Holden Caulfield, portrayed in the J.D. Salinger novel Catcher in the Rye as an adolescent struggling to find his own identity, possesses many characteristics that easily link him to the typical teenager living today. The fact that the book was written many years ago clearly exemplifies the timeless nature of this work. Holden’s actions are those that any teenager can clearly relate with. The desire for independence, the sexually related encounters, and the questioning of ones religion are issues that almost all teens have had or will have to deal with in their adolescent years. The novel and its main character’s experiences can easily be related to and will forever link Holden with every member of society, because everyone in the world was or will be a teen sometime in their life.
The first and most obvious characteristic found in most teens, including Holden, would be the desire for independence. Throughout the novel, Holden is not once found wishing to have his parents help in any way. He has practically lived his entire life in dorms at prestigious schools, and has learned quite well how to be on his own. This tendency of teenagers took place in even in ancient history, where the freshly developed teen opts to leave the cave and hunt for is own food. Every teenager tries, in his or her own way, to be independent. Instead of admitting to ones parents of a wrongful deed, the teen tries covering up the mistake or avoiding it in hopes that they won’t get in any trouble. They feel that they have enough intelligence to think through a problem without going to their parents for assistance.
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When Holden hears the news that he has been expelled from Pency, he concludes that his parents would not know of this for a few days. Therefore, he would wait from Saturday all the way to Wednesday, let his parents “get it and thoroughly digest it”, and then face the consequences, which will more than likely be less severe after his parents calmed down. He states on page fifty-one, “I didn’t want to be around when they first got it. My mother gets very hysterical. She’s not too bad after she gets something thoroughly digested, though.” In taking the independent route, Holden does not look for sympathy or help from either of his parents. He feels that he can deal with his situation by waiting until the next school year in order to apply himself a little better.
Another characteristic of a teenager, usually of the male gender, would be the widespread subject of sex. As everyone knows, during and after puberty, males have a stronger desire to fantasize about and perform sexual acts. Holden is no different.
In my mind, I’m the biggest sex maniac you ever saw. Sometimes I can think of very crumby stuff I wouldn’t mind doing if the opportunity came up. (Pg. 62)
Although Holden honestly states to the reader that he is a virgin, he still has encounters associated with sexual activity. First and foremost, Holden actually obtains a prostitute during a brief stay at a hotel room. Holden never has sexual intercourse with this woman, but it does show that he is a teenager looking for affection and pleasure. Also, he proclaimed that he had plenty of opportunities to “give the time” to other woman, but he never quite knew how to do it while on a date. Holden is much like the average teen in this regard.
The media and other primary sources in teens lives have taken an interest in sex, and have made it seem like it is the greatest thing known to mankind. Most teenagers find it slightly embarrassing to admit to being chaste, mainly due to the fact that they think everyone is doing it; which is clearly false. Teenagers want to experience and experiment with sex, and even if they choose to not have sex until marriage, they will fantasize about it. This is yet another example of the similarities in which Holden and the typical teen share.
Sex and religion almost go hand in hand today amongst the teenage population. Do teens wait for marriage like the Bible insists or should teens defy the rules outlined by the Bible and have pre-marital sex? Although the novel doesn’t quite refer to sex in a religious sense it is a good example of choices teens are forced to make. Teens, along with many other members of society, don’t agree with every guideline that the Bible sets out for them. They have to decide how large of a role religion is going to play in their lives. Holden says that he, in some ways, is “an atheist.”
He sometimes prays to Jesus, and yet other times he feels like he just cannot pray because of his likes, dislikes, and indifferent views of the church. This can be related to many teenagers, for religion is not always an easy subject. Teens sometimes feel that not all information of a particular religion is completely true. Some teens toy with the fact that their faith, if they have one, is actually factual. Holden feels that the information on Jesus is probably true, but the Disciples and other characters from the Bible he’s a little suspicious of.
Take the Disciples, for instance. They annoy the hell out of me, if you want to know the truth. They were all right after Jesus was dead and all, but while He was alive, they were about as much use to Him as a hole in the head. (Pg. 99)
He has many questions, as does all of society on some contradicting issues concerning religion.
As seen in these previous examples, Holden Caulfield truly resembles the typical teen. He has gone through the same situations, encountered many of the same problems, and he also has acted in similar ways as the average teen. Teenage adolescence is a period of transition between childhood and adulthood. In this period, we all experience development both physically and emotionally, including the epitome of all teens, Holden Caulfield.