The Catcher in the Rye

Growing Pains

Perhaps the strongest theme in The Catcher in the Rye is the main character Holden Caulfield's fascination and even obsession with the ideal of true innocence; a higher innocence from the superficiality and hypocrisy that he views as a plague on American society. Conjoined with this ideal comes a wariness of adults and an alienation from his peers. His engrossment with purity eventually leads to his nervous breakdown, in that everywhere he turns, someone else has lost his or her innocence. Holden, like most adolescents, embarks on a journey of self-discovery as described over the course of the novel. However, this coming-of-age becomes particularly turbulent for Holden. He feels like he does not belong anywhere, certainly not in the "dirty little cliques" (The Catcher in the Rye 131) that fill his boys' schools, and not with his distant and rarely mentioned parents.

Holden's peers represent the degeneration slowly turning them into full-fledged adults. He sees that one by one, all of the people his own age are becoming "phony;" that is, growing up. Stradlater, Holden's roommate at Pencey Prep, is the epitome of what Holden despises in his generation. Stradlater is hypocritical; he goes...

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