Starting from chapter 18, the author presents Holden as a worried adolescent. Confronted with the confusion of sexuality and reality of homosexuality, Holden invites his friend Luce for a drink at a bar. He does this to try and erase thoughts about Jane. He also has confidence in Luce since he felt he was open and talked free about sexual matters. However, Holden inquisitive nature forces Luce fail to open-up. This is because he makes sex a paramount subject in their conversation. In response he argues that Holden needs the help of a psychoanalyst. During their conversation, Luce brings out an unpleasant lewdness in his behaviour. Holden is frustrated as he needs Luce to give him guidance and insight into adulthood and sexuality. The approach that he uses fails to bear fruits as their former interaction in Whooton. The immature response that he gets makes him depressed and uncomfortable. Holden starts losing faith in himself and the need to break his loneliness encompasses him. As a result, he drinks and hits on the Valencia and the hat-checked girl to bond but to no avail. He resolves to cry before to the duck pond. This shows the need for humans to interact and connect with the opposite sex.
The author draws a person without control over their worsening situation. The danger in which Holden finds himself is as a result of lack of introspection. As he walks to the pond, he is filled with remorse and misery of Allie’s death. He is further troubled by unexplained disappearances. He is anxious to know where the ducks had gone, since he is threatened by the idea of people and things vanishing. Holden sees the pond as “partly frozen and partly not frozen.” This serves as a metaphor of how he interprets the world. His preoccupation of the pond figuratively represents how he is obsessed with the fear of death just as Allie died. Despite being a teenager, there is a depiction of childish behaviour as he is preoccupied by the ducks. He further fears adulthood as he pictures it as a platform filled with unwillingness to explore subtle and mysterious questions. However, he does this at the expense of more eminent questions such as why Allie’s death still bothers him and why he cannot deal with the world around him.
The book further draws the differences between adulthood and childhood in the continuing chapters. Holden watches Phoebe sleep and says that adults “look lousy” when asleep as opposed to kid who “look all right”. The conversation that results when Phoebe wakes up confronts Holden on what he really likes. He realizes that the only thing he likes was Allie. His life is compounded with childhood deaths. He remembers the violent death of James Castle who died by committing suicide. The author shows an emotionally unstable Holden whose past keeps on haunting him. Among the important quotations in the article is when Holden tells Phoebe that he wants to be a catcher in the rye. This is a result of the kindness that he has over the children that fall over the cliff and the desire to save them. It further elucidates the metaphor of the title. Just as children are confined within the borders of their childhood, so is the attribute presented by the rye. On the other hand, the cliff symbolically represents the divide between adulthood and childhood.