The theme I am going to focus on in this book report is innocence, which is directly related to theme of authentic versus artificial. This theme reflects Holden's view of the world and life. Holden sees life as a conflict between authentic and artificial and this theme relates to his attitude towards children and the preserving of their innocence. If these children might succumb to the ways of the adult world, they will become "phonies", untrue to themselves. This is a dominating theme in the book, which is characterized by two literary elements: characterization and symbolism.
The first literary device, which constitutes the development of this major theme in the book The Catcher in the rye, is characterization. Holden Caulfield, the protagonist of the novel, is residing at Pency Prep. Holden is an intelligent and sensitive boy but has a very cynical and jaded point of view of the world. Holden finds the hypocrisy and the ugliness of the world around him unbearable. Through this cynicism, Holden tries to protect himself from the "phoniness" of the adult world. But these criticisms seemed to be aimed at him as well. At times he can be both very phony and superficial. This shows his incapability of hiding from the adult world. Holden can admit to his flaw, the immaturity. He admits to sometimes acting like a 12-year old, although he is 17 years old at the time of the story telling. Holden knows he should act more mature. But, this brings us back to theme of the book. Holden is afraid to indulge into the adult world of "phoniness" and tries to resist it. He has a struggle or a conflict with growing up and the adult world becomes an enemy because of all the cruelty and artificiality it entails. His body is telling him it is time to change, as are his basic impulses. Holden is attracted to the ways of adulthood, the sex, the drinking, etc. This in turn forces Holden's character to be protective of children and innocence.