Theme of Maturity in The Bean Trees and The Catcher in the Rye

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How does one know that a person is maturing? Are there signs? What defines maturity? “A mature person assumes responsibility for his or her actions” (“Maturity”) but does that mean someone who cannot do that should not be considered mature? In The Bean Trees by Barbara Kingsolver and The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger, both Holden and Taylor go through a period in their lives where they start “putting aside ‘toys’ and fantasies...seeing the world as it really is” (“Maturity”). For Taylor, adulthood is thrust upon her when she “inherits” Turtle, while for Holden it takes till the end of the book--when he is with Phoebe--to realize. From the very beginning of the novel Taylor “[has] serious intentions...[intends] to drive out of Pittman County...and never look back” (Kingsolver 14). Longing for independence Taylor has always wanted to experience the freedom that comes with adulthood. This is displayed when she changes her name--from Missy--with just a passing sign. However, no matter how fast she wants to grow up and get out on her own, she had never imagined Turtle and all the emotional burdens she held. The “bruises and worse” (Kingsolver 31) that were under her diapers scared Taylor since she had “never even thought about such things being done to a baby girl.” Her fear shows that indeed there is a lot for her to learn before she can fully become an adult which can be defined as, “losing her innocence and accepting reality” (“Maturity”). Holden, on the other hand, tries to avoid loss of innocence, particularly from children and himself. It isn’t until the end of his story, when he goes to watch Phoebe on the carrousel, that he realizes that sometimes it’s okay to “fall off the goddam horse” (Salinger 211). When he sees a... ... middle of paper ... ...ound to happen, and there was no stopping it. Taylor ends up happy with her life, “It didn’t seem to matter to Turtle, she was happy where she was...She watched the dark highway and entertained me with her vegetable-soup song, except that now there were people mixed in with the beans and potatoes: Dwayne Ray, Mattie, Esperanza, Lou Ann and all the rest. And me. I was the main ingredient” (Kingsolver 240). She has truly grown, developing into an adult that cares for Turtles happiness more than her own. When Holden finishes his story, he does come to a realization--though not entirely comfortable with it--that this really has occurred. He was here, presumably a mental clinic, because change was part of his life, a necessity. THe seclusion gets to him, he is lonely, needing change. “Don’t ever tell anybody anything. If you do, you start missing everybody” (Salinger 214).
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