Mapping the world's opinions

argument top image

What are the themes of The Catcher in the Rye? Show more Show less

J. D. Salinger's novel The Catcher in the Rye is a well-known coming of age story. It has also caused controversy because of its sexual content and use of profanity. What are the themes of The Catcher in the Rye, and how does the main character, Holden Caulfield, react to the world around him?

The Catcher in the Rye is about sexuality Show more Show less

Holden Caulfield has a complex relationship to his sexuality.
< Previous (4 of 5 Positions) Next >

Holden Caulfield hires a prostitute

In chapter 13, Holden accepts an offer from an elevator operator to have a prostitute sent to his hotel room. Before she arrives, Holden contemplates his history of failed sexual experiences. When he is unable to have sex, he gets angry and frustrated and blames Sunny for making him depressed.
< Previous (2 of 3 Arguments) Next >
books education literature reading sexuality The Catcher in the Rye


The Argument

The closest Holden Caulfield gets to having sex is hiring a prostitute, but he cannot follow through with the act. If he does not feel emotionally connected to someone, he cannot have sex with them. As soon as she arrives at his hotel room, Holden's mood changes to nervous and uncomfortable.[1] Holden can't separate love and sex, meaning he rejected the prostitute because he doesn't know anything about her. He wishes to be like other teenage boys, who date plenty of girls. His lack of experience leads him to become further isolated. Instead of seeking sex, Holden asks the prostitute for something he desperately needs: a friend to talk with. Despite being friendly, the prostitute is confused by his request and leaves without comforting him.

Counter arguments

Holden is afraid to have sex because the prostitute is the same age as him. He views her as innocent, so he does not want to corrupt her. Like Jane Gallagher, he struggles to see the prostitute as mature and capable of handling her own decisions. Because Holden wants to preserve her innocence, he is not able to have sex with her.



[P1] If Holden Caulfield doesn't feel an emotional attachment, he cannot have sex. [P2] Holden Caulfield needs emotional comfort more than physical comfort. [P3] Therefore, the theme of The Catcher in the Rye is sexuality.

Rejecting the premises

[Rejecting P1] This is not why he doesn't have sex with the prostitute.


Further Reading



Explore related arguments

This page was last edited on Sunday, 7 Jun 2020 at 00:51 UTC