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Coming of Age: Catcher in the Rye, Surfacing
Transcript of Coming of Age: Catcher in the Rye, Surfacing
by J.D. Salinger and Margaret Atwood
Catcher in the Rye ~ J.D. Salinger
Struggles in transition from childhood to adulthood
'Phonies'- believes that adults have constructed a world of lies and corruption in which they live by
Still grieving over the death of his brother
Attempts to partake in adult activities
Sets himself back in his growth by returning to old immaturity and latch to childhood freedom
Surfacing ~ Margaret Atwood
Returns to childhood home with three friends
Primarily searching for her missing father
Uneasy of the noticeable changes of the island and of herself
Forced to deal with the romantic and sexual feelings of the entire company
Left her first husband and has not forgiven herself for her baby's abortion
Inner and outer turmoil of her life results in more prominent primitive instincts, and eventually madness
Coming of Age
The Coming of Age theme is known as when a character or group experiences a significant change in morality from the beginning to the end of the novel, directly affecting the outcome of the plot and the relationships in which they encounter. This may include literal age and maturity developments, or a variety of other emotional, physical, ethical, or spiritual changes in the character or group.
Moving forward, despite difficulties, is often a main element in coming of age stories.
The focus of my ISU is to compare and contrast the Coming of Age theme in both Catcher in the Rye and Surfacing, and how the initial characters and relationships progress in accordance with this theme.
In The Catcher in the Rye, Holden Caulfield's Coming of Age story is quite literal. He has reached a point in his life where he is expected to follow many more rules and essentially 'how to be a proper responsible adult' guidelines.
Instead of being curious about his growth and the developing relationships around him, he convinces himself that the adult world is entirely dishonest and uninteresting. Throughout the progress of the novel, Holden is forced to come to terms with his inevitable future.
Holden's professor insists that he make more of an effort to see how much he is capable of, as holding himself back like this is going to negatively impact his future.
Holden struggles to fully engage in any social interaction. This is due in part to his ever-present immaturity, and also to his judgemental and straightforward attitude. Even in his attempts at speaking with his acquaintances, he quickly assumes that they too have in some way offended his morality by being part of the 'phony' adult world.
The Merry Go Round is a significant point in where Holden is seen to be letting go of his childhood but still appreciating what it was worth. Following this, Holden is seen to be applying himself in current time and is seeking some assistance from adults, signifying that he is still changing for the better and there is hope for him yet.
Catcher in the Rye
In traveling back to her childhood home, the narrator is able to connect with a part of her that has long been dormant, although this is what creates some of her unease.
The narrator believes that her friends, Anna and David, have been told a secret of sorts and this secret is what keeps them in a happy marriage. However, this is also proven to be untrue as the story progresses, as Anna and David both have affairs and are more and more brutish to one another.
This version of the Surfacing book cover depicts the face of the narrator's aborted child. This is when she realizes that the child has forgiven her.
The structure in which she has built for herself is seemingly crushed. Her ideal relationships are lies, her self-hatred has been forgiven by her victimized child, and she is now left alone on childhood island. These realizations drive her to a maddened, primitive state, where she hermits herself and has essentially progressed backward in time.
The Coming of Age theme essentially travels in the wrong direction for the narrator of Surfacing, as her morality and ethical perspectives are driven out of her control.
While Catcher in the Rye is novel that features a a child ascending into a adulthood, Surfacing is a novel about an adult discovering the truth of her transition from childhood and how the events went on to shape her life. Both novels explore dark ends of the spectrum, as the idea of loss and healing are significant the development of both plots.
While there is hope for Holden to grow into success as an adult with the help of others, the Surfacing narrator's inability to cope with new understanding leaves her to, basically, start everything over, though potentially on her own.
For being a part of my ISU assignment! I hope you've enjoyed learning about the Coming of Age theme within two modern classic novels.
1. Atwood, Margaret. Surfacing. 1972. New York: Fawcett, 1987.
2. Salinger, J D, E M. Mitchell, and Lotte Jacobi. The Catcher in the Rye. , 1951. Print.