Holden Caulfield: Not Your Typical Teenage Boy
Does a typical teenager try to sleep with prostitutes or get expelled from three private boarding schools? In J.D. Salinger’s classic novel, The Catcher in the Rye, the main character, seventeen year-old Holden Caulfield, does not represent all teenagers. In fact, his opinions, thoughts, and actions show signs of serious immaturity and indicate that he is both isolated and mentally compromised. Holden has witnessed and experienced horrific tragedy at a very young age when his classmate, James Castle, commits suicide and his brother Allie dies of leukemia. In response to his conflicted feelings regarding growing up and about many of the events happening in his life, Holden has trouble controlling his actions and emotions. He smokes frequently, drinks scotch and soda at bars, and consents to have a prostitute sent to his room from the pimp, Maurice. His reactions, compared to the behavioral expectations within his society, are highly uncommon and show extreme immaturity to that of typical teenagers. As the novel opens, it appears as if Holden is just like every other teenager who attends an East coast boarding school; however, within the first third of the novel this proves not to be the case as Holden’s emotional instability is revealed by the fact that his beautiful brother was taken from his family too early for anybody in this world. Holden characterizes Allie’s image as the most “terrifically intelligent and nicest person in the family…” (38). In reaction to Allie’s death, Holden goes on a rampage and smashes all of the windows in the family’s garage. His parents realizing that this is unusual behavior give some thought to having Holden “psychoanalyzed and all” at the age of thirteen (37-38). Most teenagers do not encounter this type of profound loss this early in their lives. To add to Holden’s emotional fragility, he witnessed the suicide of his classmate, James Castle, while attending Elkton Hills. Holden...
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