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Holden Caulfield Adulthood

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No one wants to grow up. The transitions from innocent childhood, to fearless adolescence, to sudden real and terrifying adulthood is enough to scare anyone. So, because of this, people have a natural desire to want to protect innocence, or perhaps to even stop time and live young and free forever. J.D Salinger’s Catcher in the Rye portrays this dilemma of becoming an adult and the protection of innocence through the story of Holden Caulfield. Holden’s story is essentially that of a teenage boy bumming around New York City for a few days in search of someone to listen to him about his fears of becoming an adult. Very early on Holden tells his audience that he has grey hairs all on one side of his head, an impending sign of inevitable adulthood…show more content…
Phoebe symbolises everything that Holden wishes to protect from the world, youth and innocence. He speaks fondly of her often, assuring his readers that “[they’d] like her” (67). At the end of the novel, Holden and Phoebe go for a walk and Holden suggests she ride on the carousel (210). Phoebe says she’s too big, but Holden convinces her otherwise and watches her, since he is definitely too big - another sign of how he is reluctantly growing up (211). After the ride is over and Phoebe goes to her brother again, it starts to rain and Phoebe takes Holden’s red hunting cap and places it on his head (212). Some may see this scene as the bonding of two siblings, or mark it for the kindness Holden is shown after being treated so rottenly for most of the novel, but there is much more to it than that. Readers can assume that Holden’s ridiculous hat gives him some sense of confidence, like when he wears it to write the essay about Allie’s baseball glove (38-39) but he also seems somewhat embarrassed by it since he wore it when “[he] knew [he] wouldn’t meet anybody who knew [him]” (122). When Phoebe, who Holden feels like he needs to protect, places this hat on him, it is a way of showing that even though Holden is trying to protect and watch out for her, Phoebe is also protecting him. It is as if by this small gesture she is saying, “If this hat gives you confidence and some measure of integrity to face the adult world, wear it.” In a very subtle and quiet way, it is Salinger’s way of showing that Phoebe empathises with Holden, which is significant mostly because no one else has empathized with him in the entire
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