Holden confronts many issues throughout Catcher in the Rye that still pose a problem to teenagers: such as the need to succeed, the desire for friendship, and the need to mature. These issues are generally forced upon a teenager by a more authoritative figure with higher expectations in comparison to themselves.
Although some may regard these as a eustress, they cause distress to many teenagers, and society still upholds such standards. The need to succeed was forced upon Holden by his parents when they set very high expectations and enlisted him in private schools. Holden did not like this pressure and revolted: “All of a sudden, I decided what I’d really do, I’d get the hell out of Pencey–right that same night and all” (Page 51). This proved that the need to succeed was a form of distress in Holden’s time because he decided to pack his bags and just leave Pencey. In addition, parents in Holden’s time did not understand that this issue caused stress to teenagers.
In an article written by William Zinsser, children ask their parents, “But what if we fail?” (Zinsser). The parents respond, “Don’t” (Zinsser). The article shows how oblivious parents could be to the stress they were causing to their own children. But what kind of stress and to what extent is it a stressor today? Today, the need to succeed can causes eustress when used in moderation and in a positive manner. For example, my parents take me out to dinner wherever I choose if I finish a six week grading period with all A’s. To this day, the need to succeed is very much alive, but it has taken on a new form compared to back in Holden’s time.
The desire for friendship was forced upon Holden by himself. He always tried to make a friend wherever he went. Holden even stooped so low as to hire a prostitute and ends up just talking to her, “I don’t know. Nothing special. I just thought perhaps you might care to chat for a while” (Page 95). This demonstrated Holden’s true desire for friendship because, without the prostitute, he has no one else to talk to.
Even nowadays, the desire for friendship is very much evident among teenagers. For example, when my friend Moe moved to Buffalo Grove from Texas in 7th grade, he didn’t really fit in at first. Later, he began to make friends and now he has many friends, as most teenagers do. Thus, the desire for friendship has gone very much unchanged since Holden’s time in comparison to today.
The need to mature was forced upon Holden by the society in which he lived, “I ordered a Scotch and soda, and told him not to mix it—I said it fast as hell, because if you hem and haw, they think you’re under twenty-one and won’t sell you any intoxicating liquor” (Page 69). Throughout the whole novel, Holden attempted to act more mature in order to fit in with the adults around him during his time period. He smokes, drinks, and hangs around loose women.
Holden’s desperation to fit in with the adult world around him is indicated when he goes to the bar and orders a drink which normally, only adults do. In addition, teenagers in Holden’s time were expected by the society in which they lived in to confront issues that only adults normally have to confront, “Teenagers now are expected to confront life and its challenges with the maturity once expected only of the middle-aged, without any time for preparation” (Elkind).
The article, by David Elkind, adds to the fact that teenagers in Holden’s time were expected to mature at a more increasing rate. Nowadays, that expectation is still a burden to teenagers. For example, teenagers today see many celebrities, such as Miley Cyrus, rapidly changing from their innocent, childish ways to acting grown up and developing a stylized, adult personality. Therefore, it is safe to assume that the need to mature has gone rather unchanged from Holden’s time to this day.
The need to succeed is still a pressure that many teenagers face, but it is more of a good stress today compared to Holden’s time when it was a negative stress. The desire for friendship is just as apparent today is it was back in Holden’s time because as long as there will be people, they will always need some form of companionship. Lastly, the need to mature is just as required by society today as it was in Holden’s time because teenagers were expected to take on more adult characteristics both then and now. Teenagers had set expectations to meet back in Holden’s era and many of these expectations have gone unchanged since then.