One of the most controversial American Literature books, J.D. Salinger’s Catcher in the Rye, went into full turbulence and had all the attention of critics everywhere during its release in 1951. Holden Caulfield, a New York City teenager in the 1950’s with manic-depression is the protagonist, is a protagonist unlike any other in coming-of-age novels. What most critics don’t realize is that his actions are exactly those of a depressed teenager would endure: being an immature compulsive liar who is manic-depressive. The over-saturation from technology into the 21st century does not separate the direct similarities of teens today and those twenty to thirty years ago. Today’s teenagers being “less complex,” “confused,” “anxiety ridden,” or any of the such shouldn’t be ignored. Salinger writes to reveal Holden’s foible of his constant struggle of being a teenager as well as giving a voice to teenagers during any era.
Catcher in the Rye is told through the unedited perspective of our 17 year old tragic hero’s thoughts and feelings as he is talking to his psychiatrist while he reflects the days following his expulsion from Pencey Prep. After his heated argument with his roommate, he begins wandering the streets of New York City in search of his identity and what the adult world is like before returning home. While in The Big Apple, he interacts with teachers, prostitutes, nuns, an old girlfriend, and his little sister. He is curious about the world and himself, in a grown up way, and searches for answers in rebellious ways as well as wanting to protect his innocence because he’s stuck in between childhood and adulthood, there’s never a middle for Holden, or any other teenager.
The word teenager was created during the time the novel was written, it gave teenagers a little more freedom but also pushed upon them some real responsibilities. Teenagers in the era the book was written semi-followed in the footsteps of their parents, but started to become more independent. They were encouraged to attend college by putting the idea of marriage over education in the trash. Although they were given some new life achievements in this new era, teenagers were still constantly being put between a situation, basically living an “in between” life. Holden lives between adolescence and adulthood. His red hunting cap is symbolic of his identity - something most teenages struggle to find. As strange as his hunting cap being represented as his identity, as Holden is strange himself, it’s his comfort blanket, as if he’s truly “hunting” for his identity. Even today, teenagers struggle to find their “true selves” and even through their early adult years yet to discover their identity. There are still so many unanswered questions, some that teenagers don’t get answers to until a much older age.
One obvious question for most is sex, a complex and complicated topic of discussion. Holden is a virgin throughout the book, interested, but spends most of the novel trying to lose it....