What does the author want us readers to realize towards the end of the book? What is the purpose of the book and what message does it convey to the reader?

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teachertaylor | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

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In The Catcher in the Rye, one of the major themes that J. D. Salinger wants readers to grasp is the danger in romanticizing the innocence of childhood.  In the novel, Holden has a hard time relating to the adult world because he feels that adults have failed him.  For example, when Holden's brother Allie died, Holden began to struggle with depression, but his parents failed to take him to get "psychoanalyzed."  Holden does not feel like his parents protected him, so he romanticizes a world in which adults do all they can to protect children from harm.  Holden wants to protect his little sister Phoebe, but near the end of the novel when he takes her to ride the carousel, Holden realizes that he needs to let Phoebe reach for the "gold ring"--in other words, he needs to let her make her own mistakes and take risks in life because that is the only way she'll learn.  Holden himself learns that it is unhealthy to remain attached to the past innocence of childhood and that he needs to find a healthy way to enter adulthood.

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