, Research Paper
Holden Caulfield as a Typical TeenagerHolden Caulfield, portrayed in J. D. Salinger’s novel The Catcher in the Rye is an adolescent struggling to find his own identity who has many characteristics that easily link him to any teenager living today. Adolescence is a complicated time in a person’s life. It is the time when young people leave their toys behind and enter the world of adults. Often, adolescent does not know where they fit in. They are expected to act in a mature fashion, yet they are not allowed to make many decisions. They feel like they are receiving mixed message from their elders. As a result, teenagers rebel against authority. They do the opposite of what is expected of them: they drink, smoke, swear and sometimes they do not do as well in school as they are capable of. Teenagers also try to be independent and act like adults. They experiment with things like sex and alcohol, and yet they still act like children at times. The protagonist of this novel is Holden Caulfield. He experiences the confusion of being an adolescent. The book tells of Holden’s behavior during these trying times. J. D. Salinger’s portrayal of Holden as the typical teenager is an accurate one because of Holden’s desire for independence, his experimentation with adult behaviour, and his rebellion against the adult society. The first and most obvious characteristic found in most teens, including Holden, would be the desire for independence. Throughout the novel, Holden is not once found wishing to have his parents help in anyway. He has practically lived his life in dorms at prestigious schools, and has learned quite well how to be on his own. This tendency of teenagers took place even in ancient history, where the freshly developed teen opts to leave the cave and hunt for his own food. Every teenager tries, in his or her own way, to be independent. Instead of admitting to one’s parents of a harmful deed, the person tries covering up the mistake. They feel that they have enough intelligence to think through a problem without crying to their parents for help. When Holden hears the news that he has been expelled from Pencey, he instantly concludes that his parents would not know for a few days. Therefore, he would wait from Saturday all the way to Wednesday, let his parents cool down, and then face the consequences afterwards. Since Holden takes the independent road, he does not look for sympathy from his Mom and Dad, however he does feel he can deal with his situation by waiting until the next school year in order to apply himself a little bit better. Another example of Holden’s desire for independence is obvious when he asks Sally Hayes to run away with him so they can live on their own. Holden wants to live on his own like an adult. He wants to be independent, but isolated from the society. Holden’s strong desire for independence, as seen through the above examples, clearly portrays him as any teenager living today.In addition, J. D. Salinger accurately portrays Holden Caulfield as the typical teenager because he experiments with adult behaviour. As teenagers are advancing from childhood to adulthood, they are inclined to experiment with “adult things”. This includes drinking, smoking, or having sex. Holden drinks even though he is under the legal age. Another thing he does is smoke. Smoking is an adult activity, and Holden smokes to be more of an adult. Even though the cigarettes taste bad, he still smokes them. Another characteristic of a teenager, usually of the male gender, would be the widespread subject of sex. As everyone knows, during and after puberty, men have a stronger desire to fantasize about and perform sexual acts. Although Holden honestly states to the readers that he is a virgin, he still has encounters associated with sexual activity. First and foremost, Holden actually obtains a prostitute during a brief stay at a hotel. Without a doubt Holden never had sexual intercourse with this woman, but it does show that he is a teenager looking for affection and pleasure, or either of the two. Also, he proclaimed that he had the opportunities to “give the time” to other women, but he never quite knew when to do it while on a date. In this regard, a teenager currently faces what Holden faces. The media and other primary sources in their lives have taken the interest of sex, and expanded the information making it seem like it is the best thing known to man. Most teenagers find it slightly embarrassing now to admit to being chaste, mostly due to the fact that they think everyone else is doing it, which is clearly false. Teenagers want to experiment with and experience sex, and even if they choose to not have sex until marriage, they will still fantasize about it. Holden wants to experiment with adult behaviour, which is typical of any teenager.
Finally, J. D. Salinger accurately portrays Holden Caulfield as the typical teenager because he rebels against adult society. Adolescents rebel against their parents, teachers, and other adults. They are trying to be independent and act like adults, but adults restrict them. They tell teenagers what to do and how to act. Holden smokes in the school premises even though it is against rules. He refuses to obey the rules. By breaking the school rules, he is rebelling against adult society. He thinks that everything adults force on him is bad. Teenagers are always told to stay in school, but there are problems in the education system. He feels that the adults are misleading young people into believing things that are false. For these reasons, he rebels against adult society by rejecting their ideas and values. One thing he does is get poor grades in school. Adults in society always place a great emphasis on education, but Holden does not think it is important. As a result, he rebels and does not do his work. Even though the adults tell Holden to apply himself, he does not. He does what he wants to, not caring what adults think. Holden also rebels against the adult society by complaining of its “phoneyness”. Since Holden thinks society is phoney, he tries not to act like everyone else. He also criticizes the adult phoney society. He rebels by not having the same opinion as everyone else. In addition, Holden drinks and smokes to rebel. Teenagers are not supposed to do these things, but he does anyway. Attitude of Holden towards the adult society reflects the plight of every teenager. As seen in these previous examples, and also found in many more instances, Holden Caulfield truly resembles the everyday teenager. He has gone through the same situations, encountered many of the same problems, and he also has acted in similar ways just like us. Adolescence is a period of transition between childhood and adulthood. In this period, we all experience development both physically and emotionally. Adolescents want to be independent. They smoke, drink, and leave home to be like adults. This behaviour is common with teenagers, and with Holden. As Holden is a typical adolescent, he is the type of characters teenagers can identify with. They think of him as a friend. It is nice for teens to know how others cope with adolescence.