Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye is valid, realistic, representation of the adolescent world. The book is about adolescent crisis.
The main character, Holden, runs away from his expensive school because he is an academic failure and finds intolerable the company of so many phoneys. Holden is a rangy sixteen year old who has grown too fast. Girls are on his mind. Whenever girls do something pretty, even if they're ugly or stupid, you fall half in love with them. "Sex is something I really don't understand too hot. You never know where the hell you are. I keep making up these sex rules for myself, and then I break them right away. Last year I made up a rule that I was going to quit horsing around with girls that, deep down, gave me a pain in the ass. I broke it, though, the same week I made it . . . Sex is something I just don't understand."2
Salinger sees that all the contradictions, agonies, and exaltations of adolescence stem from the central fact: "that the adolescent has newly gained the physical potentialities for sexual experience but has not learnt to integrate them either within himself or in any consistent relation to the demands of society."3 From this flows everything-the confused idealism of his attitude to Jane Gallagher; the naively unscrupulous calculatingness of his adventures; the wish for experiment and the corresponding fear and revulsion; a general fascination and disgust with the physical-Ackley's pimples, Stradlater's toenails; a new horrified awareness of the physical process.
Holden's anguished confusion about sex gives us the measure of both the depth and complexity of his conflict. Sexual awareness is conspicuously...
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...m Marsden If You Really Want to Know: A Catcher Casebook (Chicago: Scott, Foresman & Co , 1963) p.76
2. Norman Fruman and Marvin Laser Studies in J D. Salinger (New York: The Odyssey Press, 1963) p. 196.
3. Laser, Opcit., p.74.
4. Ibid., p.153.
5. Ibid., p.121.
6. J D Salinger The Catcher in the Rye (Boston: Little Brown, & Co. 1945) pp. 224-225.
7. Henry Grunwald ed. Salinger (New York: Harper & Row 1962) p. 15.
8. Charles Dickens The Tale of Two Cities (New York: New Amsterdam Library, 1960) p.1.
9. Grunwald, Opcit., p. 202.
10. Laser, Opcit., p. 71.
11. Ann Elwood and Carol Madigan Brainstorms & Thunderbolts (New York: Macmillan Co. 1983) p. 101.