The Abyss of Adolescence

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Adolescence, the period of life involving the transformation from a teenager into an adult, is a vital time in one’s life where many begin to unearth who they are and the very things they desire as they transition into the adult world. In J.D. Salinger’s timeless American novel, The Catcher in the Rye, the main character Holden is a downhearted teenage boy struggling to leave his childhood behind in transition to the phony adult world he despises in order to explore universal themes including the phoniness of the adult world and the loss of innocence that is associated with the transition into adulthood. Through Salinger’s abundant use of symbolism, the reader is able to analyze Holden, his struggles, and angst towards change as he transitions into the adult world so that one is able to come to a deeper understanding and comprehension of the themes explored. Children represent the epitome of innocence to Holden, uncorrupted by the phoniness of the adult world and society. Throughout the story, Holden rarely finds adults who he doesn’t deem to be phonies, yet not once is a child deemed phony. “She thanked me and all when I had it tightened for her. She was a very nice polite kid. God, I love it when a kid’s nice and polite when you tighten their skate for them or something. Most kids are, they really are” (155). Looking for Phoebe, Holden resorts to questioning a young girl about Phoebe’s whereabouts. Holden pleasantly converses with the little girl, even as she is barely able to supply Holden with a complete answer. Just as he is about to take off, he notices her hands that had turned red from the cold while trying to tighten her skates. Remembering the million times he joyously tightened his skates as a child, he sympathizes ... ... middle of paper ... ...hing. If they fall off, they fall off, but it’s bad to say anything to them” (274). At the end of the novel, Holden comes to vital realization that it’s simply not possible to protect one’s innocence forever. One’s adolescence can be a struggle to get through, and Holden recognizes that growing up is unavoidable, but, as one transforms into an adult, he believes they should do so on their own, learn from their mistakes, and not be influenced so much by others. In other words, the phoniness of others’ results from their inability to truly express themselves and their personalities without fear of judgement. To Holden, the innocence he sees within children distinguishes their personalities’ from adults; he sees their lack of fear in expressing who they are, their uncorrupted genuine nature, untouched by the seriousness and problems that plague the phony adult world.

In this essay, the author

  • Analyzes how holden sympathizes with phoebe, seeing a positive piece of his past within her, pleasantly offering to tighten them for her.
  • Analyzes how salinger uses the carousel as a symbol to reflect one's childhood, and the unavoidable truth of growing up.
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