Adolescence in the Bell Jar and Catcher in the Rye
Adolescence is the period between puberty and adulthood. Every teenager experience this moment in life differently some sail through happily to carry on with a peaceful life where as others are less fortunate and find that this moment is much more harder and stressful then they thought. Esther Greenwood and Holden Caulfield are one of the less fortunate and have bad experiences through their adolescent. Salinger and Plath present this in their novels Catcher in the Rye and The Bell Jar. Both novelists use first person narrative giving us as readers a more personal description about their story, involving us more into their lives and letting us travel with them on their pathway through adolescent. The tone, dictation and the use of grammar are consistently those of an adolescent person and express distinctive commentary on how they feel and what they observe everyday.
Salinger and Plath present the different elements of adolescence that teenagers experience such as depression, grief, pressure, sexuality etc through their characters Holden and Esther.
Throughout adolescence teenagers experience a variety of pressures from their family, friends and even the society. Holden and Esther both come from adequate families who brought them up well although this can also mean living up to their expectations. Esther lives up to different expectations than Holden. Esther’s background was less promising than others, her mother could not provide her with a good education it was down the Esther to work really hard at studying to gain scholarships she places huge pressure on herself to achieve these goals that she doesn’t know anything else “ I had been inadequate all along, I simply hadn’t thought about it. The one thing I was good at was winning scholarships.” Esther can appreciate and understand the worth of money she thinks about this when she sits at the ‘ladies day’ dinner “Grandma always cooked economy joints, the minute you lifted the forkful to your mouth, ‘I hope you enjoy that, it cost forty-one cents.” She realises that if she didn’t have her scholarships she wouldn’t be given all of these privileges and chances this is what separates her from the rest of the girls Esther has to study literally to survive and she doesn’t have the luxury like the rich girls to enjoy the freedom and miss some classes. Where as Holden Caulfield’s parents are rich and he can take the advantage of flunking out because they can just place him in another school, he has pressure from his parents to do well in Pencey high that’s why he cant face to tell them that he got kicked out “They’ll be pretty irritated about it, they really will. This is about the fourth school I’ve gone to.”
Pressures of virginity are expressed in both novels. Esther and Holden are self conscious about losing their virginity and feel they need to sleep with someone and gain experience. Holden behaves bold around girls and comments a lot about the girls who he has ‘necked’ in the past and those that he nearly slept with but soon confesses later in the novel “If you want to know the truth, I’m a virgin. I really am.” When Holden is with a girl he likes to believe that the girl he is ‘necking’ is intelligent but really he just ends up with girls he doesn’t even like “I was going to quit horsing around with girls that, deep down, gave me a pain in the ass.” It shows that Holden finds it hard to seek a girl he really likes intimately and feels the pressure of having sex with someone “Sex is something I really don’t understand too hot.” This could be the reason why he doesn’t want to be too close with somebody because of his fear of sex and the lack of experience. Although he does believe that sex should happen between two people who clearly love each other, Holden obsesses about sex being a major point in his life that his first proper sexual encounter is with a...