The story of Holden Caulfield is an example of the experience of growing up. Itillustrates the enormous amount of pressure placed on teenagers. It also shows that someteenagers can handle the pressure, while others cannot. Although Catcher in the Rye takesplace in the 1940s, Holdens life is extremely similar to that of teenagers in the 1990s.Even though the moral and social structure of today varies greatly from that of the 1940s,a similar story could easily occur. Holdens problems mirror the dilemmas of everyteenager today. One of Holdens largest problems is his anxiety about his future. He is a classicexample of an underachiever, and has been kicked out of many high schools for failinggrades.
This is not because of a lack of intelligent, but is because he does not work orapply himself. His parents and his teacher, Mr. Spencer, push him to change his ways andbe responsible, to no avail. This pressure contributes to his inevitable nervous breakdown.He deals with his own apprehension by convincing himself that he does not care. This alsocontributes to his failing grades, creating more anxiety. This problem afflicts every singleteenager today.
Standards are even higher than in the 1940s and jobs are increasinglyharder to find. Also adding to this is the high cost of college. Most of todays studentshave to work their own way through college. Another of Holdens problems is his relations with the opposite sex.
Throughoutthe book, Holden tries to force himself to call Jean Gallagher, an old friend of his. Heknew her as a child and decided to contact her after his roommate, Stradlater, dated her.Although he really wants to call her, he cannot work up enough courage to do it.However, he does call an old girlfriend, Sally. They go on a date, but Sally storms off afteran argument.
Also, a major source of anxiety is sex. He convinced himself that he has nothad sex yet because he has not had the chance, but deep down he knows he is not ready.While society imposes shame about sex before marriage, his peers see it as a matter ofpride to have had sex, and a matter of shame to not have had sex. Holden is torn betweenwhat he has been taught, and what his peers expect of him. At one point in the novel, hethinks he is ready and orders the services of a prostitute.
However, when the prostitutearrives at his hotel room, he realizes he does not want to have sex yet. He sends her away,partly because she is as young as he is, and partly because he chickens out. This problem isunavoidable for teenagers today. Most teenagers are not mature enough to resist the peerpressure to have sex and are also not mature enough to handle the consequences.Furthermore, teenagers are irresponsible which results in teenage pregnancy becomingalmost commonplace in some communities.
Holdens main problem is his transition from childhood to adulthood. He is rapidlybecoming an adult, but does not want to leave his childhood behind. He is constantlymentioning his sister, Phoebe, throughout the novel. She is a point of happiness for himand represents his ideal image of childhood.
He is clearly in a transition stage. Forinstance, he goes to bars and drinks like an adult, obviously mimicing what he percieves tobe adult behavior. However, when he awakes in the middle of the night to find Mr.
Antiloni patting his head. Holden panics and runs out of the apartment, assuming that Mr.Antiloni is a homosexual. His reaction is immature and premature. Every teenager today istorn between their childhood and being an adult, that is what being a teenager is.
Everychild wants to grow up as fast as possible, but is not ready and does not want to acceptthe responsibility that goes with growing up.In conclusion, Holden is a typical, everyday teenager whether the point of view isof the 1940s, or the 1990s. A teenagers place in this world has not changed drasticallyover the years.
Furthermore, there is no indication that a similar story could not happen toa teenager today. In fact, it does every day.