Teenagers Surviving Adolescence after the Death of a Brother

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Teenagers Surviving Adolescence After the Death of a Brother

Between the pimple popping, social pressures, and unforgiving parents, adolescence is a difficult time for the average teenager. However, for two unstable and socially awkward boys, adolescence was more than teenage angst. The characters Holden Caulfield and Conrad Jarrett demonstrate similar reactions to the death of a loved one during this formative time. Their transitions into adulthood, while dealing with bereavement, are catalogued in the novel The Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger and the motion picture Ordinary People directed by Robert Redford, respectively. Even though their desire for control is the same, Caulfield and Jarrett differ in what they want to save and in their approach to surviving daily life after a traumatic experience.

Conrad Jarrett wants to save himself and get a grip on his problems, while Holden Caulfield strives to preserve his own innocence. Both of these characters feel that they should have been the person in their family to die. However, Conrad feels more responsible for his brother Bucky’s death because he could have prevented it. Conrad visits Dr. Berger to stop himself from spiraling deeper into depression. In a moment of passion Conrad exclaims, “Oh, God, I'd like to quit (punishing myself),” (Redford). In a desperate conversation with his psychiatrist Conrad blames himself for messing around during the storm by admitting that, “We were screwing around out there, we should've come in when it started to look bad,” (Redford). To let go of the terrible guilt, Conrad blames himself to explain what happened that fateful night. However, Conrad finally realizes that it was Bucky’s own fault; his brother let go of the boat. In contrast to Conrad’s struggles, Holden desires not to preserve himself or to relieve himself of his depression, but rather to preserve his own innocence. Holden’s preoccupation with sex, and the maturity that comes with it, is too much for...
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