In J.D. Salinger’s The Catcher In The Rye, Holden Caulfield, a seventeen-year-old boy, transitions from childhood to adulthood. The death of Holden’s little brother signifies the beginning his loss of innocence and growth of maturity. As he enters adulthood, Holden views society differently from his peers by characterizing most of his peers and adults he meets as “phonies.” Thus, Holden takes the impossible challenge of preserving the innocence in children because he wants to prevent children from experiencing the corruption in society. The Catcher In The Rye embodies Holden’s struggle to preserve the innocence of children and reveals the inevitability of and the necessity of encountering the harsh realities of life.
As a child, Holden experiences the death of a loved one. Holden’s little brother, Allie, “got leukemia and died…on July 18, 1946” when Holden was thirteen (Salinger 38). Holden sees Allie as the nicest and “most intelligent member in the family” (Salinger 38). In addition, because Allie dies when he is eleven, Holden does not understand why someone with the amount of talent Allie possessed would have to die before growing up. Despite his death, Holden continues to think about Allie and does not “enjoy seeing him in that crazy cemetery…surrounded by dead guys and tombstones” (Salinger 155). Allie is someone that Holden formed a personal relationship with, and because of his death, Holden experiences a change in his perception of society and life. This change leads to Holden’s desire to keep those around him constant and everlasting to prevent another individual he is close with to die or change. Similarly, Holden witnesses the suicide of James Castle when he attends Elkton Hills. James Castle calls Phil Stabile “...
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...ll off (Salinger 211). The loss of innocence becomes a part of life that Holden slowly learns to accept.
In essence, Holden’s individual loss of innocence from his own experiences leads to his desire to prevent it from happening to other children. The deaths of Allie and James give Holden a new perspective of the world and also introduce the concept of suicide, which he deliberates over multiple times. Holden’s view on death causes him to slowly mature into adulthood, making him to leave his ideal of living forever in his childhood. Nevertheless, Holden does not want things around him to change in order to preserve the innocence in children and tries to rid messages that would cause children to worry and mature. Yet, the change and descent into maturity is inevitable, and Holden learns of the importance of encountering the harsh realities of life.
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