Catcher in The Rye Essays

Essay on The Catcher in The Rye

When reading a book or watching a movie, relevance is key in helping a viewer understand the context of the material. In the novel Catcher in the Rye by J.D Salinger, a maturing boy, Holden Caulfield, struggles to find his place when he, and his world, is constantly changing. Holden’s story is still relevant today because it deals with sibling relationships, struggling to grow up, and the pressure of society.

When reading Holden’s journey it is clear that he has a hard time transitioning from a child to an adult which is a problem that is still relevant today. Holden makes a brief visit to New York City where he visits a shop and when leaving he notices a young boy singing to himself on the sidewalk. As Holden is observing the child he explains, “The kid was swell… and the whole time he kept singing and humming. I got up closer so I could hear what he was singing… Cars zoomed by, brakes screeched all over the place, his parents paid no attention to him, and kept on walking next to the curb and singing… It made me feel better. It made me feel not so depressed anymore” (Salinger 128-129). This encounter exemplifies Holden admiring a child for his innocence and happiness. He is almost jealous of the child for his innocence and the fact that he still has his childhood. Many children today struggle with the conflict as to whether one is ready to grow up and become an adult and understanding the transition from childhood to the responsibility of becoming an adult. This has been a question for many many years and is still very relevant today.

In the novel, an additional way that Holden continuously struggles is with navigating the pressure of society. Holden has multiple intimate encounters with girls that involve sex. However, while he feels the pressure of society telling him to be a man and do it, he never can. After leaving Pencey and traveling alone to New York City, Holden encounters a prostitute, Sunny, who he pays to come to his hotel room and have sex. Once she arrives in his room he changes his mind and decides he does not want to have sex. In Holden’s words, “‘Don’t you feel like talking for a while?’ I asked her. It was a childish thing to say, but I was feeling so damn peculiar… ‘what the heck ya wanna talk about’ she said” (Salinger 106). This shows that while society is telling Holden he is ready to be an adult, he is holding onto his childhood. He is struggling to decide if he is ready to leave childhood behind and begin to grow up in a significant way. Many individuals struggle to resist the pressures of society. Social cues are hard to ignore, particularly if one is unsure of what to do and, if someone like Holden is struggling to fit in, the cues can be much more tempting.

A final example of how Catcher in the Rye is still relevant today is through Holden’s relationship with his sister Phoebe, which comes to light toward the end of the book. Phoebe is a kind and forgiving 10-year-old girl, but when Holden is kicked out of Pencey, he works hard to repair the relationships that he appears to have broken. Even though Phoebe is upset with her brother, Holden only wants the best for her when he insists, “You have to go back to school” (Salinger 228). This quote demonstrates that

although he makes choices that may ruin his life, he will not allow Phoebe to do the same. Holden and Phoebe’s bouts are very relatable and usual in sibling relationships and a struggle siblings in the present can understand and relate to.

To conclude, Holden’s journey through life is still relevant today because he deals with letting go of childhood, sibling bonds, and having to block out pressure from society. Especially during a pandemic, when one would miss pivotal moments in a life that shapes a person, it is important to remember our society and life’s natural ups and downs help grow a person into who they are. 

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