Study Guide

The Catcher in the Rye Innocence

By J. D. Salinger

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Holden is a sex maniac. Trust him: he says it himself. But… really? The boy’s a virgin, and he can’t even bring himself to have sex with a prostitute—someone who literally does it for money. We don’t know about you, but Holden’s questions and assertions about sex don’t sound like the work of a sex maniac. They sound a lot more like the naïve fumblings of someone who’s still innocent enough to believe anything Carl Luce tells him. For all that Holden seems so obsessed with protecting little kids, we think the real innocent in Catcher in the Rye just might be Holden himself.

Questions About Innocence

  1. Is Holden's desire to protect children from the "dirty" things of the adult world (sex) an impossible one?
  2. Is Holden innocent? What does “innocent” mean in this context?
  3. Why is Holden so obsessed with innocence? Who seems innocent to him?

Chew on This

Although Holden is obsessed with sex, he sees the world with a childlike innocence.

Holden wants to prevent children from losing their innocence in the same way that he’s lost his.

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