In contrast to all adults whom Holden sees as riddled with flaws and phoniness, he sees children as pure, gentle, innocent, and perfect. The characters he speaks most fondly about in the novel are all children: Allie, Phoebe, and the poor boy he hears singing the song about the "catcher in the rye." He constantly dreams up schemes to escape growing up, such as fleeing to a New England cabin or working on a ranch out West. The only role that Holden envisions for himself in life—catching children before they fall off a cliff—is symbolic of his wish to save himself and other children from having to one day grow up.
However, Holden's view of perfect childhood is as incorrect as his view of the adult world as entirely "phony," and just helps Holden hide from the fact that the complex issues ranging from sex, to intimacy, to facing death, all of which he will have to face in growing up, terrify him. Further, this form of delusional self-protection can only last so long. Holden will grow up, whether he likes it or not. Mr. Antolini and Phoebe both make it clear that unless he learns to accept the complexities of adulthood, he will end up, at best, bitter and alone.
Childhood and Growing Up ThemeTracker
Childhood and Growing Up Quotes in The Catcher in the Rye
"Yes, sir. I know it is. I know it."
Game, my ass. Some game. If you get on the side where all the hot-shots are, then it's a game, all right—I'll admit that. But if you get on the other side, where there aren't any hot-shots, then what's a game about it? Nothing. No game.