Holden Caulfield, the Savior of Human Society
Adolescence is the stage in which everybody has to go through; some people may find it pleasant, others may find it horrendous, but no one can escape it no matter what. In the Catcher in the Rye, the novel published in 1951 by JD Salinger, the protagonist, Holden Caulfield struggles through his rebellious, grievous teenage years. Soon after being published, the book acquired huge praises as well as criticism. Even though many critics attack the book viciously, it remains in teenagers’ mind because of its moral themes and lessons; therefore, everyone, especially high school students should widely study the novel.
The first two problems Holden Caulfield is facing in the Catcher in the Rye that directly pertain to teenagers today are confusion and loneliness. As Holden tells his story, he often uses “confusing and lonesome” to express his mood. He is tired of all the phoniness surrounding him. Since teenagers in this society have experienced so many unpleasant troubles in their daily life, teenagers can absolutely relate to Holden. They attempt tirelessly to observe and figure out human behaviors, only to receive failures afterwards. Like Holden, some teenagers feel stressful because they have too much to care about but too little support from their friends and family. Toward the end of chapter five in the novel, Holden breaks all the glass in the garage when his brother Allie perished due to the overwhelming anger and anxiety that slowly build up in his mind. Allie’s death acts as the final blow that provokes Holden completely after all of his endurance. Like Holden, teenagers experience uncomfortable feelings when their beloved people disappear, and without any help from adults, teenagers will definitely commit reactions that they regret afterwards. In the end, distressed teenagers can always refer to the novel for guidance and sympathy in life.
Furthermore, sexuality is also a relevant issue that almost every teenager encounters during his or her teenage years, including Holden Caulfield. In the Catcher in the Rye, Stradlater infuriates Holden when he reveals that he has sex with Jane, a childhood friend of Holden who usually plays checkers with him. To Holden, sex only emerges when true love appears, and based on his belief, he creates certain principles and makes himself follow these rules at all cost. When the elevator man Maurice, however, asks him if he is “interested in having a good time” (page 90), Holden suddenly breaks his promise and agrees to the dirty offer. Fortunately, his conscience and self-esteem help him fence off contradictions of his principles. Some adults may question how sexual content in Salinger’s novel can affect teenagers in real life, since society has minimized prostitution, and there is no more threat that can harm the teenagers. The answer is maybe teens will not come to sex directly, but overloaded desperation may push them toward the danger zone. Whether or not parents abandon their kids, leaving them to play with immoral friends will determine if the kids will grow up safely and maturely. Adolescence is the transition from childhood to adulthood, from parents’ protection to self-protect; hence, it is the most vulnerable stage in human life. Peer pressure is one of the main forces that breaches through the weakly protective wall and convinces teenagers to violate social laws like watching censored videos. They may not want to, but they can never overcome such powerful force without the help of adults. Even though current society does not contain many prostitutes compared to the past, accessible internet is a frightful, uncontrollable substitution that parents and teenagers need not to ignore in order to overcome temptations.
Last but not least, innocence is also one of the most significant themes that emphasize the relevance of the Catcher in the Rye to teenagers. Holden Caulfield, though develops such pessimistic attitude toward life, still possesses a natural fondness toward children. He shows us his true nature when he tells Phoebe, his beloved sister, his dream about him being a protector who “catches everybody if they start to go over the cliff” (page 173). In fact, Holden is trying to say that he would like to save them from running out of their innocent zone and experience the harshness and desperation he is going through. He wants to keep watching the kids playing and acting as they are kids: genuine and innocent. Nonetheless, he knows exactly that this dream will never come true, that time will pass and kids will grow up; it is just how the world operates. Throughout the novel, Holden Caulfield hardly ever feels happy, except when he watches Phoebe riding carousel in joy and delight. The peaceful scene utterly reminds him of his innocent childhood, when he has nothing to worry except having fun. Life back then was much simpler, and by watching his sister smiling, he feels sudden calm and relief. Additionally, because he loves Phoebe dearly and wants her to have a joyful life, he is happy when his sister is happy. To Holden and many other teenagers, only family love can warm up their cold heart and alleviate any pains they feel while struggling with life. Those who oppose to the Catcher in the Rye may advocate that even though Holden is kind and caring, he is so cynical that he once wishes to commit suicide at the end of chapter fourteen when Maurice, the elevator man, snatches his five dollars, and this dangerous reaction may influence teenagers to commit the same action. Holden Caulfield, as well as other distressed teenagers, only thinks of suicide as the ultimate exit that can free them from all the chaos in the world. They are tired of this tedious life that one day, they decide to give up everything. Therefore, it is important for adults to discuss any problems teenagers are facing and come up with solutions for these problems together, or else, the consequences are unbearable.
In conclusion, the Catcher in the Rye accomplishes flawlessly its job depicting various feelings of a rebellious, turbulent teenager. Even though the book was written about fifty years ago, Holden Caulfield still has great connection to teenagers in present time. At first, Holden criticizes vigorously his life and everything related to it, but he still honestly aspires to seek and live a happy life. Reading the Catcher in the Rye and pondering the messages JD Salinger embedded are absolute need for not only teenagers but also adults and high school authorities to help teenagers overcome their struggles and obtain a better life.