The Catcher in the Rye: Holden Caulfield's Coming of Age Story

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It takes many experiences in order for an immature child to become a responsible, well-rounded adult. In J. D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye, Salinger’s main character Holden Caulfield matures throughout the course of the novel. In the beginning of the novel, Holden is a juvenile young man. However, through his experiences, Holden is able to learn, and is finally able to become somewhat mature by the end of the novel. In The Catcher in the Rye, Holden Caulfield’s story represents a coming of age for all young adults.

In the beginning of The Catcher in the Rye, Holden Caulfield is an immature teenager. Holden gets kicked out of his school, Pencey Prep, for failing four out of five of his classes. He says, “They kicked me out. I
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But if you get on the other side, where there aren’t any hot-shots, then what’s a game about it? Nothing. No game” (8). Holden does not understand Spencer’s metaphor. Holden believes that life can only be a game if people are given advantages. From his point of view, he is one of the unlucky ones, but in reality he is on the side with the hot-shots, because he is given many advantages that others are not. Salinger emphasizes Holden’s immaturity in a very subtle way by having Holden’s authority figures always calling him “boy”. Both Mr. Spencer and Mr. Antolini call Holden “boy”. Of Spencer, Holden says, “I wished to hell he’d stop calling me ‘boy’ all the time” (12) and then later on, Antolini tells Holden, “You’re a very, very strange boy” (193). Both Mr. Spencer and Mr. Antolini recognize and acknowledge Holden’s immature behaviour in calling him “boy”. This only stresses the fact that Holden cannot seem to realize he is acting more like a child than a teenager. Holden’s red hunting hat is a very important symbol in The Catcher in the Rye. Holden uses this hat as a way to hide from society. He says, “That hat I bought had earlaps in it, and I put them on–I didn’t give a damn how I looked. Nobody was around anyway” (53). Holden thinks that wearing his red hunting hat makes him an individual, but in reality, he will only wear it when no one is around to judge him. It is his immaturity that makes him believe that he is being unique,
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