Question: Think about Holden's vision of the nature of childhood and adulthood. Are the two realms as separate as Holden believes them to be? Where does he fit in? The novel Catcher In The Rye is about a teenage boy's growth into maturity. The theme of the story is the painfulness of growing up and in it Holden's goal is to resist the process of maturing. He fears change and is overwhelmed by complexity, and because of this he invents two fantasy worlds; one for childhood, and one for adulthood.

Holden believes that childhood is all about innocence, curiosity and honesty. Like his fantasy about the catcher in the rye, he imagines childhood as a field of rye in which children romp and play, and have no real worries or fears. Holden doesn't want to leave this world because he feels comfortable and safe within it. Because he doesn't want to leave childhood, Holden views adulthood as a world of superficiality and "phoniness." He thinks adulthood is equivalent to death, like a fatal fall over the edge of the cliff, as portrayed in his catcher in the rye fantasy. In reality, adulthood scares and mystifies him. The two worlds of childhood and adulthood actually aren't as separate as Holden has made them out to be.

His created understandings of the realms allow him to cut himself off from the rest of the world by criticizing others around him, especially adults. Holden is trapped between childhood and adulthood. He physically should be entering into adulthood, but mentally he is only a child. Holden's sister Phoebe even seems more mature than her much older brother.

The novel Catcher In The Rye expresses a common aspect of human nature. Often when one doesn't understand something they make up illusions or fantasies to help themselves cope with it, as Holden has done to help himself deal with the transition from childhood to adulthood.