Salinger's, "The Catcher in the Rye," Holden Caulfield is characterized by his need to protect innocence. This includes watching out for Jane so that Stradlater would not "give her the time in Ed Banky's goddam car" (Salinger 43), to yelling at Phoebe so that she did not come "out west" (Salinger 200) with him and grow up prematurely. The motif of "the catcher in the rye" follows Holden on his quest, showing the reader his understanding of his own innocence and the protection of others innocence. This motif and the first explanation of Holden's relationship with innocence is introduced by a small boy singing a song about a body catching a body in the rye. Later when Holden sneaks into his parent's apartment to speak to Phoebe, he defines his desire to "catch" children from falling off a metaphorical cliff into the corruption of adulthood. At the conclusion of the novel, Holden realizes the true nature of innocence while watching Phoebe reach for the golden ring on the carousel.
Walking down the streets of New York on a cold miserable day, Holden and the reader get their first glimpse of the novel's central motif "the catcher in the rye" and his perception of innocence: "brakes screeched all over the place. he kept walking next to the curb and singing 'if a body catch a body coming through the rye.' It made me feel better" (Salinger 115). Unexpectedly, on a congested New York Street, Salinger embodied Holden's yet to be fully developed thoughts on his desire to protect youths from the corruption of the adult world. His pleasure from finding this small piece of innocence in a defiled society kindled the inception of what would be his new quest to finding, preserving and protecting innocence. Furthermore, this point in the story served to initiate what William Glasser stated as: "his being able to perceive.that everything in reality has two faces" (Glasser 465).