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Essay Topic: The Catcher in The Rye: Role of Family
Seeking the well-defined role of a family in today’s society will likely leave one overwhelmed with a wide range of proposals, yet still unsatisfied with the jumbled results. The truth is that the family’s purpose is not clear-cut and cannot be covered with a single defining duty; this purpose, in broad terms, is to prepare, assist, and guide other members of kin through childhood and beyond. Holden’s family in The Catcher in The Rye, although not “picture perfect,” exhibits many of these same principles, and by examining the interactions between themselves, the true function of a family can be recognized even further.
Families serve to teach morals and values to their youth, which is the first step in preparing kin for life. This is displayed sporadically throughout the novel by certain actions that Holden carries out and by particular emotions that he faces. A straightforward example of Holden’s morals coming into play occurs in his thought process while he watches a couple fool around with each other: “I don’t like the idea. It stinks if you analyze it. I think if you don’t really like a girl, you shouldn’t horse around with her at all” (Salinger 70). Holden’s short, choppy sentence structure during these lines reveals the fact that he is truly aggravated, truly passionate about the ethics that he follows. These few sentences from his perspective, portraying that he feels deep respect for females, making it very evident that he has been taught strong, upright moral standards from a young age—all part of the role that his family fulfills. Preparing children for the future though—as Holden’s family does through the teaching of admirable values—is not an idea independently stemming from the book. Countless modern-day
publications describe this very concept through their own work; “Family” by Funk and Wagnalls New World Encyclopedia explains that “family serves as the basic institution for bearing children, caring for them during their early years, and preparing them to function effectively in society” (1). This sentence from the article directly expresses that the goal of a family is to prepare its youth to “function effectively” (1) in the modern world, which can in part be achieved by teaching strong morals to the young. The genuine importance of the teaching of these morals though is revealed later in life since upright individuals are likely to support the rest of their family when necessary. This aspect, as displayed by the Caulfields, further contributes to the overall role of a family as well, since it acts as a method to prepare and later aid other members of the family through life.
The role of the family is not only geared towards the bettering of young children though; families serve to help every member of the kin, regardless of age. This brings about another idea that contributes to the genuine role of family: members assisting and supporting their relatives through hardships faced in life. This recurring situation is seen between Holden and his sibling Phoebe throughout their time together in the book, like when Holden comes to visit her after he is kicked out of Pencey. Holden is in dire need of a few days’ worths of money and Phoebe, understanding the situation her brother is in, willingly offers her Christmas money, telling him, “You can take it all” (Salinger 198). Holden is in hardship in this situation and Phoebe, properly fulfilling her role as family, helps Holden through it with enthusiasm. The positive effects gained by a family member receiving help and support from a sibling similar to this have been shown to be extraordinary. The research paper, “A Study on Sibling Relationships, Life Satisfaction and Loneliness Level of Adolescents” concludes this result very distinctly; the study found that
children with “supportive siblings were reported to experience fewer depressive symptoms after distressing life events than children in unsupportive sibling relationships” (Soysal 2). The aid and of siblings discussed in the quote is very important to have in family life, as one will always have someone to turn to in a time of need. This claim is supported quite well in the novel also, as Holden is visibly happier once he spends some time with his supportive sister. This aspect of a family helping one another plays a substantial part in the function of the family and helps assist family members throughout life.
It is common for an independently-thinking individual to make rash, uninformed decisions by himself or herself. Families also serve as a way to combat this, as members of the kin serve to help influence and rationalize other members’ decisions, which clarifies the importance of family guidance. This area in the role of the family is portrayed clearly in the final moments of the book, as Phoebe and Holden are arguing in front of the museum. Both siblings have seemingly-harsh decisions made up: Holden wants to leave home forever, and Phoebe combats this, asserting that she wants to give up school and go with him. Holden soon after, replies that “[He’s] not going anywhere. [He] changed his mind” (Salinger 228). This quick decision change by Holden is not by coincidence though. Phoebe’s desire to leave everything she has to go with him truly makes Holden consider his sister’s future as well, and it brings him to his senses. He understands that his decision is unrealistic and that he is better off at home, where he is cared for. It can be argued though that this immense influence that Phoebe has on Holden is unintentional, and that she does not mean to rationalize his thinking in any way. While this fact is true, it is the role of the family to have this type of influence regardless, whether or not a member is doing it consciously or subconsciously. Phoebe, by simply listening to Holden’s
desires and sharing her opinions, fulfills her role as family, since she is there for her brother throughout his decision-making process. The research paper “Students with Autism Spectrum Disorder and the Role of Family in Postsecondary Settings: A Systematic Review of the Literature” generalizes this situation, revealing that during college, “[students] relied on family members for support and influence [for many decisions]” (Dallas 1). This idea that families serve to help students make smart informed decisions applies to the novel as well; Holden has a decision made, but through the help of his sister, his family, he is able to rethink this and make a more logical decision for himself. The benefits of having family members’ guidance throughout these decisions are without a doubt beneficial since simple advice and direction are many times what is needed for success.
The role of the family in modern society is broken up into various categories, but every one of these categories serves to impact a person throughout the entirety of his or her life, from young to old, in order to make life easier and more enjoyable. These functions that compose the single role of the family include helping with the development, aid, and direction of the members of kin; and through The Catcher in The Rye, the extent of this role reveals that each category is truly necessary for a functioning family.
Ceka, Ardita and Murati, Rabije. “The Role of Parents in the Education of Children.” Journal of Education and Practice, vol. 7, no. 5, 2016, pp. 61-64. ERIC.
Dallas, Bryan K. “Students with Autism Spectrum Disorder and the Role of Family in Postsecondary Settings: A Systematic Review of the Literature.” Journal of Postsecondary Education and Disability, vol. 28, no. 2, 01 Jan. 2015, pp. 135-147. ERIC.
“Family.” Funk & Wagnalls New World Encyclopedia, 2016, p. 1p. 1. EBSCOhost.
Salinger, J. D. The Catcher in The Rye. Boston: Little, Brown, 1995. Print.
Soysal, F. Selda Öz. “A Study on Sibling Relationships, Life Satisfaction and Loneliness Level of Adolescents.” Journal of Education and Training Studies, vol. 4, no. 4, 01 Apr. 2016, pp. 58-67. EBSCOhost.