What can teenagers learn from the story Catcher in the Rye?What can teenagers learn from the story Catcher in the Rye?

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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

This is an interesting question.  As time has passed, I think that teenagers gain different insights into Holden.  One of the most overwhelming elements that teenagers can learn is the need to forge some type of healthy connection with others.  Teens could certainly concur with the idea that the world is filled with "phonies."  Seeing Holden's narrative develop, I think that teens could understand the basic idea of the need to connect with other people in order to make living in this world a bearable construct.  Teens need to grasp the basic idea of forging healthy connections that allow one to feel at ease with so much in the world that makes one feel ill at ease.

I also think that teens might feel that one element that is interesting to note is how Holden really only challenges "phonies."  For Holden, there is only one group or clique, and that are "the phonies."  The dynamics of teen relationships are ones whereby there are many groups or cliques where navigation is critically important and an overwhelming challenge.  From the novel, teens might be able to gain insight into how important it is for teens to actually seek to breed solidarity with one another so that the real group to target are "the phonies."  In a modern social setting whereby there is so much stratification and division, a collective and cohesive entity might allow for a recalibration of social focus, providing hope for so many teens who struggle under the weight of social division.  It might be interesting gauge their reaction to such a notion that comes out of the book.

bullgatortail eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Catcher in the Rye is one of the most banned books of all time, in part because of its language and situations, but also because many parents worried that Holden would serve as a bad example for their own teenagers. Naturally, this combination is what made CITR so popular with teens during the turbulent 1960s. Youth in rebellion with their parents was nothing new then (nor is it now), but Holden's position as main character and narrator served to influence the reader more than most novels; readers were able to both sympathize and identify with Holden. Many teenagers and young adults recognize(d) Holden as a speaker for their generation, and this proved to be a concern for many parents who objected that the book should be placed in school libraries (or serve as required reading). Hopefully, readers also recognize(d) the many faults and immature decisions made by Holden and that his disdain for nearly everyone and everything around him was both illogical and socially isolationist.  

M.P. Ossa eNotes educator| Certified Educator

To me the best lesson a teenager can learn from The Catcher in the Rye is that, no matter how simple it may seem, in reality, one cannot control anyone or anything around us but ourselves.

When I teach the novelI ensure that my young audience can relate at one point or another to Holden Caulfield's rebellious thoughts. At a young age, we are all prone to criticize and judge the behaviors of others without looking first at our own. Holden was quick to jump into everyone else's bandwagon without first realizing that he was the awkward and whiny kid that nobody would have wanted to hang out with. Hence, what I tell my teenagers is that, before they jump into conclusions as to why things are, or why people act the way they do, to look within themselves and ask what they would change about themselves first. We are the only person we can be in charge of. That is what I feel readers should get from Holden's story.

pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I think what teens should take from this novel is that they are wrong when they look at everyone else in the world as "phonies" in the way that Holden does. Holden spends so much time thinking that he is genuine and everyone else is not, but this is clearly not the case.  If teens look carefully at the character of Holden, they should see that his anger at the world is pointless because he, himself, is no better than any of the people he despises so much.

So, to me, the real lesson here is that other people are really "phonies" any more than we are ourselves.  Realizing this is an important step in accepting other people and in growing up.

Kristen Lentz eNotes educator| Certified Educator

As some of the other posts suggest, I believeThe Catcher in the Ryeis about self-awareness and perception, which is a big capacity for high school students to learn and develop.  Self-awareness, demonstrating an understanding of the self and the relationship to how others see you, is actually written into my gifted and talented curriculum as one of the 'essential questions.'  Holden's story is full of moments where he is trying to figure out who he is and how to relate to other people.  His attempts and failures at this life-skill make for a wonderful discussion with teenage students.


literaturenerd eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I believe that the most important thing about The Catcher in the Rye that students learn is regarding how others view us.  Holden does not seem very concerned about how others see him, with the exception of Phoebe.  This could instill the importance of family. i think that teenagers are too caught up in how others view them and the novel exemplifies this in Holden.

Too many times I see students changing to fit into a group.  I think that finding ones self is an important lesson learned in the novel.

accessteacher eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I think all teenagers can recognise something they can relate to in the unyielding cynicism of Holden and his allegation that everyone is phony. However, at the same time, the way that Holden finally realises that human relationships are important and worth sacrificing isolation for is likewise an accurate feeling that most teenagers can relate to. Teenagers seem to be simultaneously repulsed and drawn to the adult world, and this novel brilliantly captures this conflict.

litteacher8 eNotes educator| Certified Educator
I have personally never taught this book, but I think it perfectly captures teenage angst. I think the book tells them that the world is crazy, and they are not the only ones that know it. The poignancy of the story also speaks to them in a very close way. Reality and absurdity is a mix that teenagers know all too well. Sometimes just seeing it in print shows them that life's manageable.
Wiggin42 | Student

When I first read Catcher in the Rye, I really sympathized with Holden. It was great for going through that teenage angst phase where I too thought everything was phony and fake. Reading it again now, I'm older, I've been through more in life, and I despise Holden. I find him to be a spoiled rich juvenile. The point is, what I gained the most from Catcher is realizing how much my perspective changed. 

krcavnar | Student

I find that my students do not use the term "phony" but more often to use "fake" or "poser". However, it is still the same struggle for self-identification and finding what is "real". All young people must struggle to find for themselves those relationships that are worth having. Holden is still as identifiable for young people today as he was 50 years ago.

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The Catcher in the Rye

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