The Maturation of Holden Caulfield
Holden Caulfield undergoes a drastic change throughout the novel of The Catcher in the
Rye by J.D. Salinger. Holden starts off as an immature child, who does not take the death of
Allie well. Eventually, he begins to accept the world for what it has for him through observing
Phoebe. This illustrates that one develops by seeing risks taken by others and applying them to
yourself and understanding how negative things that happen can mature you. Holden develops
into a more mature kid as he leaves school and finds himself alone in New York City. He also
realizes that, despite losing his brother Allie to leukemia, his family is his home, and it is not
something to be taken for granted.
Holden matures throughout the novel by seeing and observing Phoebe. After Holden gets
kicked out of school, Phoebe asks Holden what he wants to do and he says, “I’d just be the
catcher in the rye”(191). This illustrates that Holden is immature because he wants to save all the
children, and he never takes any risks in life. This view of life and perspective alters when
Phoebe takes a risk and he allows it to happen. While Holden plays with Phoebe at the carrousel,
he notices that all the kids, including Phoebe, try to grab for a gold ring, and he gets nervous
because he thinks she is going to fall off and hurt may herself. Holden does not say anything,
acknowledging that “the thing with kids is, if they want to grab for the gold ring, you have to let
them do it, and not say anything. If they fall of, they fall off, but it’s bad if you say anything to
them”(232). This shows that Holden is no longer the “catcher in the rye” because he accepts the
fact that Phoebe is moving forward in life, just as she accepts the risk of falling off the carrousel.
Phoebe is moving forward from being a child to a young adult because she takes risks and learn
from them, while Holden observes and matures from Phoebe’s actions.
As Holden accepts the fact that Allie died and he learns to live with it, Holden matures
and develops as a teenager. The night Allie died, Holden got very mad and broke all the windows
in his garage with his fists. One reason that Holden is tormented by Allie’s death is the fact that
he does not feel love to humans, instead he loves the unchanging and the predictable. For
example, Holden loves the Museum of Natural History so much because it never changes, “I get
very happy when I think about it…they were always showing Columbus discovering America…
you always had a lot of candy and gum and stuff with you… it always smelled like it was raining
outside”(133). The word “always” is repeated three times which demonstrates that the museum
stays the same and he can rely on it, which is something that Holden cherishes. Holden does not
enjoy things that change because he is afraid that he will lose them just as he lost Allie.
Additionally, Holden’s inability to enjoy change is exhibited when Stradlater goes on a date with