English Critical Response - Coming of Age - Compare and Contrast of Catcher in the Rye, Yolgnu Boy and Growing Up

Essay by noddis911High School, 10th gradeA+, February 2010

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The concept of coming of age is defined through a process of growing up, and reaching a stage of physical and mental maturity. This process is depicted through a journey of development; from childhood to adulthood, and is portrayed as both a challenging and liberating experience. The three texts, Stephen Johnson’s film Yolgnu Boy (2000), J.D. Sallinger’s novel Catcher in the Rye (1951), and Mai’s poem Growing Up (2008), explore the concept of coming of age in conjoint ways. In all texts, the concept of coming of age is constructed as a journey, especially where the protagonists of Yolgnu Boy and Catcher in the Rye, Lorrpu and Holden, undergo challenging experiences, which lead to liberation.

Yolgnu Boy follows three boys that undergo both a physical and mental journey. This journey is portrayed by the composer as a challenging and liberating experience, and is conveyed through a juxtaposition of the opening and concluding scene.

The visual metaphor of the clap of thunder at the beginning of the film is symbolic of transition to adulthood and foreshadows the challenging physical and mental journey Lorrpu, Botj and Milika will evidently undertake. The loud diegetic music and the harsh flash of lightning represents the conflicting dreams of all three friends, and depicts growing up as a challenging experience. The juxtaposition, conveying transition through journey, is created, during the final Men’s ceremony scene, whereby Lorrpu is liberated from his harsh experiences and is reintroduced by himself as a “Yolgnu man”. The nod from Dawu in this scene, is symbolic of the tribal acceptance of Lorrpu, and represents the tribe’s understanding of how he has been shaped by his challenging and liberating journey, on the path to adulthood.

Despite difference in both culture and context, Yolgnu Boy shares similarities with Catcher in the Rye, which explores a personal response to an highly challenging, yet liberating journey undertaken by Holden Caulfield. Unlike Lorrpu, Holden is a cynical protagonist, who questions the importance of growing up. Through his journey however, he quickly comes to the conclusion that coming of age is inevitable. Prominent among the techniques in the novel is the symbolism of, “where do the ducks go when the lake freezes?”, which is a metaphor for Holden’s situation. This metaphor also serves as a recurring motif, where Holden continually revisits this question, while pondering where he fits in, in the adult world. The dialogue of Holden when he is ‘horsing around’ with Ackley, “Mother darling, give me your hand. Why won’t you give me your hand?”, suggests Holden is uncomfortable now he is faced with so many challenges, and rather prefers the safety and security of childhood. The dialogue shows that Holden understands he will soon be on his own in the world, forced into an adult world of emotional independence by lack of parental support, and is indicative of his fear of growing up. The fact that Holden realises his parents might not always be there for him is a driving factor behind his challenging journey, that in the end leads to liberation.

Similarly, the poem Growing Up, explores the concept of coming of age, by presenting life as a journey, and the stage of growing up as a challenging, yet liberating part of the journey. The metaphor, “turns in our path of life”, conveys that coming of age is a journey to a new stage of life, based on the choices or ‘turns’ that are made. In conjunction, and bearing similarities to both Holden and Lorrpu, the poem links the journey with a number of choices that need to be made, “Paths we take/Choices we make”, such as Holden deciding to leave Pencey, and Lorrpu deciding to journey to Darwin with his friends. The poem portrays these choices as challenging, yet vital to growing up, “ Conflicts cause growth in many ways/Lessons we learn with always stay”. Choices are essential aspects explored in both, Catcher in the Rye and Yolgnu Boy, whereby characters decide the ultimate journey they will take on the way to becoming adults. “Lessons we learn, make us more strong”, conveys the importance of the journey and transition, as well as the concept that the absence of challenges, would mean a lack of liberation.

Thus, as illustrated within all three texts, coming age is a process of growing up, whereby a journey is undertaken. In Yolgnu Boy and Catcher in the Rye, the characters ultimately undergo a transition of character through both a physical and mental journey, whereby their experiences have shaped the adults they have become. As explored in Growing Up, choices ad conflicts make this journey, as undertaken by both Holden and Lorrpu, both a challenging, yet liberating experience, of change from childhood to adulthood.

BibliographyCatcher in the Rye (J.D Sallinger) - NovelYolgnu Boy (Stephen Johnson) - FilmGrowing Up (Mai) - Poem