3 April 2014
Holden and the American Teenager
In the 19th century, America consisted of only two phases of life: childhood and adulthood. Children struggled to enjoy their youth and at the same time prepared for the trials and tribulations of the next phase of their lives. The amount of time children spent in school also increased, and parents were waiting a longer time to marry off their children rather than pushing them away at the mere age of sixteen. Ultimately, it was clear that a new phase of life – the teenage phase – was becoming a reality in America. American teenagers were displaying traits unheard of among adults and children. The word “teenager” was not coined until decades later, but the teenage culture was on the rise in the 1920s. Just around this time, Holden Caulfield, the teenage protagonist in The Catcher in the Rye, is beginning to figure out who he is and what he stands for. The teenage culture in that time period partially influences Holden’s thoughts and actions in good ways and bad. J.D. Salinger’s portrayal of Holden as the quintessential teenager truly reflects Holden’s tendencies and rebellious nature, also seen in modern society, but his school life is not characteristic of a typical teenager.
Holden is depicted as the classic teenager, as he continuously experiments with adult behavior. Educators and reformers had started to separate teens from adults and children in the 1920s (Schrum 1). Because teenagers were transitioning from children to adults, they were compelled to experiment with adult behaviors. Among these “adult behaviors” are drinking, smoking, and swearing. Additionally, “the transition to adulthood…is generally defined as the time when indiv...
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...ation. One quintessential example is Rachel Canning, who rebelled against her parents and ultimately sued them. The idiosyncrasies of teenagers are inevitable; it was present ninety years ago, and it will surely be present ninety years from now.
Salinger, J. D. The Catcher in the Rye. Boston: Little, Brown, 1951. Print.
Powers, Richard. "1950s Teenagers." 1950s Teenagers. N.p., n.d. Web. 23 Mar. 2014.
"20th Century Teenagers." Fofweb.com. N.p., n.d. Web. 23 Mar. 2014.
Schrum, Kelly. "Teenagers." Encyclopedia of Children and Childhood: In History and Society.
Ed. Paula S. Fass. Vol. 3. New York: Macmillan Reference USA, 2004. 808-809. Gale Virtual Reference Library. Web. 23 Mar. 2014.
Miller, Joshua Rhett. "New Jersey Teen Who Sued Parents for Financial Support Returns
Home." Fox News. FOX News Network, 12 Mar. 2014. Web. 02 Apr. 2014.
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