Childhood and Adulthood in The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
Holden Caulfield sees childhood as the ideal state of being. He thinks adulthood is filled with corrupt people. The only way anyone can win in the adult world is if the cards are stacked in his favor. The characters in The Catcher in the Rye play a diverse set of roles in the war between childhood and adulthood.
Children do not think of appearances very highly, but in order to be respected in the adult world you must always look your best. Holden did not care what people thought about him as long as he felt good. He would wear his red hunting cap backward (p. 18). He also would have his hair cut crew cut style, which is thought of as a kids haircut. Ackley is the absolute extreme of not just looking, bad but he also had terrible hygiene. He had mossy yellow teeth from not brushing them and bad acne(p.19). Adults always hide their imperfections to make themselves look good, but many are as Holden calls them, secret slobs (p. 27). Stradlater is a perfect example of this. He always shaves twice but never cleans his razor (p. 27). He will spend forever making sure his hair is perfect and all his clothes look just right. Sunny, the prostitute, bleaches her hair and dresses up nice to fit into the adult world (p.95). Mrs. Antolini, a married women, needs to look good when she goes out in public. The night Holden crashes there for a while, she looks terrible without her make-up and with rollers in her hair (p. 185). All that matters is she looks good by society's standards so she can be accepted into the adult world.
Children live on lasting compassionate memories, while adults go for empty sexual conquests. Holden remembers that Jane would always keep her kings in the back row when they played checkers because they looked pretty there (p.32). When Holden comes home, he stops and buys "Little Shirley Beans" record for Phoebe (p 114). Even though it breaks, he still gives it to her. She loves it just as much as if it were not broken. Holden remembers Allie by his baseball mitt with the poems on it (p. 39). When Holden tried to bring meaning into the adult way of things, he was outcast. After he told Maurice to send up a prostitute, he did not...