Catcher in The Rye by J. D. Salinger

In the novel Catcher in The Rye, Salinger has employed a very realistic portrayal of teenagers and how they act. There are plenty of characteristic on how he properly conveyed this to the audience and he also spread these characteristics through-out all of the characters that are used within the novel.

Firstly, you have Holden; a teenager who is not always the brightest bulb in the cabinet, but he has a clear understanding on how the world works and yet he ironically does not have the brains to execute this knowledge directly into the world. Secondly, you have Stradlater; a teenager who just spends all his time going out with girls and partying. Some might say he is a ‘party animal’. Lastly, you have Ackley; a mostly grotesque teenager who does not listen to social cues, acts profoundly around people actions and his practically obnoxious about everything (not knowing, that is how he is acting though). So, Salinger’s opinion (when it comes to characteristics of a teenager) is that all teenagers are blatantly ignorant everything, that all teenagers think they can just coast their way through life and do not have any respect for the people around us.

Holden does not really think about what he is going to say, he just kind of spits everything out. Maybe he is an intelligent boy and all, but how he speaks and what he says proves otherwise. Holden states “I practically got T.B… I’m pretty healthy, though.” (J.D Salinger, 5) In this sentence he talks about basically having a life threatening disease and then tries to reassure to the reader that he is ‘pretty healthy’, I personally think that in a logical statement he would have said something on the lines of “I practically got T.B… [I should get that checked out].” (J.D Salinger, 5)

While Holden is having a conversation with Mr. Spencer he even acknowledges his own stupidity to himself/the reader through the idea of immaturity. “I was sixteen then, and I’m seventeen now, and sometimes I act like I’m about thirteen.” (Salinger, 9) It is kind of ironic if you think about it, he does not want to be known as dumb or stupid or an idiot, yet he has the occasional time when he acts like a thirteen year old. Holden, he understands where his faults are, but he cannot come to a conclusion on how to actually fix them he just carries on with his day as if it does not matter.

Holden’s roommate Stradlater thoroughly enjoys going out on Friday night, Saturday night, well every night. To do so, he has to find ways to be able to still do well in school while 0slacking off and shrugging all his work aside and his solution; anyone he can find. At one point Stradlater and Holden (because they are roommates) meet up in their room and Stradlater asks Holden is he can do a big favour for him and if he was planning on going out. Holden replies asking what the favour is and that he did not have plans of any sorts. Afterwards Stradlater asks ‘the big question’, “I got about a hundred pages to read for history… How ‘bout writing a composition for me…?” (Salinger, 28)

In this instance he had just initiated a vital opening for Holden to be a friend or to just blow him off, and Holden accepts the offer and says he will do the paper for him. Stradlater had just avoided doing his work for one reason; he wanted to go out that night

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with a girl.

Stradlater is also a guy who knows how to be flattering enough that he can convince people to do things for him, you could look at it as he has it better than everyone else because he is ‘prettier’ than other people. He compliments Holden’s new hat with the term “sharp” and then almost instantaneously afterwards asks “Listen. Are ya gonna write that composition for me? I have to know.” (Salinger, 29) Why did he need to know you might ask? Well, if Holden has explicitly said “no.” to him then Stradlater would have stayed in that night to do it, although Holden says “If I get the time, I will…” (Salinger, 29) Stradlater, using Holden like a boat in the river of life, just expects Holden to float on his way through life, carrying Stradlater along while he is having a party in the boat.

Finally, there is Ackley. Now, Ackley has a knack for hanging out in the wrong place for too long. In chapter three, Holden is laying down in his room reading a book and enjoying the feeling of his new hat on the top of his head when, let it be hold that his neighbour Ackley comes strolling over into his room without any true intent on why he is there.

Ackley moves friskily around the room, touching everything he can multiple times while trying to hold a conversation with Holden (who clearly does not want one). “I’ve read this same sentence about twenty times since you came in.” (Salinger, 20) After stating that Ackley was a disturbance to him, he still did not get the hint and clearly not picking up on the cue to get out of Holden’s room. Later on while Ackley is still occupying the room, Holden says to his self “I sometimes horse around to keep myself from getting bored.” (Salinger, 21) Once Holden starts to annoy Ackley, trying to make him vacate the room he STILL does not leave. So, clearly Ackley has a problem with following what people are trying to put out to him because he is just plain ignorant about other people and quite frankly himself if you were to take a look at how he manages his outer image.

In conclusion, J.D Salinger has made the novel Catcher in The Rye a story that really shows how teenagers act/acted. Salinger also adds his own input on how he thinks teenagers act and/or acted in our time period and the time period at which this novel was written and/or published in through the characters he had created. Three of the main characters; Holden, Stradlater and Ackley are all extremely different which expresses a wide variety of teenager characteristic.

Holden symbolizes blatant ignorance for the world around him, Stradlater shows us how un-caring and un-motivated teenagers are when it comes to working on anything and lastly, Ackley describes the lack of respect that we as teenagers have for the people around us. Salinger has made it pretty clear that he believes that teenagers need to change and used this novel to get his point across the world.

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