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What does "Innocence and Experience" mean as a theme?

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sanctuary | Student, Undergraduate | eNotes Newbie

Posted June 2, 2010 at 8:49 AM via web

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What does "Innocence and Experience" mean as a theme?

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kalick | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Adjunct Educator

Posted June 3, 2010 at 11:29 AM (Answer #1)

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Innocence vs experience is a common theme in literature.  They are on opposite sides of the spectrum and as we move through life we begin to lose our innocence as we gain more experience.  To some, this means our obstacles, our suffering, our trials and tribulations may be painful, they may take away some of our sunny outlook on life, but they teach us valuable lessons.  Think Catcher in the Rye.  Holden Caufield is naive at the start of the novel.  He childishly looks down on others around him, but as he comes to terms with his own reality he starts to learn about his own role in the grand scheme of things.  In turn, he tries to preserve the innocence of others (which he cannot do for himself) by imagining himself as the catcher in a field of rye.  As children run dangerously close to the edge, he dreams he can catch them all and save them from the burden of growing up, of gaining experience.  It's not that innocence is always good and experience always bad, only that certain people (or characters) will perceive these two extremes in different lights.

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