Struggles with the Idea of Adulthood in Treasure Island and Catcher in the Rye

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Majority of the book Holden is a pessimist, angry, and depressing young teenager that struggles with the idea of adulthood. The author uses his state of mind to mask his desperate need to protect the idea of innocence. Holden spoke with an informal and childlike tone, but he had a more respectful tone when he talked to the other characters in the novel. The audience sees his youthful and childlike curiosity side comes out when he worries about the ducks on where they will go during the winter. Holden's strong focus of the ducks on where they will go when the lake. The curiosity of where the ducks will go when the lake is frozen is parallel to Holden wondering where he's going to go in life. He wonders if someone will guide him to the right direction, or if he will have to guide himself through life by instinct like the ducks. The ducks vanish every winter, but they return every spring. Their vanishment is only temporary. This symbolizes that change that isn’t permanent, but always recurring. Life will have its obstacles that one must complete in order to grow. The pond is both frozen and unfrozen and itself is a metaphor for Holden’s stage in life. The pond is in transition between being frozen or a liquid form of state, just like Holden being in a transition between childhood and adulthood. He is terrified by the idea of change and disappearance, so he visits the Museum of Natural History because he is comforted by its ability to stay the same every time he visits. Holden would love to live in a world where everything stays the same because he would never have to grow up. Similarly, to the main protagonist, Jim Hawkins, in Treasure island shows that he is very innocent and still has childish fears. Jim Hawkins is a timid adolescent that fears his nightmares about the one-legged man might come and get him. His fear of the boogey man to come get him is unreasonable because he still has not been exposed to the harsh reality of life, facing the unknown. This is one of the scariest obstacles of life because it can be challenging. He has not matured quite yet since it’s only the beginning of his story.

Holden is a teenager who refuses to grow up because he is afraid of gaining the responsibilities that come with it. He doesn’t have the greatest relationship with his parents which is a very common with young teenagers. He was sent to boarding school where he constantly gets in trouble. He is away from his parent’s supervision and cannot raise him continually while he is a minor. The only parental figures he has was teachers and his principals. He is angry at the world because he is surrounded by adults that are always pointing out all his mistakes. This could be an explainable reason why he was always angry and with this blind rage he was not able to unlock his maturity sooner. Salinger created Holden to represent a transformation of a young teenager turning into a man in the adult world. His struggles are indicative of the resistance of having to grow up. Holden wants to be the 'catcher in the rye' in a Robert Burns poem. This allusion revealed Holden's dream of being a ‘catcher in the rye’ who saves children before entering this adult world that he finds repulsive. His stubborn attitude in protecting the minds of the youth is making him not to see that everyone will need to learn life’s lessons to grow as a better from that experience. Slowly as he faces all the obstacles on his journey, Holden stays stubborn until one moment in the novel that he realizes that he must shed his old skin and enter this new stage of adventure; just like Jim he sheds out of his old life. Jim’s mother hired another boy to manage the inn in his replacement. He knew that one day he was going to being replaced. By putting pause on family responsibilities, he will soon discover an awakening about his identity. Jim begins to see that this adventure that he will go on will force him to forget about his previous life at the Inn. The arrival of Billy Bones triggers Jim to desire in exploring beyond his home, Trelawney gives him the chance to fulfill dream on this expedition in finding treasure. Billy Bones gives him the chance to live the life of a sailor even though he knows very little of this lifestyle. His adventures into adulthood is initiated when he learns survival skills and moral lessons. When Jim cries after realizing that he’s leaving his home behind by going on this adventure to find the treasure. This step will enter his new life and leaving behind his comfort zone. And with this, Jim Hawkins’s adventure begins.

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Holden cannot accept the responsibilities and consequences that come with growing up, so to avoid the painful obstacle of maturing, he struggles to hold onto his childlike mentality. He finds the adult world to be perverted and repulsive and does not realize that he is slowly entering this repulsive world. Due to his struggle to remain in this child stage of life, he beomes fixated on protecting children from society’s corruption. The urge that Holden feels in protecting the innocence of children is related to his struggle of him going against time. It’s a matter of time he will lose and grow up, but for the meanwhile he will face this phase of life this obstacle. Holden acts as a guardian to hunt down any danger to a child’s innocence. Metaphorically, he wants to save the kids before they fall into the corruption that the adult world will entrap them in by being the catcher in the rye. Holden has a lot of love for Phoebe, his younger sister, in such high regards as if she was a God. One of their favorite places that they go together is the carousel and can be compared to life. Life is a cycle of learning lessons until the day a person dies. Holden goes through his depressing phases in order to final come to a halt, just like the end of the ride, and comes to a self-realization that he needs to stop trying to keep children from living life. When he took Phoebe to ride the carousel and it started to rain. She puts the red hunting hat his head so he wouldn’t get wet. The could be metaphorically of time finally catching up to him and now he must face the unknowns of society. The rain is a metaphor for obstacles can either soak Holden spirit by trying to stop the inevitable or that he should just let the rain just happen. He cannot control the rain therefore he cannot control life’s happening to children’s innocence. Holden would wear a red hunting hat. His hunting hat is symbolic on how Holden sees himself. The hat is irregular, unique, and different just like Holden. He desires to be a unique and tough individual when he's wearing it. At the same time, he is sometimes self-conscious of wearing this unique hat in front of everyone. Just like any young person still trying to find themselves and caring about what other people think. When he finally gets to have a deep conversation to his younger sister, he had an awakening to reality’s harsh truth. This self-awareness he had just equipped allowed him to enter another journey in this life-long adventure of learning.

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Struggles with the Idea of Adulthood in Treasure Island and Catcher in the Rye. (2022, August 12). Edubirdie. Retrieved June 16, 2024, from
“Struggles with the Idea of Adulthood in Treasure Island and Catcher in the Rye.” Edubirdie, 12 Aug. 2022,
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