Adolescence in Sylvia Plath’s the Bell Jar and J.D Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye

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First of all, Holden and Esther share the common obstacle of being unable to conform to the standards and expectations formed by society. Holden and Esther are both adolescents in a 1950s United-States, a less progressive time where you had almost no choice but to follow the path set out by society as you enter the adult world. However, neither of them can seem to conform to these standards.

Firstly, Esther is torn over the expectation for her to marry when she is young and become a mother, and her passion for writing poetry. Everyone expects Esther to marry Buddy Willard, her boyfriend, is it deemed that this is what society wants. However, her poetry has won her prizes and scholarships, and it could lead to a wonderful and fulfilling career. Buddy, who is used throughout the book as a certain voice of society clearly outlines the expectation for Esther to be nothing more than a mother and wife. Buddy said in “a sinister, knowing way that after [Esther] had children [she] would feel differently, [Esther] wouldn't want to write poems anymore. So [she] began to think maybe it was true that when you were married and had children it was like being brainwashed.”

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Buddy tries to convince Esther that her poetry is just a hobby that she will effortlessly abandon once she decides to follow the path of conformity, marrying and having children. Yet, Esther will seemingly never be available to be the person society, or Buddy wants her to be. Just as well, Holden Caulfield must confront the challenge of being unable to adapt to society’s standards. Conformity is a theme that dominates The Catcher in the Rye, Holden labels everyone that conforms as phonies. Holden, on the contrary, is kicked out of multiple schools, he doesn't want to make an effort for his work and life and has no plans for his future. Holden talks about stopping conformity by catching “everybody if they start to go over the cliff-[he] means if they’re running and they don’t look where they’re going [he will] have to come out from somewhere and catch them.

That’s all [he’d] do all day. [Holden would] just be the catcher in the rye” Holden directly contradicts the expectations set out for him as he navigates into adulthood and attempts to stop others from taking from conforming as the catcher in the rye. Esther and Holden are anomalies in society, they are incapable of conforming to the standards that are set for adolescents entering adulthood and attempt to follow their own paths.

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Adolescence in Sylvia Plath’s the Bell Jar and J.D Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye. (2022, Jun 29). Edubirdie. Retrieved April 22, 2024, from
“Adolescence in Sylvia Plath’s the Bell Jar and J.D Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye.” Edubirdie, 29 Jun. 2022,
Adolescence in Sylvia Plath’s the Bell Jar and J.D Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 22 Apr. 2024].
Adolescence in Sylvia Plath’s the Bell Jar and J.D Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2022 Jun 29 [cited 2024 Apr 22]. Available from:

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