Of Criticisms and Maturity

Although my passion for devouring books slowly waned as I grew, I still enjoy works that seem to be superior readings in my opinion; in other words, books that really make me think. A couple of these are “The Little Prince” and “The Lord of the Flies”, which I strongly recommend for readings this summer. The latest book that made me exclaim in wonder was “The Catcher in the Rye.” I understand that it is banned in most schools due to its foul language and depressing themes, but it is truly a magnificent work if you can get to the deep meaning hidden in the context. I have written an analysis of it to the topic of “Does Holden seek truth or an explanation of the hypocrisy he sees?”

 

In this book, Holden Caulfield criticizes the adult society’s norms of materialism and conformity through the eyes of a teen that is wistful of his childhood innocence. However, although he exemplifies a mature aspect in that he understands the faults of society, he is somewhat immature in the aspect of failing to seek the truth or an explanation of the hypocrisy he sees. Therefore, I believe that Holden is a level-two thinker.

At the first level are the people who do not question society’s materialistic norms and conform to them blindly, such as Mr. Haas, the headmaster of Elkton Hills, who was “charming” to the successful-looking parents and impolite to those who looked like they were from a lower class. The first level is made up of “phonies”, as Holden refers to them negatively throughout the book. They are the subjects of Holden’s criticisms.

Holden is at the second level because he is aware of the faults of society enough to be able to criticize norms and not conform to them.  However, he lacks the will to search for an explanation and a way to change the norms, which distinguishes him from a level-three thinker. He admits that he is “yellow” and a coward, and while it can be interpreted as him being a pacifist as in the situation with the gloves, it also implies that he does not frequently act in situations exemplifying society’s ills and avoids confrontation. Frequently, he just observed and criticized, such as in the night club with the dancers when he looked down on them for searching for celebrities but said nothing. However, he shows some promise of moving into the higher level when he finds the courage to erase the “Fu** you” writing on the wall of his old school.

The level-three thinker was shown in Mr. Antolini’s quote: “The mark of the immature man is that he wants to die nobly for a cause, while the mark of the mature man is that he wants to live humbly for one.” The “mature man” is at the third level, while the “immature man” is at the second. The similarity between the level-three thinker and Holden is that they both can find faults in the human behavior of the society of their time. However, the level-three thinker grows intellectually by making use of their resources in education and learns from others while writing records to teach others. This type of thinker is more valuable in that he or she tries to find the truth behind human nature and expresses it clearly – the level-three thinker is a true scholar. Mr. Antolini, who finds potential in Holden, tries to guide him towards the right direction. However, at the end of the book, Holden fails in that aspect. He dreams of becoming the “catcher in the rye”, in other words, the savior of innocence, but doesn’t go beyond that. Maybe he does not yet understand the deep implications of Mr. Antolini’s advice.

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