Adolescence is a phase in life that everyone must go through; whereas some people may find the stage pleasant, others may find it atrocious, but is an inescapable at all instances. J.D Salingers The Catcher in the Rye novel, which he published in 1951 is one of the best books that portray the struggles through adolescence. Holden Caulfield, the novels protagonist fights through his grievous and rebellious teenage stage. The book highlights the struggle of boys towards adulthood, and over the course of the novel, it is clear that Holden progresses through rites of passage. It can be argued that the novel, Catcher in the Rye reveals how the right of passage from adolescence to adulthood robs away innocence in teenagers, by converting them from virtuous to vile individuals, corrupted by use of drugs among other vices.
Salingers novel tells a painful story of Holden, who is a high-school boy. He grows up in a corrupt New York City. One of the troubles that he faces is being expelled from school, primarily due to his deteriorated academic performance. After being expelled, he faces a dilemma of whether or not to meet his parents. However, he makes a bad decision of remaining in New York hotel so that he does not meet his parents earlier than they expected him. Consequently, he ends up destroying his innocence when he meets prostitutes, pimps, and queers. After some time, he is fully aware of the adult world. After he meets up with a friend, he sneaks back to Phoebe, his loving kid sister. However, after her conversation about their father killing him disgusts him. He creeps out of home and goes to see Mr. Antolini, Holdens former teacher, only to find out that he is a homosexual. After finding that out he escapes his house, and apparently, he feels sinking. He decides to head to the west to spend his life there, at least for the remaining part of his already doomed life. After he went to say goodbye to Phoebe, who insists on accompanying his, realizes that Phoebe is a loving sister. Ideally, that act of love drives out his three-day adventure and dream in New York City. For this reason, he goes home, but unfortunately, falls ill. He is admitted to a Californian psychiatric ward, where he recounts his growing up sad story that he retells in The Catcher in the Rye.
In the novel, the loss of innocence and rites of passage are portrayed in many aspects. For instance, Holden starts his high school with low grade struggles, meaning that the adolescence stage of life makes boys to be somewhat lazy. It can be deduced that for one to proceed to high school, the elementary grades must have been quite good, however, progressing to high school makes matters worse. Instead of concentrating in school, Holden decides to leave school, which means that in teenage years, the youth are undecided about their future, and their judgment is clouded. This is evident when Holden decides to move on with life and to live out on his own, which consequently lands him in many problems. It is evident that when Holden stays with Spencer. Spencer asks him, Do you feel absolutely no concern for your future, boy? (Salinger, 14). He responds, Sure I do (Salinger, 14). However, back in his mind, he realizes that he actually does not have any concern pertaining to his life. Evidently, this proves that his innocence had been compromised. At the city, when he meets her sister, and after seeing how innocent her world was, starts to think how his is depressing.
Further, his innocence has been robbed owing to his bad and dirty habits, typical for adolescents. At the city, he indulges in smoking, and drinking, as well as other nasty habits, such as swearing. All of these do not seem to bother him. As such, it shows how he does not care about his life. All these he does so as to escape adulthood pressures (Kaplan, 1965). His bad behavior is evident when he says to a blonde, Dont answer if you dont feel like it. I dont want you to strain yourself (Salinger, 72). From this, it is evident that he gets frustrated and mad easily, which he blurts out via rude comments.
In the middle of the book, we can see a lot of changes on Holden, which evidences a rite of passage. For instance, while waiting for a friend, he has a sudden impulse to stop at a museum he had visited when he was a child to rekindle childhood memories, but when he was close to doing so, he changes his mind, as evidenced from the text, When I got to the museum, all of a sudden I wouldnt have gone inside for a million bucks. It just didnt appeal to me. (Salinger, 122). This assertion shows that he was becoming an adult. Also, one may deduce that this would have made him compare how innocent he was as a child compared to how he was in adolescence, meaning that this stage had robbed him his innocence (Pinsker, 1993). In addition, he realized that he was too old to partake such a childhood activity. Also, while making a decision to go to the west, he denies Phoebe of due to his metamorphosis to adulthood, saying, Im not going anywhere, I changed my mind (Salinger, 207).
However, a counterargument against the rite of passage can be derived when Holden, while at the psychiatry facility. The last lines of the novel, which is when he was at the hospital, suggest that he was in pain and still unhealed. It is not clear that he has found himself. He chooses not to tell anybody anything, and the book ends. Ideally, shutting people out is not adulthood, and therefore, it opposes the idea that Holden had metamorphosed to adulthood.
In conclusion, it is clear that adolescence had robbed Holden of innocence. He embarks of unwise actions, such as drinking, smoking, as well as use of abusive language. As such, it can be concluded that while adulthood is a rite of passage to adulthood, it can also be a stage that robs away the innocence of many.
Salinger, J D, E M. Mitchell, and Lotte Jacobi. The Catcher in the Rye. , 1951. Print.
Pinsker, Sanford. The Catcher in the Rye: Innocence under Pressure. New York: Twayne Publishers, 1993. Print.
Kaplan, Robert B. The Catcher in the Rye: Notes. Lincoln, Neb: Cliff's Notes, 1965. Internet resource.
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