In the novel Catcher in the Rye Holden is a character that has many idealistic thoughts. He has ideals about such things as childhood innocence, intelligent conversation, and escape to a fantasy world. Through these ideals Holden is seen as an idealist. Because of this Holden is unable to cope in the real world until he abandons or compromises his ideals. .
Throughout the novel Holden continuously makes references about how he wants to preserve the innocence that children possess. He wants to save them from falling into the world of adulthood, full of phonies. He wants to shield them from the horrible things that exist in the real world. Holden admires people who are innocent such as Phoebe, the Nuns, and Allie. He remembers Jane as innocent and is unable to re-contact her, in fear that her innocence has been lost. This wanting to preserve innocence is evident when Holden gets so upset about the swear words written on the walls of Phoebe's school. "Somebody"d written "Fuck you" on the wall. It drove me near crazy I kept wanting to kill whoever"d written it" (Salinger, p 201) If children see this written on the walls they will wonder what is means and will probably find out from the wrong people and get the wrong meaning to the already horrible word. When Holden sees the words again, only this time scratched in he is unable to erase it like the first on. He realizes that it is impossible to rub out all the corruptive words written on the walls of the world. Holden tells Phoebe about a dream of wanting to be the catcher in the rye. This means that he wants to be there when children fall off the cliff of innocence. He wants to be there to catch them and push them back into a place where they are innocent. .
Holden needs to give up on his dream of preserving this innocence because in the real world it is not possible to keep forever. Holden realizes this when Phoebe in on the carousel.