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The Catcher in the Rye Essay

Updated on May 31, 2014
Book Cover
Book Cover

The Catcher in the Rye: Unprepared for life

What happens when someone is unprepared for something?  It ends for the most part disastrous.  Think of it this way, a person goes in to take a test in school and they haven’t learn or studied about this subject at all.  This results in the person failing their test because they don’t have the knowledge on this topic or help on it.  Holden is unprepared to face life as an adult because he’s not responsible, he has barely any support, and he doesn’t know what he wants.

            Growing up comes with many responsibilities, like when you adopt a dog where you have to feed it, walk it, clean it, take care of it and so on.  Same thing when it comes with being an adult but so much more. Being prepared for life as an adult people mostly have had previous responsibilities to help them out in the future.  But when it comes to Holden it’s a totally different situation.  Throughout the story Holden displays that he is not very responsible, such as with school where he was “flunking out of Pencey” (Salinger 13).  He doesn’t seem to take things seriously when it comes to school, and when you’re an adult you’re responsible for your own education because no one is going to take you by the hand through life helping you think.  You have to take care of your self and how others look at you, meaning your personality.  Holden has a very strange personality that comes with no manners.  An example of him being rude is when he told Sally to run away with him and she told him politely that she wasn’t sure about going on the trip with him and he responded by saying “you give me a royal pain in the ass, if you want to know the truth” (133).  To win over that job or to make new friends in life as an adult, manners are needed to show respect to others so they can give the same back to you.  What Holden really wants is the best of both worlds he doesn’t want the adult world because he is just not ready to face all the responsibilities that come with it so he turns to, as he sees it, the pleasurable parts of adulthood, such as drinking, smoking, sex, etc.  He was not showing any signs of improvement towards becoming more mature with anything, but in a way more childish.  That’s where he wants to stay at because children, like his sister Phoebe, really don’t have too much responsibility.  He is not ready to be responsible as an adult should be.

            Support plays a huge part in a persons life, it can help them achieve their goals and become successful, but on the other hand without it a person is lost and they don’t have that extra push to get them over to where they want to be at.  Parents are usually the hugest supporters in people’s lives, yet in the case of Holden he really didn’t have support from his parents because they would always send him off to a different boarding school.  You really need that support, without it it’s really hard to maintain that level of encouragement for yourself.  Phoebe is the one that shows the most support towards Holden telling him “you can take it all” (179) meaning her Christmas money to help him out when he had no money left.  Yet the support of one person doesn’t cut it especially when it’s a young girl, you just need more than that to be prepared.  From his friends, Stradlater and Ackley they weren’t your typical buddies who had your back but in a way just used Holden for something instead of giving him support as real friends would.   For example Stradlater would ask Holden “How ‘bout writing a composition for me, for English?” (Salinger 28).  He could never really find those helping hands, which really lead to him getting kicked out of his school.  And also since he didn’t have that he wouldn’t be prepared for becoming an adult because with support you learn to support yourself, but Holden didn’t have any of that so he is left lost, lonely and confused.

            When you’re a child you always make decisions from what type of ice cream flavor to choose, to choosing gifts for Christmas.  Though, as you get older these decisions get a little harder to deal with.  But you have to make choices for yourself or your going to be heading in a bad direction.  Adults need to be able to make tough decisions, which they have been learning little by little on how to do them since they were a kid.  Knowing what you want in life is a great help in being prepared for adulthood.  Holden is not prepared because he is very indecisive in what he wants to do from buying things, to his future.  All Holden seems to want to be is a child like when he went to the carrousel with Phoebe and he “felt so damn happy all of a sudden” (213).  Yet he shows signs of wanting to become an adult like when he went to the Lavender room and asked for a “scotch and soda” (69) pretending to be 21.  And later he wants a prostitute, to initially have sex with but then he doesn’t want to so he tells the prostitute, Sunny, “Don’t you feel like talking for a while?” (95).  He also comes up with an idea “to get the hell out of here” (132) running away with Sally.  And soon after they had an argument over leaving, Holden thinks to himself “why I [Holden] started all that stuff with her… I probably wouldn’t have taken her even if she wanted to go with me” (134).  If he doesn’t know how to make simple decisions how can he decide what he wants to do for a career in life?  At the end of the story he says “if you want to know the truth, I don’t know what I think about it” (214) showing that he still is not fit to make decisions on his own even when he’s at the rest home. 

            Holden has many problems when it comes to being prepared for his adulthood.  His future mostly depends on how well he is prepared, so far based on responsibility, support, and on making decisions; Holden is not ready to become an adult.  His future doesn’t seem very bright he would have to turn everything around to become successful all because he isn’t prepared.       


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