The Catcher in the Rye, written by J.D. Salinger, published in 1951, is a story about a teenager who struggles with his transition into the adult world ever since his little brother has died. Holden Caulfield, the protagonist of the story, journeys all over New York City in an attempt to search for the truth of adulthood and must also deal against the “phoniness” of it too. Throughout the story, Holden tries to hold onto his innocence to prevent himself from transitioning into the adult world. Holden’s choices of isolating himself and his inability to see anything positive in life cause him to become depressed. In the end, Holden ends up being both physically and mentally exhausted and has a breakdown. I believe this story is still relevant to current teenagers today because the themes of the book are still shown in today’s, modern world, especially through social media, as well as the protagonist, Holden, displays several modern-day problems that we, teenagers, must face in our everyday lives. Lastly, this book is still relevant today because it shows how modern society still deals with depression.
The theme of authenticity versus artificiality is one that can be heavily depicted in modern teenager lives through social media. We, the users of social media, can portray ourselves falsely to others by posting things to mislead their judgment on us. Holden’s worldview on life shows this conflict of authenticity versus artificially, which is related to his attitude towards his childhood and his resistance to entering the adult world. Throughout the novel, several examples portray this theme, for instance, Holden’s older brother, D.B., displays this. Holden finds that D.B.’s short stories are very quiet, special, and shows his brother's expression of his truth without getting anything is returned. However, when D.B. begins to write screenplays for Hollywood, Holden finds that his brother is “being a prostitute” and can’t stand it. He believes that his brother sold himself out for the money and fame. This can be shown in today’s world through social media. Social media is an innovation that allows us to post pictures and videos, as well as tell people how we feel. Although, what social media also allows us to do is to hide behind screens of our phones and make those who view the pictures and videos judge us based off those things. It is a weapon to manipulate other’s perception of us. This artificiality is what makes Holden hate “phonies”. Social media allows people to filter out things they don’t like, enabling them to look more likeable. Holden is just trying is to find stability in a society filled with fake people, just like in our world.
Throughout the novel, the protagonist, Holden Caulfield, displays the everyday struggles of what modern-day teenager must face. Holden’s inability to grow up and enter the adult world is what challenges us today because at this age we must find who we are and find our fit in the world. This can be difficult for us to do because society can be an opinionated environment for us. In Holden’s years of being a teenager so far, he was alone and an outsider ever since his brother, Allie, died. He had trouble fitting in with any group. For example, he states, “…everybody sticks together in these dirty little goddam cliques. The guys that are on the basketball team stick together, the Catholics stick together, the goddam intellectuals stick together, the guys that play bridge stick together. Even the guys that belong to the goddam Book-of-the-Month club stick together”(131). Even though we don’t know where Holden fits in, you can tell that he finds all these groups “phony” and doesn’t belong anywhere. The idea of “belonging” to anywhere is what teenagers and Holden have trouble with. This sense of belonging is what we all strive for, especially Holden.
All through the story, Holden displays the feeling of being depressed and made it seem that everything made him “depressed as hell”. This was influenced by the lack of trust he had with the world and the losses he had experienced in his life. The loss of his younger brother, Allie, was something Holden could not bear, which shaped his worldview. To deal with this loss, the idea of being the catcher in the rye is how Holden endured his pain. If he were to prevent people from growing up, which includes him, the pain that he holds would be numb. A loss can influence one’s reaction or attitude towards life and the decisions we make. So to deal with this pain, people begin to rely on other sources to take this pain away. This applies to us, teenagers, because with the level of maturity we have and the things we are exposed to can put us in danger. Some may use drugs and alcohol to create some sort of dream world like Holden’s to take away the pain. This can be very harmful to us because by doing this we put everything in stake.
In conclusion, the Catcher in the Rye is a story that is still relevant to teenagers today because of the many lessons it shows us. The themes of this story are still shown in our modern lives, the protagonist displays the many struggles that we teenagers deal with, and ultimately, it shows how modern society still deals with depression. Even though the book was written about 65 years ago, and the slang is outdated. It still portrays many of the problems we have in modern society. Regardless of what you may think, I think it is safe to say that The Catcher in the Rye will stay as a force in literature because of the many messages it means to many different people.