Advances in Literary Study
2013. Vol.1, No.4, 31-33
Published Online October 2013 in SciRes (
Copyright © 2013 SciRes. 31
The Hard but Holly Life of the Eco-Warrior of Holden
Junhong Tang1*, Wei Zhang2
1The Foreign Language D e pa rtment of Baoding University, Baoding, China
2Educational Administration of Jibei Baoding El ectric Power Vocational and Technology College, Baoding,
Email: *
Received July 13th, 2013; revised Aug ust 7th, 2013; accepted Septem ber 27th, 2013
Copyright © 2013 Junhong Tang, Wei Zhang. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative
Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium,
provided the origina l w o rk is properly cited.
It is easy for us to make a conclusion that Holden loves nature, admires nature and lives in harmony with
nature. Meanwhile, he prefers simple life style. Unfortunately, he is always misunderstood, excluded and
even persecuted by the people around him and there are few people who share his ambitions and outlook
on life. Holden’s life situation is similiar to the modern environmentalists, so the aim of the paper is to
remind people that each citizen is supposed to fully understand and support the environmentalists’ holly
Keywords: Eco-Warrior; Holden; Environmentalists
With the gradual deterioration of the environment and the
development of eco-criticism, more and more literary works are
reread and reanalyzed in terms of eco-criticism. The Cather in
the Rye is analyzed from the perspective of eco-criticism in this
paper and the paper intends to show Holden’s ecological re-
sponsibility, ecological wholeness and his simple life view and
reveal Holden’s hard but holly life.
The development of science and technology offers people
more chances and possibilities to enjoy higher level of life
while the evil desire of human beings also has been inflating
(Lu, 2006). Some people explore the resources without little
regard of the earth’s endurance and pollute the environment
with the lure of maximum profit. So the modern ecology is in a
state of imbalance. Because this kind of persons who destroy
the ecological environment intentionally or unintentionally,
directly or indirectly are in the majority, whereas the environ-
mentalists are in the absolute minority, the minorities will face
many difficulties and obstacles. Just as Holden Caulfield in The
Catcher in the Rye, he admires the simple life, cares about the
nature, loves the nature and only wants to be a catcher in the
rye, but, unfortunately, he is always misunderstood, hurt and
excluded, so his life is hard but holly.
Holden’s Ideal Work and Living Place
One person’s ideal work and his or her ideal living place can
reveal one person’s personalities and his or her likes and dis-
likes (Fromm, 1987). In The Catcher in the Rye, Holden’s ideal
work—to be a catcher in the rye and his ideal living place—the
west show that Holden is a real eco-warrior.
Holden’s Ideal Work
“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 go-
ing I have to come out from somewhere and catch them. That’s
all I’d do all day. I’d just be the catcher in the rye and all.”
(Salinger, 1991) The title of the novel is The Catcher in the Rye
and Holden’s ideal work is to be a catcher in the rye, so the
catcher in the rye is one of the most important and significant
symbols in the novel. In the symbol, there is the enjoyable Eden
for the children—the rye, which is the holly area that Holden
would like to watch all the day; there is the cliff form which the
children may fall off, and which is also the watershed between
the beautiful nature and the evil society (Tang, 2013); there is
also the eco-warrior—Holden Caulfield who is ready to catch
the child who is going to fall off the cliff.
On the one hand, we can regard the children in the rye as the
children in terms of physiological age. The children are close to
the nature and they have the purest personalities: honest,
warm-hearted, affectionate and pure. Thoreau once said in his
Walden that the children can find the life law easier than the
adults. On the other hand, the playing children in the rye can be
considered the children of nature—the human beings. “…I
mean if they’re running and they don’t look where they’re go-
ing…” This is the vivid description of the modern people. In
modern society, most of the modern people—the nature’s chil-
dren have been falling off the cliff and they are exploring the
resources without little regard of the earth’s endurance and
polluting the environment with the lure of maximum profit. The
eco-warrior Holden appears at the critical time and he is willing
to act as the angel “I have to come out from somewhere and
catch them.” to protect the children and make the children play
in the rye enjoyably.
At present, we are faced with the rapid exhaustion of the
earth’s natural resources, the severe deficiency of water and the
Copyright © 2013 SciRes.
pollution of the environment. So the eco-warrior like Holden is
urgently needed and each person is expected to understand,
support and even become an eco-warrior.
Holden’s Ideal Living Place
“We’ll stay in these cabin camps… we could live somewhere
with a brook… I could chop all our own wood in the winter-
time and all. Honest to God, we could have a terrific time!”
(Salinger, 1991) “… I’d start hitchhiking my way out West…
I’d build me a little cabin somewhere with the dough I made
and live there for the rest of my life. I’d build it right near the
woods… and we’d get married. She’d come and live in my
cabin with me.” (Salinger, 1991) It is obvious that Holden’s
ideal living place is a cabin in a wood. As a matter of fact,
Holden lives in the building of New York, but he is not happy,
enjoyable and satisfied with it, “I hate living in New York”
(Salinger, 1991) and he prefers to live in a cabin in the woods.
The living place of one person is the most important thing that
can reveal what the person think about and what the person
cherish most.
Holden’s ideal living place—a cabin in the woods is a good
proof for Holden’s ecological life style. He loves the nature,
admires the nature and can live in harmony with the nature.
While Holden’s ecological life style is on the contrary with
most modern people’s life style. Most modern people would
like to live in big cities and enjoy the quick transportation and
the fast life pace. By relying on the advanced science and tech-
nology, they live in a matter of high energy. For example, they
like cars very much and they will drive their cars when they
want to go somewhere though sometimes it is ok by bike or by
bus. Moreover, some people think it is an honorable thing to eat
some expensive dishes in the restaurant. In such a way, the
minority of the environmentalists who advocate simple life like
Holden will stand on the opposite with some modern people, so
they will be always misunderstood, excluded even hurt.
Things Holden Cares About
With the rapid development of the economy and the fast im-
provement of the production, people’s living standard has been
improving day by day and the desires of the people has been
becoming more and more, bigger and bigger. While Holden’s
life style is absolutely different from the life style of most
modern people, he cares about the ducks in the lake and he
prefers simple life style.
Holden’s View of Simple Life Style
“…if they get a brand-new car already they start thinking
about trading it in for one that even newer. I don’t even like old
cars. I mean they don’t even interest me, I’d rather have a god-
dam horse. A horse is at least human…” (Salinger, 1991)
“Lawyers are all right, I guess—but it doesn’t appeal to
me, …if you’re a lawyer. All you do is make a lot of dough and
play golf and play bridge and buy cars and drink Martinis and
look like a hot-shot.” (Salinger, 1991) Clearly, Holden does not
pursue the material enjoyment, does not indulge in the money
temptation and good cars can not attract him. What Holden like
is just simple life style.
Money, wealth and luxurious life are not the honorable
symbol for Holden, but the disgraceful token of over-con-
sumption and over-waste. Holden has his own expensive coat
but he does not take it but lend it to others “…how about lend-
ing me your hound’s-tooth jacket?” (Salinger, 1991); Holden
has his own perfect typewriter, but he does not use it but lend it
to others “…I went down the hall and woke up Frederick
Woodruff, this guy I’d lent my typewriter to.” (Salinger, 1991);
and Holden also has the good-quality and expensive suitcase,
but he never intends to show off. “It depressed holy hell out of
me, and I kept wanting to throw mine out or something…I fi-
nally put my suitcase under my bed…so that old Slagle
wouldn’t get a goddam inferiority complex about it.” (Salinger,
1991). On the contrary, Holden like the hat which only cost him
a buck best. Holden’s simple life style view is obvious and
clear. At the same time, the ecological responsibilities also exist
in his deep heart.
Holden’s Care ab ou t the D u cks
The ducks in the central park always appear on Holden’s
mind. It is four times that the ducks are mentioned in The
Catcher in the Rye (Tang, 2006). Holden pays much attention
to where the ducks will go when winter comes which shows
Holden’s view of ecological wholeness.
The ducks appears at the first time when Holden talks with
his history teacher Spenser. “and if it was, where did the ducks
go.” (Salinger, 1991) On the way to Edmund, Holden asks the
taxi-driver about the ducks at the second time “do you happen
to know where they go, the ducks, when it gets all frozen
over?” (Salinger, 1991) On the way to Ernie, Holden asked
another taxi-driver the same question “Do you happen to know
where they go in the winter-time, by any chance?” “Where who
goes?” (Salinger, 1991) this is the response of the taxi-driver
Horwitz to Holden’s question about ducks. Just “where who
goes” conveys Horwitz completely ignores the existence of the
ducks. “How the hell should I know a stupid thing like that”
(Salinger, 1991) illustrates the taxi-driver does not concern
about where the ducks will go in the winter and exposes his
“human centered principle”. Most modern people take for
granted that human beings are the lord of the nature. They think
all the things including the live and the dead, animals, plants
and minerals belong to them and they can consume them un-
scrupulously. The “human centered principle” leads to this
result that animals like the ducks are at the edge of being loved.
The reason that Holden cares much about the ducks is that he
thinks human beings are not the lord of the earth and all things
are equal on the earth and all the animals, plants and human
beings are brothers and sisters. All of them are the children of
the nature and they should accept the same favor.
Under the lowest mood, Holden mentions the ducks at the
fourth time. “But I didn’t see any ducks around… I damn near
fell in once, in fact—but I didn’t see a single duck.” (Salinger,
1991) In despair, Holden intends to find the ducks to comfort
himself a little, but he is wrong—the ducks had flew away from
him. He thought he was a friend of the ducks, the nature, while
he is not able to create a friendly relationship between him, one
of human beings, and the ducks, one part of the nature. Mean-
while, Holden’s relationship with the human beings is also in
Holden Lives in Disharmony with the People
and the Things around Him
“One of the biggest reasons I left Elkton Hills was because I
was surrounded by phonies…For instance, they had this head-
Copyright © 2013 SciRes. 33
master, Mr. Haas, that was the phoniest bastard I ever met in
my life.” (Salinger, 1991) Holden not only is not satisfied with
the headmaster’s ingratiating behaviors but also dislike his
roommate, Ward Stradlater. Because Stradlater pay more atten-
tion to his outer appearance and he makes a lot of girlfriends. A
physical altercation happened between Holden and his room-
mate, Stratlater only because Stratlater forgot to ask a question
on behalf of Holden. “the next thing I knew I was on the god-
dam floor again… my nose was bleeding all over the place.”
(Salinger, 1991) Because of the different view of life, Holden
can not live in harmonious with his roommate who pays much
attention to his outer appearance.
“The trouble was, though, my address book only has about
three people in it, Jane, and this man, Mr. Antolini…and my
father’s office number.” (Salinger, 1991) In the novel, Holden
called Jane many times but there is no answer all the time. Fi-
nally, he calls on Mr. Antolini who he thinks is the best teacher
he ever met. “He was about the best teacher I ever had, Mr.
Antolini.” (Salinger, 1991) Because of Antolini’s weird behav-
ior Holden has to escape from Antolini’s house. While when
Holden tells his sister Phoebe that he only wants to be a catcher
in the rye, Phoebe says nothing but “Daddy’s going to kill
All of the things happened around Holden proved that there
is no person who shares Holden’s ambitions and outlook on life.
He can not get comfort form his parents and he is not able to
live happily with his roommates. Holden always slip into a state
of loneliness and helplessness. At last, Holden gets run-down
and has to come to a mental sanatorium.
The hard life of the eco-warrior of Holden is the same as the
tragedy of the environmentalists. Although more and more
organizations of protecting the environment have been con-
structed and more and more eco-warriors, eco-radicals and
eco-terrorists have been appearing, they are still in the minority
compared with the majority of the people who explore the na-
ture for their maximum profit without consideration of the na-
ture’s endurance (Wang, 2005). So the eco-warriors are always
misunderstood, excluded and even persecuted. To some degree,
they do not fight for protecting the nature, but fight for peo-
ple’s endless evil desire, for people’s immoral plunder and for
people’s iresponsible short-sighted behaviors. Under this situa-
tion, each citizen is required to devote to protecting the nature
and is also expected to fully understand and support the eco-
warrior’s holly mission of protecting the nature.
The paper is under the project of a Study on College English
Ecological Teaching (133111). All the project members made
their contributions to the paper. I also thank all my friends and
classmates who live in different cities, which made my paper
more persuasive.
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