Innocence to AdulthoodAdolescence is a time of existence in two worlds.
One world having the desire to be in the adult world,which is filled with all the unknown wonders of the world. The other world is the world of childhood which iscomfortable and protected from all the impurities in theworld. This sort of tug of war between the two worlds isnot only mentally imposed on a being, but physically,socially, and morally as well.
With all the mentionedabove, often times an adult will discourage an action ofan adolescent by saying they are too old to a act acertain way, and then will turn around and say they aretoo young to do something, like go out late or go ondates. These contradictions can lead an adolescent tocomplete uncertainty of their actions. J.B. Salingersbook, The Catcher in the Rye, aptly describes the immenseconfusion of the in between stages of being a boy and aman.Throughout the whole story, the narrator, Holdentries to act both the boy and thw man but cannot.
Hetries in vain to get a grip on the adult world, but neveris quite successful. Holdens first attempt at adulthoodis exemplified when he leaves his school withoutpermission from his parents or the school. This act initself sets the stage for his trial and error attitudeabout adulthood in the sense he failed out of school,which was a childish act. He tries to rectify his failingout of school by leaving, which he views as an adult act. Holdens leaving school represents his need forindependence and he achieves this by leaving. Another of Holdens failed attempts at adulthood iswhen he goes down to he hotels club where he orders analcoholic drink, but he is refused because the waiter willnot serve him because he is underage. Holden tries togive the illusion that he is older because when he ordersthe drink, he Orders it fast as possible, because if youhem and haw they think you are under 21 and wont sell youintoxicating liquor.
This is the classic example ofadolescence when one attempts to act older than his or herage when attempting to obtain alcohol. Up until the ageof 21, all young adults want to give the illusion they areolder than they are in hopes of obtaining special adultprivileges, such as drinking alcohol, smoking, etc. However Holdens failed attempts forces him to realizethat his act is fooling no one other than himself. Suchan example can be seen when one goes to college bars andcan see all the adults that are hanging out there. Thepeople who are there are not fooling anyone as well.Sex is often the most complicated adult subjects,even for adults to understand themselves. The act of sexitself can be talked about immensely, as done in lockerrooms or with friends, almost to the point where one couldbelieve in the tales. However the act itself cannot befaked and innocence of such things are quite apparent whenthe situations do arise.
The saying one can talk thetalk, but cannot walk the walk describes this sort ofsituation perfectly. Holdens first experience with awoman who he has heard about from a friend, emphasizes hisinexperience. He called this woman because he heard fromhis friend that she Was not a whore, but she did not minddoing it once in a while.
He tries to cover up hisinnocence by faking a deep voice and pretending that hewas from Princeton. However she sees through his facade,and lets him down. Another attempt into the adult world,or what Holden considers to be the adult world, has beenthwarted. His failure is due in part to the fact thatHolden does not really know the rules, which he isguessing at, and also in part because his loneliness isnot a substitute for experience. Although this act is notchildlike alone, but rather it is a stepping stone intothe adult world of sex, where an individual will try newtechniques, such as pickup lines and such, to obtain andreach his or her goal. Thus Holden has learned hisfirst valuable lesson of what not to do in the future.However Holden is over his head when he agrees tohave a prostitute, who is propositioned to him by thebellhop. He is apparently nervous and he confesses thathe is a virgin.
His reasoning for having the prostituteis that it is Good to get some practice just in case Iget married. He also tells of how in the past he hadalmost gone all the way, but at the last moment herecoiled. This indicates how immature he is and how he isnot ready for a sexual relationship, primarily because heis doing it for the sake of doing it and not for love, andalso the fact he shys away from sex is a definiteindication he is not ready for it. Once the prostitutecome over, he again shys away and tells her to leave. Once again, with these examples in mind, Holden emphasizeshow he is not ready for the grown up world of sex, despitewhat his body is telling him.The girls that Holden refers to quite a bit are Sallyand Jane, who together represent what he desires in arelationship . Jane, although she was a girlfriend fromwhen he was younger, represents the caring andunderstanding part in a relationship, the mature part, inthe sense that Holden in genuinely concerned for hernature. Sally, a girl friend who is considered an adultrelationship, represents what he wants in an adultrelationship, such as sex and marriage.
Holden tries toseduce Sally and they make out in the cab. Again he putsthe cart before the horse, and asks her to marry him, eventhough he Did not like her that much. He wants theadult relationship of being married, but has the childlikeidea of not doing it for the sake of love, because he didnot love her, although he told her he did. FortunatelySally said she would rather wait, not getting swept up bythe excitement of Holdens immaturity.
After Holden asksher to marry him, he realizes how stupid his actions were,and that he did not love her, which indicates that Holdenis learning something from his mistakes, and in turnbecoming mature. As seen through Holdens failing at becoming aninstant adult, it is quite apparent that he is not donebeing a child. It is exemplified when he tries to actlike an adult, but acting is all he is doing.
Behindevery one of his adult actions, there is a childish oneto follow suit, and it is clear that his mature act isfooling no one, i.e., the bartender, the girl he called,the prostitute. Yet like a glutton for punishment, hestarts over again only to end up disappointed.However the only time it seems that Holden iscomfortable and secure is when he refers to a childlikestate or when he talks about children, in particular hissister Phoebe. Phoebe, who is ten, is the only person whohe thinks that truly understands him. Yet when he tellsher that he failed out of school, she does not does notshow any compassion, but rather show him anger and sheputs the pillow over her head and refuses to listen tohim.
This is important because it emphasizes how Holdensadolescent age can no longer rely on the advice andunderstanding of a child, yet he cannot rely on adultsadvice, although he pretends to be one. The importance of childhood in Holdens life is seenagain when he starts talking to a little girl at the park,who he also helps put on her ice skates. He shows no fearor false nature when he is with her, and he shows his easewith her when he states that he Loves it when kids arenice and polite when you tighten their skates for them orsomething.
Most kids are. They really are. Unlike whenhe is with women or in bars, Holden is uninhibited withchildren and does not put on false faces with them. Thefact he finds them genuinely polite shows how he feels howhe can put his full trust with them, and explains why hereturns to children or a childlike state, because they arereal, whereas adults are about putting on aires.The idea that children are real beings is seenagain when Phoebe asks Holden what he wants to do with hislife, and he replies he would want to be a catcher in therye, where he would catch all children who got too closeto the cliffs edge. He wants to be a catcher of childrenbecause they love more easily than adults do, and they donot play games when giving love, as adults do.Holdens most obvious example his regression tochildhood is seen when he returns back to his home. Whenhe left school and decided to stay at hotels, opposed toreturning to home, and he did so with the intent ofshowing himself, as well as his parents, how he couldrebel against the forces that tie him to childhood.
Staying away from home was his big test of not onlyhimself, but to the world. Yet despite his brave bravefacade, the real reason he does not return home is becausehe is overcome by guilt and shame over his expulsion fromschool. Proving he cannot handle the adult world, hereturns home. Unbeknownst to Holden, his parents are not home whenhe arrives, but they arrive shortly later. As he leaves,he takes no precautions about running into his parents,and by doing this it seems that he almost wants to becaught.
This is symbolic because he then comes to termswith his immaturity and the only thing that would pull himback into his comfortable and safe child world is hisparents. When he blatantly smokes in the house and is notcareful when he leaves, he is almost crying out for helpand attention.Before Holden returned to his home, he is at the pondnear Central Park, and he is thinking about dying and israther nonchalant about the fact he might die. WhenHolden visits Mr. Antonlelli, he is again reminded of hisimmaturity and is faced with it when Mr.
Antonelli repeatsa poem that seems to describes Holdens whole nature, thatThe immature man is one who wants to die nobly for acause, and the mature man is one who wants to live forone. With this in mind, Holdens immaturity is brought tohis face, and despite his act, he realizes he is still achild. In the end, Holden returns home, and in a sense heis beaten by the system and beaten at his own game.Throughout the story Holden refers to himself asStupid or Crazy after many failed attempts into theadult world. What he fails to realize is that he isniether stupid or crazy, but rather he is naive andinnocent to the workings of the world, and through hisfailures he begins to realize this fact. The only thinghe is guilty of is trying too hard an getting disappointedto easily because of his failures due to his inexperiencein life.
What he also does not realize is that there isno imaginary line that says child on one side and adult onthe other. Rather there is a stairway towards adulthood,and unlike the imaginary line which is crossedeffortlessly, the stairway requires some effort and workto achieve towards the top, which in this case isadulthood. Holden attempts to cross the line versus goingup the stairs, and as a result he realized that there isno easy path into adulthood, that it is a trial and errorperiod, where you have to learn from your mistakes and notget hung up on them. Holdens failures are actually partof the steps toward adulthood, steps that are critical andhelp him understand the adult world and how it reallyworks.
Salinger accurately represents the difficult bridgebetween a child and an adult, and emphasizes that anindividual at this age cannot pretend to be an adult norcan they regress back into the security of childhood. Salinger also emphasizes that one must take this ride,despite the twists and turns that come with it because itis critical for survival as an adult. It is emphasizedthat there is no given amount of steps toward adulthoodand it is different for each individual, but that theexperiences encountered, both good and bad, mold theindividual and shape them for the differences to come. Inclosing it is apparent that there is no easy way intoadulthood, but it is accurate to say that the experiencesof the child are the mold for the adult.