Catcher in the Rye

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Holden's forgetfulness



Some things are hard to remember. I'm thinking now of when Stradlater got back from his date with Jane. I mean I can't remember exactly what I was doing when I heard his goddamn stupid footsteps coming down the corridor. I probably was still looking out the window, but I swear I can't remember. I was so damn worried, that's why.


I don't even remember where I was sitting when he came in;a t the window, or in my chair or his. I swear I can't remember.


This next part I don't remember so hot. I got up from the bed and tried to sock him. The next thing I knew, I was on the goddam floor.

Consider the three excerpts from Holden's narrative. Why does Holden seem to struggle with remembering certain details of his story? How does his difficulty remembering affect the reader's understanding of both the story and Holden as a character?


That Holden consistently forgets major details is a signal that there are flaws in his ability to think logically. It is important for the reader to notice that Holden repeatedly notes his forgetfulness, since his inability to recall details is suggestive of his unreliability as a narrator.


Holden's forgetfulness is a sign of the severity of his depression. Though Holden might not identify the depths of his sadness to the reader directly, the holes and missing details in his stories are a reflection of his declining mental state.


Holden, at least some of the time, feigns “not remembering” as a way to avoid thinking about or reliving memories he finds painful, or of which he is otherwise ashamed. Holden's pattern of doing this is incredibly helpful in understanding his character since the gaps in his memory reveal the events of his past that have traumatized him.


Holden's desire not to tell others about certain details in his stories points to the fact that he lacks self-confidence. Holden would rather censor his storytelling to avoid embarrassment than risk making himself look weak by revealing a particular detail about his past.


Holden's inability to remember is a sign of the deep mental trauma he sustained after his beloved younger brother died; the fact that he can acknowledge it directly demonstrates that he is aware of his mental deterioration.