Growing Pains: Adulthood and The Catcher in the Rye


The thing is I had just finished reading J. D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye. I write not to review nor to dissect and analyze but to crystallize what I feel for what I feel right now is so markedly remarkable that I MUST capture the moment. And what better way to do it than to write about it?

Chbosky mentioned in his Perks of Being a Wallflower that The Catcher in the Rye was a book you made your own. I have to agree with that because in a way, although we all read the same story that Holden Caulfield narrates, we interpret it in different ways. The narrator is not reliable, irrational even, so to get the big picture, you need to step back and look at it from the perspective of an adult. The problem is, I can’t do that. I seem to get, again and again, lost in Holden’s narration; in his rage, his sadness and his loneliness. I ‘get’ him. Hell, it feels like I’ve known him for my whole damn life!

You see, I’m about to turn 18 this week. 18 is that point in your life when you’re suddenly and very rudely given the label, ‘adult.’ I’m not ready to grow up just yet. I don’t feel like growing up. I’m still a mess. My thoughts are still a mess and I can’t even make out the flurry of emotions running amok in my head. What makes me ready to be an adult? You see, I’ve got tons of questions and concerns about adulthood and maturity. Growing up is a pain in the ass and everything around me – family, friends, money, school – makes it all the much more complicated, and I am not even close to figuring it all out.

Perhaps, we never do. Perhaps, maturity is a point that lies in infinity and beyond; you can get closer and closer to it but you can never get to it. It’s all horribly confusing. By reading Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye, I feel as if I’m one step closer. I have shared in the agony and in the joy of Holden Caulfield for the better part of a week I spent reading the book. Although the book ended, Holden’s journey did not but he did get one step closer. Nearing the end, he learned to perform an act of maturity by giving up his fantasies of running off to the West for the good of his little sister, Phoebe. The scene with the carousel and Phoebe giving Holden back his hunting hat, a reciprocation of Holden’s kindness, just made me go all soft and woozy (yes, woozy) inside.

What I also learned is that despite despising the adult world and its ‘phoniness,’ we must all grow up at one point or another. Holden wanted to protect the innocence of the child from the bitterness of the grown-up world but when he, himself, got caught in the same situation, he had to move forward. His last act for Phoebe was evidence of that. He grew up. It may not be much, but he grew up. And at one point of another, I will have to too.

It was nice to know that I’m not alone in all this Salinger. It really was.


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