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The Catcher in the Rye by JD Salinger

Paper type: Essay
Pages: 5 (1234 words)
Categories: Cat, Catcher In The Rye, Human, Teenager
Downloads: 16
Views: 4

The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger a bildјngsroman novel, written in post-war America, vividly capturing the voice of adolescence and the anxieties of adolescence, which is a universal experience that tends to lead to an identity crisis. In this essay, I will discuss how J.D Salinger portrays Holden Caulfield’s state of innocence, in childhood and early adolescence, to one of experience, in adulthood. We listen to Holden Caulfield, talk to the reader, about his life experiences through each of these stages throughout the novel and we can see that with his experiences and encounters, how his character changes and develops.

The protagonist and narrator of the novel, Holden Caulfield, a 17-year-old student that speaks directly from the mental institution, in a way of a flashback to the previous Christmas.

When we are introduced to Holden, he has been expelled from an exclusive boarding school, and instead of waiting for the end of term he takes off on a train to New York.

Unwilling to go home, he goes from hotel, to bar, to park in a two-and-half-day binge of loneliness and anger. He drinks, even though he is underage, and he smokes excessively. But Holden mainly talks to the reader about his struggles and battles and reluctances of the transition to adulthood.Holden exhibits a sense of depression, confusion, anxiety and of course, the desire for sexual satisfaction. All through trying to find his own true identity between the stages of adolescence and adulthood. The stage that he is in is neither that of a child or an adult, he is in-between those two worlds. This makes him feel angry at the thought of losing his child-like innocence to become another phony adult like everyone else.

This obsession he has with adulthood and the perception that adults do not care to understand the innocence of childhood has caused him massive internal turmoil. This obsession Holden has of phonies of adulthood shows how his actions and words do not necessarily match. There is a clear indication of Holden being a hypocrite, he criticises adults their responsibilities and how they do not act like children anymore, no fun or happiness. He calls them phonies but at the same time he himself acts like an adult by drinking alcohol and having sex, such that he could be seen as a phony himself.As we can see with Holden, He shows us that, although he is physically mature, six foot two and a half and I have gray hair. (pg13), he is very immature in his view of life and how he acts. As his perspective about himself I was sixteen then, and I’m seventeen now, and sometimes I act like I’m about thirteen. Sometimes, I act a lot older than I am–I really do. (pg9) shows us that his age itself is somewhat mature and him describing himself as thirteen could mean a young boy in stages of puberty.

Perhaps mentally he has not reached the correct stages for his age. He also shows innocence and maturity in the way that he gets angry with profanities written on the wall at Phoebe’s school. He shows us his caring and protective nature where he is concerned about Phoebe and the other kids I thought how Phoebe and all the other little kids would see it, and how they’d wonder what the hell it meant, and finally some dirty kid would tell them-all cockeyed, naturally- what it meant. (pg260) He naturally wants to shelter the kids from the perverts of the world and to remain in a state of innocence.Holden’s innocence can be seen in reference to the ducks in the novel, which are mentioned a couple of times. Holden asks a few taxi drivers similar questions about the ducks “The ducks. Do you know, by any chance? I mean does somebody come around in a truck or something and take them away, or do they fly away by themselves, 0go south or something?” Old Horwitz turned all the way around and looked at me. He was a very impatient-type guy. He wasn’t a bad guy, though. (pg81) Holden, shows us a child-like behaviour in these questions and a sense of innocence. An average teenager would know the ducks migrate and no truck is going to pick them up and take them to a zoo. Another example of Holden’s innocence is the protection of his virginity.

The other roommates have had sexual encounters already, yet Holden does not find himself as manly or aggressive to do as he pleases to a woman, a sense of cowardice. He has strong sexual interests, yet he cannot go all the way. This is seen when the elevator operant offers to send a prostitute for him. The prostitute named Sunny, who arrives at his hotel. She sits on Holden’s lap, trying to seduce him and takes off her dress. At this point, we can see Holden’s innocence as he becomes flustered and lies that he cannot have sex as he has had an operation on his clavichord, he tells Sunny he just wants to talk. Throughout the novel, we can see that Holden just wants to form connections but due to Holden’s view of the world, he fails at forming relationships with all the people he encounters. His only close relationship is seen with Phoebe, his younger sister; other than her he is not able to connect with the rest on an adult level. He rejects the phony adult world to remain in the state of childhood. In conclusion, The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger ends in an ambiguous way.

Holden brings us back to the present time, where he is preparing to leave the clinic and go to a new school. He seems eager and ready to return to the world and try again. He shows us throughout the novel his clear disdain for other people and adulthood. But in the end, he shows a gentle softness, saying Don’t ever tell anybody anything. If you do, you start missing everybody (pg214). This indicates a sense of maturity and empathy, to return to the world and try to gain the connections he desires. Holden shows us that the experiences he has had, have changed his views of life, slightly. Although he seems more mature and accepting towards the end of the novel, he still shows us that watching Phoebe on the carousel makes him emotional and want to cry, as if he is still longing for the childhood stage, it also shows he has not yet reached adulthood. The thing with kids is, if they want to grab for the gold ring, you have to let them do it, and not say anything. If they fall off, they fall off, but it is bad to say anything to them.

This part shows us that he has come to terms with not being the catcher in the rye. He realises that you cannot keep a child in childhood, but to allow them to make their own mistakes. Whether they grab the golden ring on the carousel or if they hurt themselves, it is their decision after all. Holden’s future is not clear but unlike the beginning of the novel, it ends with him being more positive, happy and less reluctant. This shows us how Holden has moved from a state of innocence, in childhood and early adolescence to one of experience of adulthood.

Cite this essay

The Catcher in the Rye by JD Salinger. (2019, Aug 20). Retrieved from https://studymoose.com/the-catcher-in-the-rye-by-jd-salinger-essay

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