How Old Do You Have To Be A Girl Scout 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” is the highlight of the high school experience. This is no Charles Dickens; both stories are told by young protagonists in everyday speech and are full of juvenile insights—namely, that adulthood sucks. Holden Caulfield and Scout Finch are two children who look at the journey between childhood and adulthood, only from opposite ends of the road. Both are full of contradictions, both defy the gender stereotypes of their time, and both make the rest of us think, I’m glad I’m not the only one!

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

Holden is the kind of guy you alternate between befriending and punching in the face. Let’s face it: while his observations about the adult world are usually on point, his level of self-awareness is somewhat lacking. “People always think something is true.” Always Holden? Or how about the fact that he hates all things “fake” but prides himself on being “the most amazing liar you’ve ever seen in your life”? Then again, we can’t help but love the image of Holden in his preppy outfit and red hunting hat erasing the f-word from his little sister’s school in a real vigilante. Holden may be a half-crazed, self-deluding liar, but he has decency where decency counts.

At times, she actually sounds radically feminist, arguing that because sex requires objectification, a guy shouldn’t want to “be hot” with a woman he cares about. He even admits that the main reason he’s still a virgin is because whenever a girl tells him to stop, he actually does. Breathe in! Okay, so it’s not something you should be getting any awards for these days, but remember that the story *is* set in the 1950s. We dare the other Catcher in the Rye characters to show half as much moral fortitude.

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

But that doesn’t mean Scout has her own perfectly calibrated moral compass. Despite his repeated acts of kindness, he estimates that the local closing for a predator, murderer and potential creature from the black lagoon; she cannot imagine that her black housekeeper has a life, a family, and a community that goes beyond simply caring for white children; she can’t stand it when kids on the playground call her dad “negro-lover”; she doesn’t mind seeing her father’s defendant being abused because he’s “just black.” While we prefer Scout to the other To Kill a Mockingbird characters, we can’t help but watch the adult prejudices and childish gullibility play out in her brain.

Between witnessing her neighbors turn against her family, watching her father lose a winning case, hearing about the subsequent murder of the defendant, being attacked by a drunken bigot, and, oh yeah, befriending the neighborhood psychopath, Scout loses just a shred of her innocence; however, with her father’s guidance, she manages to inject some maturity while she’s at it. This process is aided by the fact that Scout idolizes, imitates, and even dresses like her father and older brother. In fact, what Holden has in feminine sensitivity, Scout more than makes up for in fierce feistiness: she spits, swears, 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. We’d actually be quite curious to see what direction Holden’s parents are taking him. Where are Holden’s parents anyway?

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