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Adolescent Problems in The Catcher in the Rye and The Perks of Being a Wallflower
Transcript of Adolescent Problems in The Catcher in the Rye and The Perks of Being a Wallflower
Between 1961 and 1982, The Catcher in the Rye was the most censored book in high schools and libraries in the United States. The novel is set in the 1940s and tells the story of an adolescent boy named Holden Caulfield.
The novel spans a period of three days. The Perks of Being a Wallflower Both novels are personal accounts of the lives of teenage boys.
Both characters live in a precarious time of adolescence and need to grab hold of their life in some way. Both are trying to make better sense of the world around them
Both characters have experienced the loss of a family member and friend. Holden and Charlie especially struggle to come to terms with the death of their family members, whom each had a close bond with.
Abuse is seen in both novels. While it occurs frequently in Perks, it is much more subtle in Catcher and is merely implied. INNOCENCE "Anyway, I keep picturing all these little kids playing some game in this big field of rye and all. Thousands of little kids, and nobody's around, nobody big, I mean except me. And I'm standing on the edge of some crazy cliff. What I have to do, I have to catch everybody if they start to go over the cliff mean if they're running and they don't look where they're going I have to come out from somewhere and catch them. That's all I'd do all day. I'd just be the catcher in the rye and all. I know it's crazy, but that's the only thing I'd really like to be. I know it's crazy." (Salinger, 224) To Holden Caulfield, preserving the innocence of others, primarily children, is of the utmost importance.
At the age of 16, He has long since lost his own innocence by being exposed to the harshness of the world. This is the reason for his strong dislike of the adult community.
Salinger not only highlights Holden’s loss of innocence and refusal to grow up, but also his attempts to stop others from doing so as well. This is seen when he is in his sister, Phoebe’s, school and he sees the phrase ‘fuck you’ written on a wall. This angers him and he takes it upon himself to rub it off the wall.
His desperate attempt to preserve the youth and innocence of others is further emphasized in how he views those around him.
Salinger uses the loss of Holden’s innocence to justify his inability to move forward as he is always wishing for a static and unchanging world. The Perks of Being a Wallflower was written by Steven Chbosky and published in the year 1999.
It set in the 1990s
The Perks of Being a Wallflower was the 10th most challenged book on the American Library Association's list of the 100 most banned or challenged books of 2000-2009. It is an epistolary novel that documents the life of a teenage boy who refers to himself as Charlie.
In letters that Charlie writes to an anonymous stranger, he talks about his family, his friends, and his complicated, often overwhelming, feelings about growing up. INNOCENCE While The Catcher in the Rye emphasizes the importance of protecting innocence, The Perks of Being a Wallflower emphasizes its loss.
Charlie is introduced as an introverted ‘wallflower’, symbolic for someone inexperienced, naïve and out of place. Charlie knew nothing of parties, alcohol, or drugs and unlike Holden, those that Charlie admires are directly responsible for the loss of his innocence.
In the end of Chbosky’s novel, Charlie does not blame his aunt for the things she has done to him. He sees no reason to dwell on the events of the past year, nor does he resent his time with Sam and Patrick. This loss of innocence which Charlie experienced and observed allowed him to gain a better sense of himself and the world around him. “I'm not the way I am because of what I dreamt and remembered about my aunt Helen. That's what I figured out when things got quiet. And I think that's very important to know... we are who we are for a lot of reasons. And maybe we'll never know most of them. But even if we don't have the power to choose where we come from, we can still choose where we go from there. We can still do things. And we can try to feel okay about them.”
(Chbosky, 211) PHONINESS Holden hates any ‘phoniness’ he observes. To Holden, the ‘phoniness’ does not only describe those who are liars and hypocrites. He also applies this term to people he feels that are common and average.
However, Holden is, ironically, the biggest ‘phony’.
He often does the very things that he says he cannot tolerate, such as intruding on people’s privacy and asking invasive questions
Holden criticizes ‘phoniness’ and so he must set himself apart from those that exhibit this trait.
Whether Holden realizes the ‘phoniness’ in himself, or just simply chooses not to acknowledge it, does not matter, as he simply uses his distaste for it to serve as an excuse to recluse himself from society.
In reality, he is frightened by his inability to understand the adult world and so he refuses to see it with the complexity that it exhibits. Furthermore, Holden struggles with placing himself in this complex society and thus, he puts himself above others and uses the term ‘phony’ to categorize the world in the most simplistic terms. PHONINESS Throughout The Perks of Being a Wallflower, Charlie is honest in the letters he writes to the reader. He is not entirely honest, however, to those around him. He chooses not to express himself or his feelings and as a result, often misleads the people he cares about.
Therefore, by not being completely honest, Charlie embodies some extent of ‘phoniness’, but for the good of others, and his friends.
Charlie is faced with the challenges to stay true to his feelings and be who he really is, without pushing away those who are close to him. "But you weren't, Charlie. At those times, you weren't being his friend at all. Because you weren't honest with him.” I sat there very still. I looked at the floor. I didn't say anything. Very uncomfortable.” (Chbosky 201) ISOLATION Holden exhibits a fear of relationships, yet so clearly craves for them. His isolation from society stems from his attempt to retain any sense of individuality he believes he has. This is demonstrated in his attempts to create meaningful relationships with those around him, only to further alienate himself.
Holden’s isolated behaviour acts as armour to the adult world that he sees as cruel, unjust, and fake. “The trouble was, I just didn't want to do it. I felt more depressed than sexy, if you want to know the truth. She was depressing. Her green dress hanging in the closet and all. And besides, I don't think I could ever do it with somebody that sits in a stupid movie all day long. I really don't think I could.” (Salinger, 125) ISOLATION Charlie’s alienation is much more complex, in the sense that he is not physically isolated from his friends and family.
Despite this, Charlie masks his feelings.
He spends all his energy in ensuring the happiness of his friends, that he often disregards his own.
However, this emotional isolation ultimately enables Charlie to fit in with society “It's sweet and everything, but it's like you're not even there sometimes. It's great that you can listen and be a shoulder to someone, but what about when someone doesn't need a shoulder. What if they need the arms or something like that? You can’t just sit there and put everybody’s lives ahead of yours and think that counts as love. You just can’t. You have to do things.” (Chbosky, 200)