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Essay about The Catcher in the Rye: Holden Caulfield's Coming of Age Story

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It takes many experiences in order for an immature child to become a responsible, well-rounded adult. In J. D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye, Salinger’s main character Holden Caulfield matures throughout the course of the novel. In the beginning of the novel, Holden is a juvenile young man. However, through his experiences, Holden is able to learn, and is finally able to become somewhat mature by the end of the novel. In The Catcher in the Rye, Holden Caulfield’s story represents a coming of age for all young adults.

In the beginning of The Catcher in the Rye, Holden Caulfield is an immature teenager. Holden gets kicked out of his school, Pencey Prep, for failing four out of five of his classes. He says, “They kicked me out. I wasn’t supposed to come back after Christmas vacation … I was flunking four subjects and not applying myself and all” (Salinger 4). Holden does not yet realize the severity of his actions. He does not comprehend that when he does not apply himself, he does not do well. This could partly be due to the fact that when he gets kicked out of one school, he knows that his family will just pay for him to be allowed into another boarding school. Part of the irony in Holden’s story is that physically, he looks mature, but mentally, he is still very much a child: “I act quite young for my age, sometimes. I was sixteen then, and I’m seventeen now … I’m six foot two and a half and I have gray hair ” (9). There is no middle ground, adolescence, for Holden. He can only be an adult, physically, or a child, mentally. Holden’s history teacher, Mr. Spencer, tries to appeal to him by using a metaphor: “Life is a game, boy. Life is a game that one plays according to the rules” (8). Holden then reflects on this to hims...


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... the other children on the carrousel reaching for their gold rings he realizes, “If they fall off, they fall off” (211). This is so significant because Holden becomes conscious of the fact that whatever happens, happens. He cannot control or protect anyone, or himself, from the future. Holden’s last two sentences of the novel really capture the entire journey he has gone through: “Don’t ever tell anybody anything. If you do, you start missing everybody” (214). This is Holden getting over everything that has happened to him. He understands that he can overcome what has happened from him in order to learn from his past and move forward to the future.

In The Catcher in the Rye, Holden Caulfield goes on a psychological journey that forces him to grow up. He starts off as an immature teenager. However, through his experiences he is able to become a mature young man.


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