterized as knowing absolutely nothing and does not demonstrate the knowledge consistent with a college preparatory curriculum. He also lets his ignorance get the best of him and gives into his internal conflict and writes that Mr. Spencer can fail him, which does not display having successful problem solving strategies. After describing why he was sitting on Thomsen hill watching the football game, , Holden says that he “forgot” to mention that he had gotten kicked out of Pencey Prep for flunking four subjects and not applying himself. This portrays Holden as an untrustworthy narrator that could err in his story, which contrasts with the ISO of self-reliance. This creates an unreliable tone that is set for the story makes one want to doubt some of the details as the story progresses. Holden is not Academically Proficient, which leads to many conflicts.

Giving, being the catcher in the rye, and flunking out shows how Holden aligns or goes against the ISOs by showing his diligent motivation to help the community, which expresses Salesian Spirit, understanding how to be A Leader through well-intended motif of preserving the innocence of childhood, and showing how not being Academically Proficient starts needless conflicts. While waiting for Phoebe, Holden messes around with two young boys in the Museum of Natural History and leads them to the mummy exhibit because they do not know where it is. Holden Caulfield, the protagonist in J. D. Salinger’s novel The Catcher in the Rye, demonstrates many actions that either compare or contrast with Don Bosco Technical Insititute’s ISOs. Different traits are developed and different actions are taken based on goals and expectations that are been previously set. Goals always need to match or exceed the set expectations in order to excel.

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Catching Up with Expectations in J. D. Salinger’s the Catcher in the Rye. (2020, September 01). GradesFixer. Retrieved September 27, 2021, from
“Catching Up with Expectations in J. D. Salinger’s the Catcher in the Rye.” GradesFixer, 01 Sept. 2020,
Catching Up with Expectations in J. D. Salinger’s the Catcher in the Rye. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 27 Sept. 2021].
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