Childrens Book Character With Flower Growing Out Of Her Head Watching Characters Grow Up – The Catcher in the Rye and to Kill a Mockingbird

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Watching Characters Grow Up – The Catcher in the Rye and to Kill a Mockingbird

For most of us, reading “The Catcher in the Rye” and “To Kill a Mockingbird” stand out as the highlight of the high school literary experience. This is not Charles Dickens; both stories are told by young protagonists in everyday speech and are full of adolescent insights – namely, that adulthood sucks. Holden Caulfield and Scout Finch are two children who look at the road that connects childhood and adulthood, only from opposite ends of the journey. Both are full of contradictions, both defy the gender stereotypes of their time and both make others think, I’m glad I’m not the only one!

Holden is a gray-haired seventeen-year-old who effortlessly switches between trying to “get some practice” on a prostitute (you know, in case he “gets married or something”) and “stumbling around” pretending to be shot by Hollywood. -style thugs. Suffice it to say, he has yet to strike a balance between being the man and playing cops and robbers. Of course, the fact that Holden despises most adults and worships his dead little brother doesn’t help the transition much either.

Holden is the guy you alternately want to befriend and punch in the face. Let’s face it: while his observations about the adult world are usually on point, his level of self-awareness is a bit lacking. “People always think something is true.” Always, Holden? Or the fact that he hates anything “fake” but prides himself on being “the worst liar you’ve ever seen in your life”? Then again, we can’t help but love the image of Holden in his fancy clothes and red hunting hat eradicating the f-word from his little sister’s school in true vigilante fashion. Holden may be a half-crazy, self-deluded liar, but he has decency where decency counts.

At times, she actually sounds radically feminist, arguing that because sex requires objectification, a man shouldn’t want to “get sexy” with a woman he cares about. He even admits that the main reason he’s still a virgin is because when a girl tells him to stop, he does. Breathe! Okay, it’s not something you should win an award for these days, but keep in mind that the story is set in the 1950s. The other characters of The Catcher in the Rye dare to show half as much moral fortitude.

Speaking of moral fortitude, even though Scout is 6 at the start of To Kill a Mockingbird and in a much more carefree period of her life than Holden, growing up in segregated Alabama in the 1930s has a pretty dramatic effect on her learning curve. When her attorney father wholeheartedly—but unsuccessfully—defends a disabled black man in court for a crime he clearly didn’t commit, Scout learns that, contrary to what most 6-year-olds are told, personal morality, social ethics, and laws are not all members of the same happy family. Heck, they don’t even live in the same part of town.

But that doesn’t mean Scout has a perfectly calibrated moral compass. It represents local confinement for the predator, murderer, and potential creature of the black lagoon despite his repeated gestures of kindness; she can’t wrap her head around the fact that her black housekeeper has a life, a family, and a community that goes beyond just taking care of white kids; she can’t stand it when kids on the playground call her father “black lover”; she doesn’t mind seeing her father’s accuser being treated badly because he’s “just a black man.” Although we prefer Scout to the other To Kill a Mockingbird characters, we can’t help but cringe at the prejudices of adults and childish gullibility thrown at sleepy parties in her brain.

As she watches her neighbors turn on her family, watches her father lose a winning case, hears about the defendant’s subsequent murder, is attacked by a drunken fanatic and, oh yeah, befriends the neighborhood psychopath, Scout loses just a little bit of her innocence ; however, with her father’s guidance, she manages to instill some maturity while she’s at it. This process is aided by the fact that Scout adores, imitates and even dresses like her father and older brother. In fact, what Holden lacks in feminine sensibilities, Scout more than makes up for with fantastic bravado: she spits, curses, fights, and can totally hold her own among her older brother’s friends. This combination of innate spirit and parental guidance gives us hope for the grown-up Scout that we never feel for Holden. In fact, we’d be very curious to see which direction Holden’s parents steered him towards. Where are Holden’s parents anyway?

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