Growing Pains


Growing Pains Essay, Research Paper

Growing Pains

Many people have many problems, but there is one in particular. It is growing up. Most children want to grow up in a hurry so that they can take part in the adult aspect of having fun. Except adulthood is not at all about fun and games. And when children venture into adulthood they lose the sense of purity and innocence that encompasses them as a child. Children have a sense of this utopian world of theirs when they reach adulthood; however, adulthood is actually all about sacrifice and responsibility. Every person should be absolutely mortified of this journey; it is a perilous one indeed. Holden Caulfield, the protagonist in The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger, experiences the emotional and psychological distresses involved in shifting from adolescence to adulthood, a transition from innocence to impurity.

Holden has a really big issue relating to females. He enjoys flirting and nothing else. However, his relationship never progress or pass a certain level. Duane Edwards, in his criticism entitled, Don t Ever Tell Anybody Anything, explains:

What is Holden s problem? Whatever it is in specific form, it s reflected in his inability to relate sexually to females. Holden

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himself suggests this when he says, My sex life stinks. But even when he speaks the truth he fools himself: he believes that he cannot get really sexy with girls he does like.

In the case of Jane Gallagher, the relationship is wonderful to him because it can never progress a certain stage. It will never pass the handholding stage, which is a good thing for him. This is the kind of relationship that he enjoys with women. Even if he likes the girl more than any other, he cannot further the relationship. Even with Sally Hayes, a total stranger to him, starts to kiss him in the taxi on the ride home, hoping for more, he lets her because he knows their relationship will not pass this current scene. This is good for him because he will most likely never call her back or even see her again. And with Faith Cavendish, he calls her up at an impossibly late hour and asks her to go out, and calls so late so that she will refuse. This is his plan. He obviously has a problem with females. But the problem is however, much more complex. Holden inside is associating dating and intimate relationships with growing up and once again losing his purity and growing corrupt (Edwards 555).

Holden Caulfield is a young child who has grave issues with growing up. He feels that all grown ups are phony , meaning they are fake people who are greedy and corrupt. He characterizes almost every person and everything he meets as a “phony”. Grand. There s a word I really hate. It s a phony. I could puke every time I hear it (9). He feels that he is surrounded by hypocrites in a

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school filled with fakery. Principal Thurmer, the principal of Holden’s high school, Pencey Prep, was the leader of the whole charade. During a teacher/parent day, Principal Thurmer would only say hello to the wealthy parents of students. He would not associate himself with those that were not financially stable, because he was a phony. This issue of phoniness is something which remains constantly on Holden s mind and slows, almost even prevents, Holden from maturing.

However, there does exist one person whom which Holden feels is still pure and is not subject to the cruelty of the world. This one elusive person is his younger sister Phoebe. She embodies all that he wants to be. Innocence and purity are the qualities she has, as well as qualities he wishes he still possessed. Holden is quite aware of the effects life has had on his own purity, and he is quite aware of the fact that he himself is no longer pure. Despite this evident fact, he will stop at nothing to Hold on to that innocence he longs for (Edwards 555).

This longing is something makes Holden despise all that involves phony people. He longs to alienate himself from the world and live in his own land of make believe . Ernest Jones states in his criticism entitled Case History of All of Us ,

With his alienation go assorted hatreds-of the movies, of nightclubs, of social and intellectual pretension, and so on. And physical disgust: pimples, sex, an old man picking his nose are all equally

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cause for nausea. It is of little importance that the alienation, the hatreds, and the disgust are those of a sixteen-year-old.

However, no matter how much he may long to stay a child and not become an adult in the corrupt American society to which Holden belongs, Phoebe is still pure. His loving ten-year-old sister embodies all the wisdom and innocence that could be preserved.

Holden is definitely extremely immature in the beginning of the book. Throughout the book, he takes steps to keep with his childish ways. Holden maintains an extreme lack of responsibility to prevent the inevitable: Growing up. Holden is extremely reluctant to change. He was the equipment manager of the fencing team at Pencey, but he lost the equipment on the subway. Although this could have possibly passed as an honest mistake, Holden decides to not take responsibility for his actions. I left all the foils and equipment and stuff on the goddam subway. It wasn t all my fault. I had to keep getting up to look at the map, so we d know where to get off (3). Holden refuses to take responsibility for the simple fact that he associates it with growing up; an action Holden feels marks the loss of one s innocence as they enter a dark world lacking morals and standards. Still, it is rather difficult to criticize the resistance to entering a world lacking the ideals found within the spirit of the young adolescent (Kinnick 41). Holden plans to remain a child, care-free and responsibility-free, for as long as he possibly can.

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Throughout the middle of the book, we begin to witness Holden s shift from childhood, through adolescence, and finally to adulthood. While waiting for an old friend of his, he had the sudden urge to go into a museum that he had visited while still a child in school in order to bring back memories of his childhood. However, when he finally reached the museum, he decided not to. Holden states: Then a funny thing happened. When I got to the museum, all

of a sudden I wouldn’t have gone inside for a million bucks. It just didn’t appeal to me…I didn t feel much like going. I d made that dam date with Sally though (122). This shows that Holden is becoming an adult. He did

not want to enter the museum because he realized that he was too old to take

part in such an activity.

A prime example of Holden s maturation is apparent when he takes Phoebe to a carousel. He decided not to ride on it, or even stand on it during a rainstorm, because he felt “too old” to get on. No, I ll just watch ya. I think I ll just watch (212). Holden is no longer a child and finally begins to realize it. He stands back, in the rain and just watches her. Then the carousel started, and I watched her go around and around. I was sort of afraid she d fall of the goddam horse, but I didn t say anything (206). Holden begins to realize that he is an adult, and decides that he doesn t want his dear sister Phoebe to have the same kind of childhood he had. The thing with kids is, if they want to grab for the gold ring, you have to let them do it, and not say anything. If they fall off, they fall off, but it s bad if you say anything to them (206). At the end of the book, Holden

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has matured through the adolescent stage of life and now looks back and tries to make life better for the next children, Phoebe included.

This carousel symbolizes life, and the constant journey of childhood into

adulthood. Children would sometimes fall when striving to reach the gold ring

in the center of life, or their complete success or adulthood. Holden would

have yelled out to the children that it was dangerous to try to achieve this

goal, but he realized that the children should go along the path of life by themselves. Throughout the book, Holden tried to save all children from growing up and losing their innocence. When he realized that he could not achieve this goal, he had a nervous breakdown and could not deal with it. However, it is an

inevitable fact that everyone has to grow up.

Works Cited

Edwards, Duane Don t Ever Tell Anybody anything, ELH 44 No. 3 1977:555-56

Jones, Ernest Case History of All of Us, Nation 1 Sept.1951:77

Kinnick, Bernard C. Holden Caulfield: Adolescents Enduring Model, High School Journal 53 No. 8 May 1970:441-43.

McSweeney, Kerry Salinger Revisited, Critical Quarterly 20 No.1 1978: 66-68

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