Essay on The Catcher in the Rye as a Coming of Age Story



Essay on The Catcher in the Rye as a Coming of Age Story

This novel is a coming of age story as it follows the short story of a young protagonist Holden Caulfield. The sixteen-year-old boy appears twice in the novel. The first Holden is the narrator, who tells the story. The second one is the one the story is told about. The author of the novel J.D. Salinger gives bits of maturity changes in the life of the main character in spiritual, psychological, and social perspectives. All the way through the novel he wants to change and develop into a more mature and independent man.

To begin with, Holden is having a rough time as he wants to start acting and doing grown up things and interact with mature people. This actually proves that he want to make a step into maturity. In chapter 13, he feels embarrassed about being a virgin because he has not engaged in sexual activities while a number of his fellow teens in his school have already had sex. He says that he had few chances to break the virginity but he has not succeeded. This is a metaphoric showing that he has tried growing into a mature person but his every effort falls in vain.  “If you want to know the truth, I’m a virgin. I really am. I’ve had quite a few opportunities to lose my virginity and all, but I’ve never got around to it yet ” (Salinger, 1992).He then calls a prostitute at his hotel room but when the prostitute arrives, feels sorry for her instead of having sex.Essay on The Catcher in the Rye as a Coming of Age Story

Holden also tries to have a relationship with Sally that he appears to like but not as much, he does with Jane. All the same, Holden opens his heart to Sally that he is unhappy with school and he wants to run together with her in a place in New England. This is totally a bildungsroman as he feels that school is a place for those in childhood stage. Sally turns him away as she feels that Holden is still immature to be in a relationship.

Essay on The Catcher in the Rye as a Coming of Age Story

Holden Caulfield grows with a mind that all things and every people are not real and that they are deceptive. He perceives the world as place that is full of phonies and for that, he cannot acquire happiness. He even left Elkton Hills because he felt that people there were full of phonies and he says that the Headmaster Mr. Haas is the phoniest bastard. “One of the biggest reasons I left Elkton Hills was because I was surrounded by phonies” (Salinger, 1992).He then gets isolated and the isolation makes him feel unhappy, which leads to his maturity to be suppressed. He wants to remain young because he believes that being old will lead him to cruel world of phonies. Holden distances himself from the rest since they are growing into adults. He is a person who fears complexity and instead prefers simple and unchanging things. He doesn’t know how he can conciliate with complicated people as he remembered when he went on a date with Sally; he insulted her because she never gave in his idea of escaping.

Holden who is telling the story and the one who is in the story show significant of differences. Holden who is telling the story appears to be arrogant, many close to him are totally being feed up with his behavior, and none of them is willing to get longer with him. Looking at some instances in the book, he is seen experiencing emotional feeling of loneliness. He tries reaching people and end up having a conversation with strangers. He is lonely and he wants to have a social growth by interacting with others. “The first thing I did when I got off at Penn station, I went into this phone booth. I felt like giving someone a buzz” (Salinger, 1992).Although he is indeed lonely he ends up calling no one. “So I ended up calling no one” (Salinger, 1992).Essay on The Catcher in the Rye as a Coming of Age Story

Holden Caulfield is much mature and his self-narration needs to be empathized and he be liked without getting any explanation but by looking at the stories he gives. He has stories such as the story of Allies baseball mint. “… Allie had this left-handed fielders mint…he had poems written all over the fingers and the pocket everywhere. In green ink” (Salinger, 1992).Another story tells how Holden knows Jane, “you were never even worried, with Jane, whether your hand was sweaty or not. All you knew you was, you were happy. You really were” (Salinger, 1992).

Despite having these two Holden, there are some behaviors, which remain to be the same. He feels that there is a need to justify himself. He narrated a story of his childhood when he met Jane and how happy he was with her in his grown-up ages. “All you knew was you were happy” (Salinger, 1992).His trait of repeating himself for emphasis is because he has a belief that people can’t trust him if he doesn’t repeat.

In his stage of maturation, Holden commits sin. This is mainly seen when he abuses the Bible verbally. He is kind of theist and he doesn’t pray even after feeling like praying when he went to bed (Salinger, 1992). He also admires and loves Jesus because of the leadership he portrayed and he totally hates the disciple since they annoy him and that they were followers “…never see eye to eye with him on a lot of stuff in the Bible, especially the Disciples. He kept telling me if I didn’t like the Disciples, then I didn’t like Jesus and all” (Salinger, 1992).He is a person who lacked a belief system the time he was still young and he was immature in spiritual. All this makes him pessimistic when giving sight to religion.Essay on The Catcher in the Rye as a Coming of Age Story

At the end of the tale, Holden is really unhappy and he watches Phoebe take a blissful ride on the merry-go-round at the park. This merry-go-round plays a significant role as it is the point where Holden is seen to let his childhood go and still appreciating its worthiness. After this, Holden tries to apply himself in current time and he is trying to seek out for some aid from his adult. He tells Phoebe that he wants to be catcher in the rye, the rye field is symbolizing the childhood, and that he wants to see beyond the border of the childhood. This means that he want to grow into adulthood.

In conclusion, all discussed above gives a clear picture of how the protagonist in Catcher in The Rye journeys to get out of childhood. However, he is also afraid of being an adult as he feels that all adults are surrounded by phoniness and this will make him lose his innocence and perceive the world’s reality to be irrational.
















Salinger, J. (1992). The catcher in the rye (1st Ed.). Macmillan.