Catching Salinger: The Grapple Between Man and Child 

As people mature, they are confronted with the primitive battle between two states of man, as they transition from childhood to adulthood. In the novel The Catcher In The Rye by J.D. Salinger, the author narrates a tale from the perspective of a teenager named Holden of his experiences in New York City, where he encounters several revolutionary ideas. The short story “A Perfect Day for Bananafish” by J.D. Salinger narrates the events culminating in the eventual suicide of a World War II veteran, Seymour.

In both texts, Salinger incorporates the universal internal struggle between childhood and adulthood. Salinger illustrates the struggle between these two worlds, when Holden attempts to shield himself from the responsibilities of adulthood, and Seymour strives to regress to a simplistic state, as they aim cope with these events.

Salinger gives an insightful view of Holden’s struggle to be in the adult world and the child world, as he shields himself from the harsh realities of the adult world.

In the novel, He shields himself from the issues that he will later face when maturing, such as intimacy and sex. This is characterized by his continuous proposals for outrageous ideas for fleeing the adult world. For instance, he suggests moving to a New England cabin, as a method to escape after discussing how the world is inauthentic. Holden refuses to accept the responsibility and morality of adulthood, and rather chooses to adopt childhood, as a result of this. This is illustrated when he states that on numerous occasions that he acts immaturely, and the opening where Mr.

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Spencer lectures him about viewing life in a more serious perspective. Mr.Spencer affirms “Life is a game, boy. Life is a game that one plays according to the rules.”. When Mr.Spencer

admonishes Holden for viewing life in a lax manner, it elicits Holden’s immaturity and refusal to mature, as he refuses to act in the manner that adults would. This immaturity and impotence to confront this issue prevents Holden from maturing. This struggle between the phases of being an adult and a child, plays an essential role within his identity as a teenager. Through attempting to avoid assimilating to the adult world, he adapts the behaviors of adults and children. His attitude of not caring of what others had thought of him, if his own perception on himself were positive, was rooted in his child like state, and his drinking and sex characterized as his incorporation of adult behavior. This combination, of childhood and adulthood creates a distinct identity of a teenager, refusing to mature as he is not ready to become an adult. This distinction between adulthood and childhood develops Holden’s perspective on maturity, and his own interactions based on this. Salinger writes of Holden’s internal struggle of being both in the child world and the adult world as he attempts to understand himself from his experiences in New York City.

Salinger writes of Seymour’s radical attempt to withdraw himself from the corruption of the adult world, by circumscribing himself into a childlike state. During his World War II combat experience, it is implied that Seymour had witnesses a traumatizing event, which had prompted him to reach a state of insanity. Muriel’s mother expressed concern when there was “a very great chance, he said—that Seymour may completely lose control of himself”. The author implies that Seymour is not in an ideal state of mind, when Muriel describes the possibility Seymour reaching the point of insanity. This wartime experience that had driven him to the brink of insanity, is the . He is later described as secluding himself from other adults, playing in the piano room, and sunbathing by himself. However, the only exception to this seclusion, is the occasional child visiting him. Seymour avoids adults, as he no longer desires to part of the adult world, primarily due the corruption he viewed during his wartime experience. While Seymour here ascribes corruption towards the adult world, he associates innocence within the childhood.

This is elicited by the the simplistic conversation between Sybil and Seymour, when Sybil was depicted as innocent through the discussion of ignorant, child-like issues, such as bananafish. Seymour, attempts to escape the adult world, by reverting to a more simplistic and child-like state. This is depicted through his method of isolationism from adults, and his tendency toward children. This desire is further illustrated by his simplistic conversation with Sybil, when he comments “Olives-yes. Olives and wax. I never go anyplace without ‘em”. This jejune conversation contrasts that of a standard adult conversation, particularly the absence of the intricate nature of adult conversations. Through these actions he is attempting to regress from the complex corrupt state of adulthood, to an innocent, pure, and simplistic state of childhood. However, he is unable to accomplish such an extraneous task, and this ultimately leads to the event of Seymour killing himself. Salinger writes of Seymour’s internal struggle of being both in the adult world and the child world, as he attempts to assimilate to the child world through reverting to a more simplistic state and abandon the adult world.

After Seymour’s combat experience and the death of Holden’s brother, Holden and Seymour are consumed by a struggle between two distinct states of man, and undertake unconventional methods to cope with this struggle. Holden struggles with maturity, primarily do the harsh realities of the adulthood that await him. He attempts to escape the morality and the responsibility of the adulthood when he announces “How would you like to get the hell out of here. Here’s my idea…tomorrow morning we could drive up to Massachusetts or Vermont”. This elicits Holden’s refusal to mature, and his struggle of maturity, as he attempts to shield himself from this transformation, by physically fleeing the adult world. In a similar sense, Seymour attempts to avoid the adult world by attempting to revert to a more simplistic state.

Muriel describes Seymour as isolating himself when he was “In the Ocean Room alone, playing the piano”. Seymour secludes himself from the other individuals at the hotel by playing the piano, however, he creates an exception to this situation for children. Through this seclusion, Seymour is endeavoring to avoid the adult world, by eliminating contact with it. Additionally, the permission that he gives to children to come into contact with him, illustrates that he looks upon children, and childhood favorably. As a result, he prefers the child world instead of the corrupt adult world, and this prompts him to attempt to regress to a more childlike state. Salinger emphasizes the harsh realities of maturation and the differing worlds of children and adults, through Holden and Seymour and their struggle with associating themselves with childhood and being constituted with adulthood.

Salinger writes of the universal theme of the struggle of being in both the child world and the adult world, when he narrates the accounts of two distinct characters, Holden and Seymour. Holden struggles with being in the adult and child world, as he refuses to mature and accept the responsibilities of being an adult. Seymour endures a similar conflict, though he responds to the conflict by attempting to revert to the more simplistic state of childhood. Through this, Salinger displays insight on the jarring transition between childhood to adulthood. Everyone, regardless of age or state of mind, struggles with the process of maturation, and this struggle enables people to develop into a more sensible and rational person, in terms of emotions and mentality.

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Catching Salinger: The Grapple Between Man and Child . (2022, Apr 25). Retrieved from

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