Often in literary characters, through different experiences, undergo changes which enable them to grow. In the novel The Catcher in the Rye, the author J.D. Salinger portrays Holden as a confused adolescent. The author conveys Holden's inner growth through specific incidents such as when Holden is expelled from Pencey, he grows and develops a new attitude towards his family and when meeting with a prostitute Holden becomes more mature when he realizes that sex does not fill the gaps of loneliness.
Holden experienced inner growth after he is expelled from Pencey. Holden's poor marks and attendance have lead him to being expelled from Pencey. Pencey, Holden felt, was crammed with phonies. "It was one of the worst schools I ever went to, it was full of phonies" (67). Holden was always depressed and distressed at Pencey. "I felt like committing suicide" (107). Without any sense of direction in his life, Holden seeks advice from one of his old teachers, Mr.
Spencer. During his visit with his former teacher, Holden is told by Mr. Spencer that "Life is a game boy. Life is a game one plays according to the rules" (8). Holden feels that life is a game only if you are on the side where all the hotshots are, otherwise there is no game. Holden's loneliness forces him to contact past friends. After meeting with a few of his old friends Holden is left feeling unfulfilled. Holden decides to return home to be with his family when he recalls memories of Phoebe. Phoebe was always very devotedly attached to Holden. "She likes me a lot. I mean she's quite fond of me. She really is. Anyway, I couldn't get that off my mind, so finally what I figured what I'd do, I'd sneak home to see her, in case I died and all" (156). Holden comes to understand the importance of family and achieves inner growth after he is expelled from Pencey.
Holden also experiences inner growth as a result of his encounter with a prostitute. Holden feels that when it comes to girls, he can never find what he is looking for. Still a virgin, Holden explains to us that in most cases the girl is the one who does not want to have sex. Though in Holden's case, he is the one opposed to having sex. When Holden is asked if he would like a prostitute, he does not hesitate to accept the offer.
Holden admitts that having sex with a prostitute would be a good time to practice before marriage. "In a way, that's why I sort of wanted to get some practice in case I ever get married" (93). Holden waited nervously yet anxiously for the prostitute to arrive.
However, when she finally arrived, Holden comes to realize that the prostitute is all about business. Holden is completely turned off when she takes off her clothes and utters Let's go, hey. I haven't got all day" (96). Unexpectedly, Holden requests the prostitute to leave. "The trouble was I just didn't want to do it. I felt more depressed than sexy, if you want to know the truth" (86). Holden was looking for someone or something to fill his gap of loneliness. Through Holden's experience with the prostitute, he realized that sex was not the way to go about filling his need for a companionship. This situation caused Holden to grow and this changed his attitude towards sex.
Holden experienced inner growth through looking for companionship which, lead him back to his family and he in turn regains a new understanding that his family abundantly provides for all the championship he needs. Meeting with a prostitute leaves Holden feeling unfulfilled, as a result, he realizes that sex does not compensate for companionship. Holden's new inner growth enables him to realize that he too must deal with the side of life he does not prefer. Growth and change are both an inevitable part of life's long journey.