Difference Between Childhood And Adulthood In Catcher In The Rye

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Teenagers lie in a gaping abyss between the innocence of childhood and the responsibilities of adulthood. What defines a certain teenager is often how they cope with this intermediate phase. What choices do they make? Are they responsible? How do they respond to adversity? The life of Holden–the impulsive protagonist of J.D. Salinger’s Catcher in the Rye–offers a clear example of how uncertain, and frightening, this period can be. Holden ricochets between childhood and adulthood, a result of his uncertainty and fear. Due to this, he is constantly looking to flee, and is unable to establish sturdy relationships. The book, through Holden’s disastrous and despondent journey, forces teenage readers to assess their own standing between childhood …show more content…
Due to the vulnerability of their lives, teenagers must be able to determine how their morals and actions line up with those associated, respectively, with childhood and adulthood. Although it is not necessarily disadvantageous for a teenager to have aspects of both children and adults in their lives, it is important that they recognize, and act accordingly with, their place in society’s transitional group. The inability to determine his place is ultimately what led Holden down his unconscious spiral. Holden clearly longed for childhood, as he believed that children had yet to be corrupted by society and its “phonies.” Drawing from a poem that he incorrectly recites, Holden pictures himself catching “thousands of little kids” from falling off “the edge of some crazy cliff” (Salinger 191). Mindlessly replacing the sexual connotation of the actual poem, Holden uses this hypothetical to show that he wants to save children from the evils of the adult world. Holden views children in a completely different light than adults, which is seen in his comments about his siblings. Although he constantly criticizes adults for their sloppiness, Holden describes his sister Phoebe’s drooling in a flattering tone (176). Despite his longing for childhood, Holden continuously took part in stereotypical adult activities. He wanted to prove …show more content…
Salinger stresses the importance of self-awareness, he also warns teenagers of the difficult challenges they must prepare to face as they transition to adulthood. Holden clearly fears adulthood, and his defiance of it, through questionable actions, may cause teenagers to have fear as well. With adulthood comes an extreme increase in number of responsibilities. One of these responsibilities, money, is something that Holden thoroughly abuses. Although he is not rich, Holden flings away money because he is unable to deal with holding it. He pays for prostitutes, hotel stays and excessive cab rides, despite not truly needing any of these. The obsessive use of alcohol, brought upon by stress, apprehension, and a desire to fit in, is another unhealthy tendency that displays Holden’s fear of growing up. As his situation becomes more desperate, Holden turns to alcohol to relieve his problems. Holden becomes so reliant on being drunk, that it becomes his normal functioning state. At one of his many late-night bar visits, Holden claims that he “can’t sit in a place like this cold sober,” trying to will the bartender to sneak rum into his drink (78). Salinger uses the spending of money and alcohol to explain to teenagers the importance of responsibility, and to warn about the potential dangers that are awaiting their lives. The novel displays to teenagers the power of negative influences, and their prominence in adult life. While this may frighten teenagers, it reiterates

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