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‘Innocence’ is the state of remaining free of guilt, wrongdoing or sin. Once you lose it, “You can be innocent again. It’s not true, what they say, that you can never get it back” (Catherynne M. Valente). Loss of innocence can happen anytime and is frequently viewed as an essential component of growing up. It is normally considered an experience or time in a person’s life that leads to pain or suffering. Holden learns from his experiences that the world is not innocent and what he has gone through to prove that point.
In The Catcher in the Rye, Salinger presents the idea that the loss of innocence is unavoidable, and in actuality, others grow and mature through their actions.
As you grow up more things start to change in life even if they are familiar. Most of the time when others are going through changes in their lives, there is one thing that stays the same that’s comforting.
Before Holden’s date with Sally, he decides to kill time and walks from Central Park to the Museum of Natural History. Walking to the museum, Holden recalls his school trips to the Natural History Historical Museum, “The best thing, though, in that museum was that everything always stayed right where it was. Nobody’d move” (Salinger 133). Holden enjoys the Natural History Historical Museum because regardless of what else has changed in his life, it was always the same: it reminded him of his childhood, a protected spot he could generally return.
In the museum, Holden is able to think and judge the objects and displays no matter what they are, and in return, they will not judge him back. Seeing all of the new children enjoy the museum-like he did at a young age made him wish to stay frozen like the displays in the museum and never grow up. The statues portray the innocent, idealistic, easy concept of life that Holden desires.
Near the end of the book, Holden realizes that the world simply isn’t innocent and you have to live with it. When Holden goes to Phoebe’s school he writes her a note instructing her to meet up with him at the museum to return the money she gave him. As Holden roams around his former school, he becomes further saddened when he notices the engraved “fuck you” scrawled on the walls and states, “If you had a million years to do it in, you couldn’t rub out even half the ‘Fuck you’ signs in the world. It’s impossible” (Salinger 221). The harsh language applied on the wall hurt Holden because these walls reminded him of his childhood and seeing it be graffitied makes him acknowledge the loss of innocence the school has transpired. In this world, it is sadly impossible to get rid of all the filth and phoniness, so you either have to live knowing the world solely isn’t innocent, or instead to live believing that the word is innocent. Not believing that the world isn’t innocent can include some unpleasant actions, that include having a hard time trusting others. Holden being able to experience these wrongdoings makes him lose part of his innocence and grow and mature for the better.
J.D. Salinger supports that others age and mature through experiences in life that comes from the inevitable loss of innocence, and I believe a real-life example proves this. For instance, parents think that showing their children an extensive amount of knowledge while they are young will be beneficial when they grow up, nevertheless, something the parents don’t know is that this information could potentially destroy their innocence. Information was received by a Fourth-grade teacher in Denver, Colorado discussing a student in her class. This fourth-grade teacher states, ”Kids are a lot freer now. Even in the last 10 years, I’ve been at this school, there’s been a change. The other day, a very innocent-looking little boy came up to me and casually asked me whether a certain sexual act was ‘for real’ (Jones). By increasing the boy’s knowledge, his innocence was lost and from that, the concern to discover what he had learned was true. His desire for knowledge made him crave for answers to information he didn’t know. Even if parents tried to raise a child in the best way imaginable, they need to be conscious of the impact the outside world has on their kids. If parenting is not done well there may be irretrievable harm done to children due to their parent’s actions.
In conclusion, growing up and through experiences, people lose their innocence despite anything. From harsh language written on school walls Holden grew up with, to favorite museums that stayed the same since he was a kid, makes him realize how fast time and his innocence goes by. While J. D. Salinger expresses that once you grow up, you can not go back in time, therefore it is important to make mature and wise decisions.
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