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Human Development of Holden Caulfield: Analytical Essay

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In The Catcher In The Rye by J.D. Salinger, we are taken through the lense of a 17 year-old teenager, trying to find his way throughout the world. The debatable question is if Holden Caulfield is the typical adolescent. An adolescent is a young person in the process of developing from a child into an adult. Many other aspects come with the transition from a child to an adult and these aspects include their experiences, their development, and searching for their identity. By psychological standards, Holden Caulfield is the typical adolescent because his normal cognitive, social, and emotional development consists of lacking the ability to make smart decisions, not being aware of other’s perspectives, struggling to express how he feels to others, and he has a decline in academic performance. All typical teenagers possess issues like Holden does and it is completely normal.

Holden’s social development is normal because Holden’s decline in academic performance due to transitional stages in his life do not justify him as abnormal. The American Psychological Association (APA) claims through stages of change in a teenager’s life, it triggers a shift and “transitions can present challenges both to academic performance and psychological well-being.” (APA). Holden is failing in school and is between schools. His lack of performing in school is normal being that “declines in academic performance are common..” and “transitional stages can be quite disruptive” (APA) and this is exemplified by Holden’s careless mindset to be successful in school and set the personal goals he needs. Many teenagers struggle in school when there is distractions in their life and that does not make them abnormal. It shows how they are learning to cope with their issues and deal with them as a young adult.

Holden’s cognitive development is not unusual because he lacks the ability to make smart choices like other teens. Holden is immature and lacks the understanding of how decisions can affect your life. When Holden and Mr. Antolini discuss Holden’s future, Mr. Antolini suggests that “he finds out where he wants to go” and also tells him to “first apply himself in school…..” (Salinger, 208). Most teenagers and adolescents “still need guidance from adults” to “develop rational decision making” (APA). Holden is not mature enough to make the best decisions, but neither does any other teenager. Every teenager makes poor decisions and still needs guidance from their parents. Also, Holden is self centered, which is normal for the typical teen. He is not aware of others’ perspective and it is common for teens to shun out others’ perspectives if they do not agree with them. Holden has a hard time accepting the world and “it takes time to learn to take other perspectives into account..” (APA). The qualities within Holden can affect his decision making because of his immature mindset, but this is also seen through other teenagers who think they are always right and can make decisions based on what they believe.

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Holden’s emotional development is similar to other adolescents being that he struggles to express how he feels which makes him alienated from society. Many adolescents fail to do something “constructive” about their emotions because their feelings become “uncomfortable” and “undefined.” (APA). It is true that most teens “numb” their emotions with alcohol or drugs because they fail to address them. Holden failed to address his underlying issues with Jane because he kept talking about it, but never addressed it, and then turns to drinking. Holden often says things in his head about others, but he never actually admits it. Holden turning to alcohol and cigarettes to ease his pains, demonstrates that he is just as normal as any other teenager is because maybe he feels he has no type of support or someone who understands him. Holden often “masks his feelings from others” (Chen) which makes him isolated from society. Often many teens don’t know how to express themselves the correct way. Holden does this often being that he is totally against society and what it means to be an adult in the world. He is afraid to express his emotions, which is totally normal for a young teenager.

Many may argue that Holden is not the typical teenager that we see in our everyday lives. Even though he suggests how he disapproves and shuns out of everything, that shouldn’t define him as abnormal. Experts say that 'not wanting to spend time with family or friends” and “shunning out all social activity,” according to the 7 Differences between Normal and Abnormal Teenage Behavior, is not normal. There are many teens who lack the ability to communicate and build relationships with others whether it be their family or friends, and this does not mean that they are not normal. Often, teens want to be alone or have some time to themselves every now and then and that doesn’t make them unusual. Holden doesn’t want to interact with other because he feels they don’t understand or relate to him, like Stradlater. Lacking the ability to communicate and apply yourself is common among teens and during this stage in their lives, they are just now figuring out how to manage that. Also, the “sudden changes in energy levels” and “sudden changes in appetite” should not be included as abnormal because adolescents are still adjusting to their everyday lives in school and at work. When Holden gets kicked out and has to adjust to his new schools, that affects him and Pencey was a transition for him. They may not have time to eat or may be exhausted due to their schedules and tasks during the school day. Even though Holden isn’t busy, he is more focused on the outside world rather than eating or sleeping and that is the least of his worries.

Holden Caulfield is indeed a normal adolescence who is trying to deal with the changes in his life. His normal cognitive, social, and emotional development consists of lacking the ability to make smart decisions, and not aware of other’s perspectives, he struggles to express how he feels to others, he tries to find his identity, and he has a decline in academic performance. He deals with the typical issues of wanting to experience, lack of interest towards thing, and even relationship issues with parents and/or peers. Even though some teenagers may not go through what he does, we all can relate to him in some way as we are going through the changes in our lives.

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Human Development of Holden Caulfield: Analytical Essay. (2022, December 27). Edubirdie. Retrieved February 24, 2024, from
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