The Catcher in the Rye: A Bridge from
Innocence to Adulthood

Adolescence is a time of existence in two worlds.
One world having the desire to be in the adult world,
which is filled with all the unknown wonders of the world.
The other world is the world of childhood which is
comfortable and protected from all the impurities in the
world. This sort of tug of war between the two worlds is
not only mentally imposed on a being, but physically,
socially, and morally as well. With all the mentioned
above, often times an adult will discourage an action of
an adolescent by saying they are too old to a act a
certain way, and then will turn around and say they are
too young to do something, like go out late or go on
dates. These contradictions can lead an adolescent to
complete uncertainty of their actions. J.B. Salingers
book, The Catcher in the Rye, aptly describes the immense
confusion of the in between stages of being a boy and a
Throughout the whole story, the narrator, Holden
tries to act both the boy and thw man but cannot. He
tries in vain to get a grip on the adult world, but never
is quite successful. Holden’s first attempt at adulthood
is exemplified when he leaves his school without
permission from his parents or the school. This act in
itself sets the stage for his trial and error attitude
about adulthood in the sense he failed out of school,
which was a childish act. He tries to rectify his failing
out of school by leaving, which he views as an adult act.
Holden’s leaving school represents his need for
independence and he achieves this by leaving.
Another of Holden’s failed attempts at adulthood is
when he goes down to he hotels club where he orders an
alcoholic drink, but he is refused because the waiter will
not serve him because he is underage. Holden tries to
give the illusion that he is older because when he orders
the drink, he “Orders it fast as possible, because if you
hem and haw they think you are under 21 and won’t sell you
intoxicating liquor”. This is the classic example of
adolescence when one attempts to act older than his or her
age when attempting to obtain alcohol. Up until the age
of 21, all young adults want to give the illusion they are
older than they are in hopes of obtaining special adult
privileges, such as drinking alcohol, smoking, etc.
However Holden’s failed attempts forces him to realize
that his act is fooling no one other than himself. Such
an example can be seen when one goes to college bars and
can see all the “adults” that are hanging out there. The
people who are there are not fooling anyone as well.
Sex is often the most complicated adult subjects,
even for adults to understand themselves. The act of sex
itself can be talked about immensely, as done in locker
rooms or with friends, almost to the point where one could
believe in the tales. However the act itself cannot be
faked and innocence of such things are quite apparent when
the situations do arise. The saying one can “talk the
talk, but cannot walk the walk” describes this sort of
situation perfectly. Holden’s first experience with a
woman who he has heard about from a friend, emphasizes his
inexperience. He called this woman because he heard from
his friend that she “Was not a whore, but she did not mind
doing it once in a while”. He tries to cover up his
innocence by faking a deep voice and pretending that he
was from Princeton. However she sees through his facade,
and lets him down. Another attempt into the adult world,
or what Holden considers to be the adult world, has been
thwarted. His failure is due in part to the fact that
Holden does not really know the rules, which he is
guessing at, and also in part because his loneliness is
not a substitute for experience. Although this act is not
childlike alone, but rather it is a stepping stone into
the adult world of sex, where an individual will try new
“techniques”, such as pickup lines and such, to obtain and
reach his or her “goal”. Thus Holden has learned his
first valuable “lesson” of what not to do in the future.
However Holden is over his head when he agrees to
have a prostitute, who is propositioned to him by the
bellhop. He is apparently nervous and he confesses that
he is a virgin. His reasoning for having the prostitute
is that it is “Good to