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Holden's spiritual Journey in the Catcher in the Rye

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Introduction

HOLDEN CAULFIELD'S ODYSSEY OF SELF DISCOVERY What is it that defines the infamous teenage years that everyone at one point or another goes through? Is it all the struggle of trying to break through the crowd or the stress of facing the endless conflicts that didn't exist when you were a child? Maybe it's the pain of shedding the protective cocoon called childhood, to face your deepest fears and understand that all those simple truths might not be so simple. At the other end of these terrible years filled with confusion and tears is light. Every child comes through as an individual with a better idea of his or her self and place in society. In J.D Salinger's coming of age novel The Catcher in the Rye, the protagonist Holden Caulfield embarks on a spiritual journey, during which he comes to terms with himself and the world. In the opening chapters of the novel, one can easily suspect that Caulfield is psychologically ill, judging by his cynical tone, hypocritical behavior and immature views. His constant criticism of society's phoniness displays his cynical views; and when he bluntly lies to his fellow classmate's mother about her son during a train to New York, he reveals his own hypocrisy as a phony. ...read more.

Middle

I felt sorry as hell for my mother and father;" (155). Another major challenge in Holden's journey is his lack of instinct to understand when to fight for his rights and when to realize that something is a lost cause. For example, Holden pursues his hopeless argument with the pimp Maurice over just five extra dollars, resulting in getting himself physically assaulted. This also connects to his failure to understand that stopping children from growing up is pointless, since change is inevitable. Another lost battle that Holden fights is the so called "Phony" ways of the society and confronts an inner battle where he views all the members of the society ganging up on him, to rob him of his innocence. Holden should learn to embrace the fact that fighting the society is pointless since he is part of the society too. His incorrect opinion of the society is only furthered by Mr. Spencer's scolding Holden for breaking the rules at the beginning of the novel; "Life is a game, boy. Life is a game that one plays according to the rules." (8). These words make Holden feel that by breaking the rules, he is against the society and results in making feel more isolated. ...read more.

Conclusion

About all I know is, I sort of miss everybody," (214). His final words show that he has begun to shed the impenetrable skin of cynicism that he had grown around himself. He has begun to value, rather than dismiss, the people around him. His nostalgia-"miss everybody"-reveals that he is not as bitter and repressed as he was earlier in the book. Holden's journey in the novel Catcher in the Rye by J.D Salinger is crucial for him to find his true identity and to learn to accept himself as well as the society around him. In his journey, Holden realizes his need for psychological mentoring and learns several morals including the fact that change is inevitable and that he is part of society, rather than against it. He also discovers that he can't isolate himself from everyone and that he needs companionship as much as he needs privacy. Other teenagers going through spiritual voyages in search of identity find themselves facing their deepest concerns, questioning the beliefs that have formed the very basis of their lives and confronting their inner most emotions of hope, despair and pain. All go through the same journey that Holden has but each journey is unique to everyone and like the famous proverb "There is always light at the end of the Tunnel", the future is always brighter at the end of these dark murky years called the teenage. ...read more.

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