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Erica Tschirhart
Ms. Smit
12 AP English
14 October 2014
Holdens Conflicting Views Regarding Childhood
In the novel The Catcher In the Rye, J.D. Salinger creates the character Holden Caulfield
to illustrate the struggles involved in adolescence and societal pressure during this period of life.
More specifically, Holden represents the extreme stereotypical view of how teenagers act during
adolescence and his behavior is a significant deviation from the social standards. Throughout the
passage, Salinger utilizes details and syntax to reveal that Holden misses his childhood and is
afraid of the emerging changes that result from becoming an adult, but yet represses these
thoughts by forcing himself to grow up.
During the novel, Holden swears consistently while describing his perception of the
world and when speaking to other characters. Within the passage, Holden explains that
hestepped off the goddam curb and starting sweating like a bastard (Salinger 197-198).
Holden uses the act of cursing as a tool with which he can be perceived as more grown up. It
would be unusual for a child to be heard using swear words, thus Holden believes he is perceived
as an adult when he swears. By cursing, Holden is able to vent his frustration about growing up
and is able to convince himself that he is ready to become an adult. However, ironically, Holden
swears too frequently, a significant amount more than the normal standard for an adult. In turn,
this device backfires and makes Holden appear immature. Although he attempts to move on from
his childish ways by acting as if he is grown up, it reveals that Holden is not yet ready to become
an adult.
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In the course of the passage, Holden repeats the phrase Allie, dont let me disappear
(198). Through the sentence, Salinger reveals that Holden is afraid of change, and more
specifically that he fears growing up. Holden is afraid of forgetting his brother because Allie is
symbolic of Holdens childhood. Thus, by repeating the phrase, Holden grasps onto what is left
of his childhood, happy memories with his deceased brother. Unlike most characters in the novel
that tend to bring him back to reality, Holden can exaggerate his memories of Allie and escape
from the truth of his own life. Holden can make himself believe that Allie is the best part of his
childhood when in actuality this may not be correct. As a narrator, Holden has proven to be
unreliable and thus when he tries to hold onto his memories of Allie, they may in fact be tainted.
This phrase illustrates Holdens fear of losing his childhood and growing up. By using Allie as a
shield from reality, Holden can disguise his fears of adulthood through his memories of his
brother both from the view of society and from his own inner desires.
Lastly, Holden explains that he will start hitchhiking [his] way out West (198).
Through this detail, Salinger further illustrates the reality of Holdens situation. Although he
does not realize it, Holden cannot fully repress and push back his thoughts of his youth. At the
same time, he fails to comprehend that he is latching onto the nostalgic memories of childhood.
The way Holden makes such a decision to runaway is completely irrational and not fully thought
out. This situation parallels the classic scenario where a child threatens to run away from home
when having a temper tantrum. In effect, this creates a sense of immaturity, which significantly
juxtaposes Holdens desire to appear more mature and knowledgeable about the world. Thus,
Salinger utilizes Holdens inner thoughts to allude to the theme that children strive to become
adults but fail to realize the challenges involved in growing up.
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Salinger uses details and syntax within the passage to illustrate that Holden misses his
childhood and is afraid of growing up, yet he pushes back these thoughts by forcing himself to
mature. Overall, Salinger seems to point out that such an idea is commonly seen in adolescents.
Many teenagers are anxious to grow up and become independent but do not fully realize that
being an adult is not as carefree and happy as it appears to be. Childhood is a time of life that
needs to be cherished and appreciated fully. Salinger suggests that members of society must
value what they have, because as Holdens life illustrates, changes in life occur often and
unpredictably.















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Works Cited
Salinger, J.D. The Catcher in the Rye. New York: Little, Brown and Company. 1945. Print