Adolescence is a time of existence in two worlds. One world having the desire to be in the adult world, which is filled with all the unknown wonders of the world. The other world is the world of childhood which is comfortable and protected from all the impurities in the world. This sort of tug of war between the two worlds is not only mentally imposed on a being, but physically, socially, and morally as well.
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With all the mentioned above, often times an adult will discourage an action of an adolescent by saying they are too old to a act a certain way, and then will turn around and say they are oo young to do something, like go out late or go on dates. These contradictions can lead an adolescent to complete uncertainty of their actions. J. B. Salingers book, The Catcher in the Rye, aptly describes the immense confusion of the in between stages of being a boy and a man.
Throughout the whole story, the narrator, Holden tries to act both the boy and thw man but cannot. He tries in vain to get a grip on the adult world, but never is quite successful. Holdens first attempt at adulthood is exemplified when he leaves his school without permission from his parents or the school. This act in tself sets the stage for his trial and error attitude about adulthood in the sense he failed out of school, which was a childish act. He tries to rectify his failing out of school by leaving, which he views as an adult act.
Holdens leaving school represents his need for independence and he achieves this by leaving. Another of Holdens failed attempts at adulthood is when he goes down to he hotels club where he orders an alcoholic drink, but he is refused because the waiter will not serve him because he is underage. Holden tries to give the illusion that he is older because when he orders he drink, he Orders it fast as possible, because if you hem and haw they think you are under 21 and wont sell you intoxicating liquor.
This is the classic example of adolescence when one attempts to act older than his or her age when attempting to obtain alcohol. Up until the age of 21, all young adults want to give the illusion they are older than they are in hopes of obtaining special adult privileges, such as drinking alcohol, smoking, etc. However Holdens failed attempts forces him to realize that his act is fooling no one other than himself. Such an example can be seen when one goes to college bars and an see all the adults that are hanging out there.
The people who are there are not fooling anyone as well. Sex is often the most complicated adult subjects, even for adults to understand themselves. The act of sex itself can be talked about immensely, as done in locker rooms or with friends, almost to the point where one could believe in the tales. However the act itself cannot be faked and innocence of such things are quite apparent when the situations do arise. The saying one can talk the talk, but cannot walk the walk describes this sort of situation perfectly.
Holdens first experience with a woman who he has heard about from a friend, emphasizes his inexperience. He called this woman because he heard from his friend that she Was not a whore, but she did not mind doing it once in a while. He tries to cover up his innocence by faking a deep voice and pretending that he was from Princeton. However she sees through his facade, and lets him down. Another attempt into the adult world, or what Holden considers to be the adult world, has been thwarted.
His failure is due in part to the fact that Holden does not really know the rules, which he is uessing at, and also in part because his loneliness is not a substitute for experience. Although this act is not childlike alone, but rather it is a stepping stone into the adult world of sex, where an individual will try new techniques, such as pickup lines and such, to obtain and reach his or her goal. Thus Holden has learned his first valuable lesson of what not to do in the future. However Holden is over his head when he agrees to have a prostitute, who is propositioned to him by the bellhop.
He is apparently nervous and he confesses that he is a virgin. His reasoning for having the prostitute s that it is Good to get some practice just in case I get married. He also tells of how in the past he had almost gone all the way, but at the last moment he recoiled. This indicates how immature he is and how he is not ready for a sexual relationship, primarily because he is doing it for the sake of doing it and not for love, and also the fact he shys away from sex is a definite indication he is not ready for it.
Once the prostitute come over, he again shys away and tells her to leave. Once again, with these examples in mind, Holden emphasizes how he is not ready for the grown up world of sex, despite hat his body is telling him. The girls that Holden refers to quite a bit are Sally and Jane, who together represent what he desires in a relationship . Jane, although she was a girlfriend from when he was younger, represents the caring and understanding part in a relationship, the mature part, in the sense that Holden in genuinely concerned for her nature.
Sally, a girl friend who is considered an adult relationship, represents what he wants in an adult relationship, such as sex and marriage. Holden tries to seduce Sally and they make out in the cab. Again he puts he cart before the horse, and asks her to marry him, even though he Did not like her that much. He wants the adult relationship of being married, but has the childlike idea of not doing it for the sake of love, because he did not love her, although he told her he did. Fortunately Sally said she would rather wait, not getting swept up by the excitement of Holdens immaturity.
After Holden asks her to marry him, he realizes how stupid his actions were, and that he did not love her, which indicates that Holden is learning something from his mistakes, and in turn becoming mature. As seen through Holdens failing at becoming an instant adult, it is quite apparent that he is not done being a child. It is exemplified when he tries to act like an adult, but acting is all he is doing. Behind every one of his adult actions, there is a childish one to follow suit, and it is clear that his mature act is fooling no one, i. e. the bartender, the girl he called, the prostitute.
Yet like a glutton for punishment, he starts over again only to end up disappointed. However the only time it seems that Holden is comfortable and secure is when he refers to a childlike tate or when he talks about children, in particular his sister Phoebe. Phoebe, who is ten, is the only person who he thinks that truly understands him. Yet when he tells her that he failed out of school, she does not does not show any compassion, but rather show him anger and she puts the pillow over her head and refuses to listen to him.
This is important because it emphasizes how Holdens adolescent age can no longer rely on the advice and understanding of a child, yet he cannot rely on adults advice, although he pretends to be one. The importance of childhood in Holdens life is seen gain when he starts talking to a little girl at the park, who he also helps put on her ice skates. He shows no fear or false nature when he is with her, and he shows his ease with her when he states that he Loves it when kids are nice and polite when you tighten their skates for them or something. Most kids are. They really are.
Unlike when he is with women or in bars, Holden is uninhibited with children and does not put on false faces with them. The fact he finds them genuinely polite shows how he feels how he can put his full trust with them, and explains why he eturns to children or a childlike state, because they are real, whereas adults are about putting on aires. The idea that children are real beings is seen again when Phoebe asks Holden what he wants to do with his life, and he replies he would want to be a catcher in the rye, where he would catch all children who got too close to the cliffs edge.
He wants to be a catcher of children because they love more easily than adults do, and they do not play games when giving love, as adults do. Holdens most obvious example his regression to childhood is seen when he returns back to his home. When e left school and decided to stay at hotels, opposed to returning to home, and he did so with the intent of showing himself, as well as his parents, how he could rebel against the forces that tie him to childhood. Staying away from home was his big test of not only himself, but to the world.
Yet despite his brave brave facade, the real reason he does not return home is because he is overcome by guilt and shame over his expulsion from school. Proving he cannot handle the adult world, he returns home. Unbeknownst to Holden, his parents are not home when he arrives, but they arrive shortly later. As he leaves, he takes no precautions about running into his parents, and by doing this it seems that he almost wants to be caught. This is symbolic because he then comes to terms with his immaturity and the only thing that would pull him back into his comfortable and safe child world is his parents.
When he blatantly smokes in the house and is not careful when he leaves, he is almost crying out for help and attention. Before Holden returned to his home, he is at the pond near Central Park, and he is thinking about dying and is rather nonchalant about the fact he might die. When Holden visits Mr. Antonlelli, he is again reminded of his immaturity and is faced with it when Mr. Antonelli repeats a poem that seems to describes Holdens whole nature, that The immature man is one who wants to die nobly for a cause, and the mature man is one who wants to live for one.
With this in mind, Holdens immaturity is brought to his face, and despite his act, he realizes he is still a child. In the end, Holden returns home, and in a sense he is beaten by the system and beaten at his own game. Throughout the story Holden refers to himself as Stupid or Crazy after many failed attempts into the adult world. What he fails to realize is that he is niether stupid or crazy, but rather he is naive and innocent to the workings of the world, and through his failures he begins to realize this fact.
The only thing he is guilty of is trying too hard an getting disappointed to easily because of his failures due to his inexperience in life. What he also does not realize is that there is no imaginary line that says child on one side and adult on the other. Rather there is a stairway towards adulthood, and unlike the imaginary line which is crossed effortlessly, the stairway requires some effort and work o achieve towards the top, which in this case is adulthood.
Holden attempts to cross the line versus going up the stairs, and as a result he realized that there is no easy path into adulthood, that it is a trial and error period, where you have to learn from your mistakes and not get hung up on them. Holdens failures are actually part of the steps toward adulthood, steps that are critical and help him understand the adult world and how it really works. Salinger accurately represents the difficult bridge between a child and an adult, and emphasizes that an individual at this age cannot pretend to be an adult nor an they regress back into the security of childhood.
Salinger also emphasizes that one must take this ride, despite the twists and turns that come with it because it is critical for survival as an adult. It is emphasized that there is no given amount of steps toward adulthood and it is different for each individual, but that the experiences encountered, both good and bad, mold the individual and shape them for the differences to come. In closing it is apparent that there is no easy way into adulthood, but it is accurate to say that the experiences of the child are the mold for the adult.