Coming of Age: Holden Caulfield

Categories: Catcher In The RyeUsa

Growing up, most people have those moments where they know adulthood is approaching and fear its inevitable arrival. As a result, individuals do not want to deal with jobs nor paying bills. In the back of their minds, they think that staying young would be much easier. In J. D. Salinger’s novel, The Catcher in the Rye, it symbolizes that feeling through the protagonist: Holden Caulfield. In terms of Holden’s growth throughout the novel, his loss of innocence, being encircled by phonies, and exploited by other characters all contribute to his overall development as a character.

The first means in which Holden expresses his growth is through the loss of his innocence. This was a hard task for Holden to do because throughout the whole book he was trying to preserve it for himself. Holden ends up realizing he is losing his innocence after he meets with Sunny, the prostitute. He is the only person to call in a prostitute then simply just want to talk, “I don’t feel very much like myself tonight… I’ll pay you and all, but do you mind very much if we don’t do it?” (Salinger 107).

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He tries to do an “adult-thing” but ends up regretting it; thus, Holden understands that one cannot hold on to innocence forever.

Secondly, Holden is constantly bringing up the concept of people being phony. He uses this word to describe a lot of characters in the novel, for example: the characters could be shallow, hypocritical, or fake.

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Even though Holden has a deep fondness for Sally Hayes, he still believes she is faux and has no depth. Sally was one of the people Holden wanted to call when he got back from Pencey Prep, but he did not because “she’d written me this long, phony letter, inviting me over to help her trim the Christmas tree” (Salinger 67). Ultimately, Holden does not want to evolve into a phony adult. More or less he wants to be genuine and not conform to the society around him, which he believes are all phonies.

Lastly, through the course of the novel, Holden gets taken advantage of repeatedly. To start off, Holden writes Stradlater’s composition for him; however, after reading it, Stradlater says “I told ya it had to be about a goddam room or a house or something” (Salinger 46). Even after Holden gets yelled at for doing Stradlater’s work, Holden gets into a fist fight with him and ends up with a bloody nose (Salinger). Another example of this would be when Sunny prompts Holden to pay her ten dollars for coming over his place after the elevator guy, Maurice, told Holden it was only five. Since Holden refused to pay the ten dollars, Sunny came back in the morning with Maurice to harass Holden about paying five more dollars. Holden still refuses to pay the rest of the money and starts talking smart to Maurice. Sunny takes the money and tries to get Maurice to leave, but Maurice is fed up with Holden’s smart mouth and takes a jab at his stomach (Salinger). He does not suspect anyone is targeting him in any way, in fact, Holden thinks to himself that life is the way it is.

Overall, Holden Caulfield matures throughout the entirety of the novel. After being kicked out of Pencey Prep, he decides to roam around New York City on his own. By doing that, it taught him that not everyone can hold on to their innocence, he does not want to grow up to be like the phony people around him, and does not make himself out to be a scapegoat. Salinger’s novel The Catcher in the Rye, still holds a lot of the same legitimacies even though this book was published almost 70 years ago.

Works Cited

  • Salinger, J. D. The Catcher in the Rye. New York: Little, Brown and Company, 1951.

Cite this page

Coming of Age: Holden Caulfield. (2021, Sep 20). Retrieved from

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