Teenagers Surviving Death of a Brother
CrazyTeenagers Surviving Adolescence After the Death of a Brother Between the pimple popping, social pressures, and unforgiving parents, adolescence is a difficult time for the average teenager. However, for two unstable and socially awkward boys, adolescence was more than teenage angst. The characters Holden Caulfield and Conrad Jarrett demonstrate similar reactions to the death of a loved one during this formative time. Their transitions into adulthood, while dealing with bereavement, are catalogued in the novel The Catcher in the Rye by J.
D. Salinger and the motion picture Ordinary People directed by Robert Redford, respectively. Even though their desire for control is the same, Caulfield and Jarrett differ in what they want to save and in their approach to surviving daily life after a traumatic experience. Conrad Jarrett wants to save himself and get a grip on his problems, while Holden Caulfield strives to preserve his own innocence. Both of these characters feel that they should have been the person in their family to die.
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However, Conrad feels more responsible for his brother Bucky’s death because he could have prevented it. Conrad visits Dr. Berger to stop himself from spiraling deeper into depression. In a moment of passion Conrad exclaims, “Oh, God, I’d like to quit (punishing myself),” (Redford). In a desperate conversation with his psychiatrist Conrad blames himself for messing around during the storm by admitting that, “We were screwing around out there, we should’ve come in when it started to look bad,” (Redford).
To let go of the terrible guilt, Conrad blames himself to explain what happened that fateful night. However, Conrad finally realizes that it was Bucky’s own fault; his brother let go of the boat. In contrast to Conrad’s struggles, Holden desires not to preserve himself or to relieve himself of his depression, but rather to preserve his own innocence. Holden’s preoccupation with sex, and the maturity that comes with it, is too much for the sixteen year old. “Sex is something I just don’t understand. I swear to God I don’t,” explains Holden (Salinger, 63).
Holden feels that by losing his innocence, he will lose his childhood as well. Holden fears that he would lose all memories of his dead brother Ally along with his innocence. It is this fear that is behind all of Holden’s actions. Holden makes false promises to himself about calling his love interest Jane, he gets scared and decides just to talk with a prostitute, and he is not mature enough to deal with a romantic relationship on his own. He even has an argument with his date Sally about a lofty fantasy he has about going away marrying her. Holden wildly describes his vision, “… e could live somewhere with a brook and all and later on, we could get married or something,” (Salinger, 132). Holden is not able to face the realities of his life, and in this instance he delves into a fantasy life where he doesn’t have any real responsibilities. Holden and Conrad are different in the way they deal with responsibilities. Conrad is too quick to assume responsibilities, while Holden fears the consequences of growing up and inheriting many responsibilities. The second difference between Conrad and Holden is that they differ in their perspectives on life.
Holden is an idealist. Holden does not want to look at the realities of life in the same way that he does not want to accept responsibility. After Holden gets beat up by the pimp Maurice, he imagines himself shooting him in the gut. “Six shots right through his fat hairy belly. Then I’d throw my automatic down the elevator shaft – after I’d wiped off all the finger prints and all,” he narrates (Salinger, 104). Holden is not only an idealist, but someone who gets lost in his own childlike fantasies as well.
Holden makes empty threats about committing suicide, but he comes out of his moments of passion long enough to make an excuse to not go through with killing himself. On the other side of the spectrum, Conrad is fully capable of killing himself. Being a realist, he did not fantasize about attempting suicide. No, Conrad Jarrett tried to kill himself. Both the characters realize that they can never get their brothers back. However, Conrad tries to accept the reality of his situation (but fails) while Holden just tries to run away from facing the truth.
In Holden’s ideal world, he would rather be dead in Ally’s place. In Conrad’s world, he accepts that Bucky is dead, but his realistic outlook makes him feel guilty and trapped to the point of suicide. Although these characters seem drastically different in their approach to their harsh situations, they are similar in one specific way. Conrad Jarrett and Holden Caulfield both desire to have extreme control in their own lives, and even in the lives of others. “I’d like to be more in control… ” Conrad exclaims. However, it is more than just being in control.
Conrad wants to control his emotions; partially because he has been taught by his mother to keep them down, and because he does not want to feel the emotions that have built up inside of him. Whenever something happens that is out of his control, Conrad snaps. When his friend Karen kills herself, Conrad says, “I just wish I’d known… I could’ve done something,” (Redford). Conrad’s life is falling apart, and it is accelerated by his desire to keep it all together. Once Conrad realizes that he has to release his emotions in order to regain control, he does so in outbursts around his relatives, parents and friends.
Holden desires to control his own life, but always finds himself out of control. In the situation with Maurice, Holden’s idealistic views take over, and he finds himself imagining what would happen if he had control of his body and emotions. Holden also wants to control time, trying to prolong and preserve his innocence and childhood. However in a turning point for Holden, he realizes that he is not a child anymore. An old teacher of Holden’s causes him to feel very uncomfortable when he finds the teacher petting his head while he is asleep.
Later, Holden realizes that in order to be more in control of his situation, he has to stop running. He shoots down his own idealist plan to run out west when Phoebe asks to go with him. “I’m not going away anywhere. I changed my mind,” Caulfield states (Salinger, 207). With this one simple decision, Holden begins the transition into his adulthood; he has finally stopped running. The characters are similar because their desire for control initially blocks their prospects of improving, but then is key in their respective realizations about their situations.
Even though Caulfield and Jarrett desire to have supreme control in their lives, they differ in their outlooks on life and on the prime thing they want to preserve in their own lives. Caulfield and Jarrett struggled, but by finally learning to let go they both found the control they had been searching for. Although the characters are opposites when it comes to their idealistic and realistic personalities, they are strangely similar because they have both lost a brother. It is amazing that these characters were able to overcome such difficult situations. Their resolve will forever be admired.