Holden Caulfield's Clash of Identities

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Playwright Tom Stoppard wrote, "If you carry your childhood with you, you never become older." Youth live in a carefree world constantly surrounded by people looking out for them. As they grow older, they are given more responsibilities, and finally, the weight of the world is placed on their shoulders. Some people are able to wean themselves from childhood more easily than others. In the novel The Catcher in the Rye, by J.D. Salinger, Holden Caulfield struggles with the difficulties of the adult world. Due to this clash of identities, Holden simultaneously plays the dual role of adult and child. One group of people with whom Holden plays a dual role is with his own family. During times when Holden feels especially depressed, he digresses to thoughts about his deceased brother, Allie. At first the mentioning of Allie is okay, but then it becomes an unhealthy habit. Holden is unable to move on with his life and accept the fact that Allie is gone and life moves on. Just as Allie was an important family member to Holden, Phoebe also plays an important role in his life. Holden is very protective of Phoebe and watches out for her, but at the same time, he goes to Phoebe for help and advice. As much as Holden would like to seem paternal, he also behaves in a child-like manner. As he behaves in a paternal way with Phoebe, he also wants the best for his brother DB. While he knows that what DB does may not be the best way to pursue a career in life, he tries to support him without judgment. Holden is very protective of his family but at the same time to an unhealthy extent, while some family members, such as Phoebe, need to protect him. Holden strongly cares for his family but has a more difficult time getting along with ad... ... middle of paper ... ...ally. Holden's idea of moving away with Sally Hayes is a very irrational idea. As soon as he sees her he says, "I felt like marrying her the minute I saw her," (124). This immediate reaction is very unrealistic. While he is trying to form a permanent relationship, it is not very practical considering the circumstances. It seems like a perfect idea to Holden, but to Sally, and any other practical minded individual, it is not. Holden's struggle with relationships is often due to his immaturity and irrational thoughts. Holden simultaneously plays the dual role of adult and child. Much of what Holden says and does is contradictory to his own thought process. He struggles with the concepts of the adult world as he experiences them. Truly, the more years one has, the wiser one tends to be. Memories and feelings from youth remain always, but the child must move on.

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