The Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger narrates the journey of Holden Caulfield, an adolescent boy grappling with his sense of self. Although Holden yearns for adulthood, he also secretly clings to his youth and innocence. This is demonstrated when he pays for a prostitute but chooses not to engage in any sexual acts. This negative encounter emphasizes that despite his efforts to present himself as mature, Holden’s youthful essence remains firmly rooted within him.
The reader can discern that Holden is still a child when he confesses to being a virgin. Holden proceeds to justify why he has not yet lost his virginity by claiming that “Something always happens.” In his self-deception, Holden fails to admit that he truly doesn’t desire to lose his virginity. Another example is when the prostitute undresses in front of Holden. In recounting the scene to the reader, Holden describes it as “truly embarrassing.”
Instead of having the typical adult response, Holden feels embarrassed like a child would. Another instance that reveals Holden’s childlike nature occurs when the prostitute sits on his lap wearing only a pink slip. Holden fabricates a story, claiming he recently had surgery and is not interested in sex. Holden admits, “She made me so nervous, I just continued to lie excessively.” Subconsciously, Holden recognizes his desire to preserve his innocence, though he has not consciously acknowledged this as truth.