Have you ever felt as though you have made a series of bad decisions? Famous filmmaker Casey Neistat dropped out of high school at age 17 when he had a son with his then-girlfriend, who was 17 as well. Neistat washed dishes to support his little family, until he made a choice to pursue a better life. He moved to New York City and dedicated himself to working on his various films, and now has a net worth over $12 million. There are many similarities between Neistat and Holden Caulfield, the main character in the book The Catcher in the Rye. Neistat made impulsive and immature decisions until age 17, when he finally grew enough emotionally to see that he didn’t want the life he had created for himself, while Holden Caulfield, in the book, is still only at the stage of making impulsive and immature decisions. In this way, J.D. Salinger demonstrates through his novel, The Catcher in the Rye, that the maturation process takes time and doesn’t happen all at once, no matter how grown-up the child may seem to act.
Salinger uses Holden’s inner thoughts to demonstrate how immature he is. At one point, Holden admits that he does not act his age and looks down on people who tell him to behave in a more mature fashion. “Sometimes I act like I’m about thirteen. […] Everybody says that, especially my father. […] I don’t give a damn, except that I get bored sometimes when people tell me to act my age” (Salinger p. 12). The fact that Holden says he gets bored with people who suggest that he should be more mature. highlights his immaturity. If he is really mature, he would care more about how he was acting and would strive to strive to change his behavior. Another instance of Holden being naive and immature comes in the same chapter, when he is talking to his old history teacher, Mr. Spencer. Mr. Spencer asks Holden if he has even a shred of worry about his next steps, to which Holden responds that he has a little, but isn’t very worried. “I feel some concern for my future, all right. Sure, I do.’ I thought about it for a minute. ‘But not too much, I guess. Not too much, I guess” (Salinger p. 17). Holden, in the middle of a full-blown mental breakdown, is not concerned about what the future holds for him, and really does not even care. People whose minds are less mature tend to not think about the consequences of their actions (which, for Holden, is getting kicked out of multiple preparatory schools). Therefore, this quote exhibits how Holden is not anywhere near being mature, even though he nonchalantly tries to portray this quality.
Holden attempts multiple times throughout the novel to seem mature and sophisticated, but his attempts just come off as childish. One such example of this comes when Holden attempts to order liquor at the Lavender Room. Once he tells the waiter his desired drink, the waiter asks for his driver’s license to verify Holden’s age. Holden attempts to guilt the server into pouring a little alcohol into a Coke, but the man declines. “I ordered a scotch and soda. […] ‘I’m sorry, sir, but do you have some verification of your age? Your driver’s license, perhaps?’ I gave him this very cold stare, like he’d insulted the hell out of me, and asked him, ‘Do I look like I’m under twenty-one?’ ‘I’m sorry, sir, but we have our-’‘Okay, okay,’ I say. I figured the hell with it. ‘Bring me a Coke. Can’tcha stick a little rum in it or something?” (Salinger p. 78) When Holden pretends to be insulted, he becomes more than a dumb teenager trying to order alcohol. He actively continues his charade of being grown-up, and does not acknowledge that he has been caught, once again showing how immature he is and appearing as childish to the waiter. Another example of Holden trying to act mature comes when he is riding in a taxi and tries to convince the driver to go get a drink with him. Holden also says that he has plenty of money, almost like he is showing off to the man. “Would you care to stop on the way and join me for a cocktail? On me, I’m loaded” (Salinger p. 68). Holden is so desperate to be seen by others as mature that he offers to take a stranger to a bar, which is something that a sixteen year-old really should not do. However, he attempts this action because he believes that it will make him seem more mature.
In conclusion, J.D. Salinger, the author of the novel The Catcher in the Rye, uses Holden Caulfield’s thoughts and actions to illustrate how maturation takes time, no matter how mature a person’s actions appear. Holden gets bored with acting his age and does not show a great deal of concern for his future, while trying to appear as mature to others by trying to order alcohol and offering to take strangers out for drinks. In his teenage years, Casey Neistat made stupid decisions as well, but boosted himself out of the hole he had dug, unlike what Holden is doing. Next time you are tempted to make a dumb decision, think about Casey and Holden and what happened to them.
...(download the rest of the essay above)