The Modern Teenager vs Holden Caulfield. The Catcher in the Rye Essay Example

When people think of the word teenager, most would assume a 13-19 year old kid who is selfish and only cares about what benefits them. Life as a teenager is way more complex than one would think. In The Catcher in the Rye, by J.D. Salinger, the reader meets Holden Caulfield, a 16 year old boy who is struggling with the purpose of life and what it entails for him. In pursuit of trying to figure out life Holden gets expelled from another school Pencey Prep. In order for Holden's parents to not find out about his expulsion he takes a trip to New York City for a getaway vacation. During his vacation he gets sick. Holden quickly learns life will throw you curve balls. Sometimes you may think why me? Or what did I do to deserve this? In J.D. Salinger’s classic novel, The Catcher in the Rye, the protagonist Holden Caulfield represents the modern teenager by letting his emotions control his actions, thinking everyone is fake and “phony”, and having a negative attitude towards life as a teenager. 

Every second of every day we have emotions. Emotions are humans' way of communicating thoughts and feelings to each other. In The Catcher in the Rye, Holden lets his emotions control his actions. The predicament is emotions should never recklessly control your actions. Throughout the story Holden lets his emotions get the best of his numerous times. For instance, Holden states “It was against my principles and all, but I was feeling so depressed I didn't even think. That's the whole trouble. When you're feeling very depressed, you can't even think” (Salinger 53). To this day, teenagers make decisions on a whim, without thinking or considering the consequences. 

It is those decisions that are Holden’s worst nightmare. This is not even the first of Holden's emotional roller coasters, Holden has let his emotions control his school work, his home life, and his social life. No wonder he is drowning he has no grasp of his life and how to maintain normalcy. During the end of Holden’s little reckless vacation he gives up on the fact that there are good and real people in the world and not everyone is out to hurt him. This is because he is letting his emotions of feeling lonely affect his outlook on life. To illustrate, “That's the whole trouble. You can't ever find a place that's nice and peaceful, because there isn't any. You may think there is, but once you get there, when you're not looking, somebody'll sneak up and write 'Fuck you' right under your nose” (Salinger 119). Loneliness is just one of the many emotions the reader will come to discover about Holden.

Have you ever heard the phrase two-faced? Teenagers have a tendency of becoming fake or two-faced as a person. A fake person is someone who claims to be, feel, or do something with the intent to deceive. The question is can everyone be fake or “phony” as Holden likes to say. Throughout the story The Catcher in the Rye, Holden expresses his feelings towards people as fake and “phony”. It is mentioned so many times throughout the story you began to question is anyone not fake or “phony”. According to Stradlater, “If you sat around there long enough and heard all the phonies applauding and all, you got to hate everybody in the world, I swear you did” (Salinger 157). Holden is using this as a pity party for himself so that he doesn’t have to face the fact that he is the one who is fake and “phony”.

Holden contradicts most of what he says throughout the story, it makes him feel better about himself if he can point out things about other people. Like the modern teenager Holden let’s his emotions smokescreen him from dealing with his quandary in life. For example, “One of the biggest reasons I left Elkton Hills was because I was surrounded by phonies. That’s all. They were coming in the goddam window” (Salinger 13). In life allowing other people to control one's life will get them absolutely nowhere and it’s a pitting hole that digging yourself. That’s why Holden flunked out Elkton Hills, Pencey Prep, and many more because of his inability to live his life and move forward. 

Negativity and its effects are drastic. A small amount of negativity in life can alter your intelligence and your ability to think; which we have already seen in Holden’s case. Holden goes through life feeling left out and not having a sense of purpose. This is relatable to teenagers and how we are old enough to be an adult but not mature enough to be included. In The Catcher in the Rye, Holden’s negative outlook on life can be justified. From a young age Holden has faced adversity with his younger brother Allie passing away at the age of 11 from leukemia. 

Allie was Holden's person in life that you do everything with. To this day, Holden carries his brother Allie’s baseball mitt and red hunting cap for safe keeps. With that being said, one can’t live it’s life in the past because they will never succeed and be truly happy. In Holden’s life his negativity is keeping him for entering adulthood. Teenagers in the modern world tend to have the same issue and it’s what makes us “immature” or “improper” adults. In The Catcher in the Rye, Stradlater states, “I felt so lonesome, all of a sudden, I wished I was dead” (Salinger 28). Holden and modern day teenagers struggle with the concept to understand why life is the way it is. It truly makes you feel lonely to not know why things have happened and why you have been so called targeted. 

A person has to fight that negativity or it will make it twice as hard to become positive. When you are negative no one wants to be around you it makes it harder to fall in love or have friends because you only focus on the terrible things in life. For example, Holden had a moment where he struggled with his love life from being so negative. “I don't even know why I started all that stuff with her . . . That's the terrible part. I swear to God I’m a madman” (Salinger 30). People will choose someone who is positive and uplifting than somebody negative and brings them down. Whether Holden is aware of his negativity or not it prohibits him from developing connections with people. 

In conclusion, the novel The Catcher in the Rye, portrays the life of a modern teenager through Holden Caulfield by dealing with significant issues that affect teenagers in modern day. Holden's negativity like many teenagers today keeps them from establishing positive relationships in their life. Although it may be difficult to see positivity in people, the benefit at the end of the tunnel outways the difficulty trying to find it. My advice to modern teenagers is live life to the fullest, try to see the glass half full, and look for the good in everyone

Works Cited 

Salinger , J.D. The Catcher in the Rye . Little, Brown and Company , 1951



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