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How does JD Salinger use the character of Holden Caulfield to explore the issues related to 'growing up'?

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Introduction

How does J.D Salinger use the character of Holden Caulfield to explore the issues related to 'growing up'? 'The Catcher in the Rye' was written in the late 1940's and first published in a magazine in 1947. The novel is like a bildungsroman but only consists of two and a half days in the life of a 17 year old boy called Holden Caulfield, although he argues that the book is not about his "lousy childhood". Holden seems to be very conscious of this and doesn't want it to be "all that David Copperfield kind of crap". Nevertheless the book is an insight into a young man's mind. Salinger creates Holden Caulfield's idiolect with all the colloquialisms and swearing, which resulted in the book being banned in many states of America. Holden is very open and does not refrain from sharing some of his views on society and the war. At the time of publishing, America was experiencing very rich, prosperous, affluent years. Hollywood was the worlds best film industry and something America was very proud of and enjoyed, "Everybody was on their way to the movies" but Holden "couldn't stand looking at them", this was a big dig at American society and became very controversial. Holden doesn't hold back his political views either, "I'm sort of glad they've got the atomic bomb invented. If there's another war, I'm going to sit right the hell on top of it". ...read more.

Middle

This again displays Holden's indecisive teenage mind on his views and morals. He is very aware of morals and which are important to have but cannot follow them through, especially with the girls! Salinger portrays Holden's shallow side further on when Holden asks "is she good-looking?" before the girl is sent up. However Holden's confidence in being able to "get in some practice on her" is crushed when "Sunny" turns up and he realizes she is quite young, "she was around my age". Sunny turns out to be very different to the stereotypical prostitute Holden has in his mind; she doesn't smoke or swear, "What the heck" and cares not to get her "dress all wrinkly". This depresses Holden as she doesn't seem wreckless or completely immoral like Holden feels a prostitute should be and leaves him feeling guilty as she seems really innocent. This reflects Holden's sensitive as well as Holden's childish side. Holden longs to be independent and act like a adult but when given the chance he'd rather hold on to his innocence and doesn't want to accept that people especially girls do act young yet have lost all their true innocence- like virginity, "a girl when she really gets passionate, she hasn't any brains". Here Salinger is expressing the stresses of being a teenager and being new to sex and "getting nervous" and having "trouble just finding what I'm looking for". ...read more.

Conclusion

He stands at the side and "watched her go around and around" and this triggers the symbolism of the circle of life which dawns upon Holden which he takes with acceptance, "I felt so damn happy all of a sudden". Salinger explores the issues of growing up really well through many different techniques, a significant one being the symbolism of the museum. Other skills used is the contradictions he makes which puts emphasis on the confusion of growing up, the depression and the way how Holden isolates himself from expressing his opinions openly all web together the issues of growing up. Having the confidence yourself as a teenager plays a huge part in growing up as it helps you to learn and adjust your views and morals through discussions and stating your opinions. This way you can develop and adapt to at least cope with society, you also find people who may feel the same way about aspects of life. Without expression of these morals or opinions no one would ever be able to learn or strengthen these ideas, therefore remaining 'right' in their own eyes and also feeling alone and singled out though these thoughts. This is a very significant problem which alot of people have of growing up and Salinger explores it really well, expressing in a really unique way. The structure of Salinger's novel also contributes towards the feel the reader gets of growing up because they only get one person's interpretation, leaving the story coming from the mind of a questionable young boy's mind. ...read more.

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