Why is the ambiguity of Holden's age stressed in chapters 1-4 of The Catcher in the Rye?

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The Catcher in the Rye is told in flashback as Holden, age 17,  narrates from a rest home in California.  The action of the story proper takes place the previous year, when he is 16.  He says on page 9:

I was sixteen then, and I'm seventeen now, and sometimes I act like I'm about thirteen.

The irony , of course, is that Holden looks much older than his chronological age.  Since he has undergone a massive growth...

(The entire section contains 223 words.)

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