catcher in the rye

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The Catcher in the Rye is the definitive novel of a young man’s growing pains, of growing up in pain. Growing up is a ritual – more deadly than religion, more complicated than baseball, for there seem to be no rules. Everything is experienced for the first time.”

To What extent do you agree with this passage? Do you agree that Catcher in the Rye is the definitive novel of a young man’s growing pains, of growing up in pain? Do you agree that growing up is a ritual? You need to identify whether or not you agree with this passage, and then you need to justify/support your answer.

I do agree with the statement classing Catcher in the Rye as “the definitive novel of a young man’s growing pains.” I do not agree with the statement “growing up is a ritual.”

Certainly J.D. Salinger’s novel is focused around the pain of growing up; a novel about a young character’s growth into maturity, but this novel explores the process from a different perspective. Holden Caulfield is an unusual protagonist for supporting this theme because his central goal is to resist the process of maturity itself. According to Webster’s New World Dictionary, Holden’s last name Caulfield literally symbolizes caul, the membrane enveloping the head of a child at birth.” Holden fears change and is overwhelmed by complexity. Holden desires everything to be easily understandable and eternally fixed. During a visit to the museum of natural history Holden uses exhibits to explain his resistance to change,

“The best thing, though, in that museum was that everything always stayed right where it was. Nobody’d move. You could go there a hundred thousand times, and that Eskimo would still be just finished catching those two fish. Nobody’d be different. The only thing that would be different would be you (Salinger, 121).”

Holden resists maturity and is a frightened teenager, he is frightened because he is guilty of the sins he criticizes in others and because he cannot understand the world around him. Holden however, refuses to acknowledge this fear, expressing it only on a few occasions – for example, when he talks about sex admitting that “sex is something I just don’t understand. I swear to God I don’t (Salinger, 63).”

Rather than acknowledging that adulthood scares and mystifies him, Holden invents a fantasy that adulthood is a world of superficiality and hypocrisy, while childhood is a world of innocence, curiosity and honesty.

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