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Comparing Teenager Essay, Research Paper

It has been proven that the environment that one grows up with will affect that person’s life forever. People, especially, help to mold the life of another person. The novels Ordinary People, by Judith Guest, and The Catcher in the Rye, by J.D. Salinger, explore periods of time in the lives of two teenage boys who are both changing because of the people around them. Ordinary People looks into the life of Conrad Jarret, a seventeen year old boy who lives with his mother and father. The Catcher in the Rye deals with Holden Caulfield, a seventeen year old boy who is returning home from school to his parents and younger sister. These two characters have similar and different situations with which to deal. Conrad’s and Holden’s thoughts and actions are influenced greatly by the deaths of their brothers, by their parents, and by the female figures in their lives.

Conrad and Holden have a very similar factor in their lives; they each lost a brother to death. Their brothers, however, affected them differently. Conrad’s brother, Jordan, died in the same boating accident which Conrad survived. Holden’s brother Allie died of leukemia. Conrad feels guilty about Jordan’s death because Conrad survived the accident. Conrad feels that Jordan should have survived the accident instead of himself. Conrad’s therapist, Dr. Berger, describes Conrad as the “not-so-perfect kid” who survives the accident, while Jordan is described as the “perfect kid” who did not survive the accident. Berger feels that this is what is causing Conrad’s incredible guilt, that at one point drove Conrad to attempt suicide. Holden does not feel guilty about his brother’s death, but rather feels anger. He (pronoun) feels it was unfair that someone as honorable and pure as Allie was taken out of the world prematurely. Holden proves this when he states “…the night he died, ..I broke all the goddam windows with my fist, just for the hell of it.” Both Conrad and Holden lose a great deal of confidence because of the deaths of their brothers. Conrad loses confidence in himself as is evidenced through his falling grades, declining swimming, and attempted suicide. Holden loses more confidence in other people than in himself. The majority of people that he begins to encounter are no longer friends and good people, but rather “phonies”. Both boys begin to cover their feelings. Conrad finds it difficult to express himself to anyone, but eventually begins to confide in his doctor and his girlfriend. Holden covers all his feelings by lying to everyone he encounters. He even states, “I’m the most terrific liar you ever saw in your life.” The deaths of these brothers affect the boys’ lives, especially in family relations.

Conrad’s and Holden’s parents exercise influential roles in their sons’ lives. Both Conrad and Holden come from wealthy families. Conrad’s parents send him to public schools while Holden’s parents send him to boarding schools. Conrad is convinced that he must do well at school to please his parents and solve his problem. Finals were the biggest priority in his life. It was “essential that he pass. Above all else.” He feels that this will make his parents feel better about his problem. Holden is constantly subjected to different boarding schools because he fails to work hard and receive good grades. Sending him (pronoun) to boarding schools is Holden’s parents’ way of initially dealing with his growing problem. Conrad’s parents realize his problem when his grades fall and ultimately when he attempts suicide. Holden’s parents do not realize that he has a problem until he finally comes home from the boarding school Pencey, which is years after Allie’s death. Both sets of parents deal with the problem when it is realized. Conrad’s parents send him to a therapist to talk out his problems and enter him back into the same environment when he is first released from the hospital. Holden’s parents begin with similar action by admitting Holden to a mental institution and by sending him to doctors. Conrad’s and Holden’s parents’ actions affect how Conrad and Holden relate to all the people in their lives.

Conrad and Holden each have important females in their lives. The important female in Conrad’s life is his new girlfriend, Jeannine, while in Holden’s, it is his ten-year-old sister, Phoebe. Jeannine provides a rebuilding step in Conrad’s life. In Conrad’s list of rebuilding goals, item number seven is girls. Phoebe plays a completely opposite role in Holden’s life. While Jeannine is helping to rebuild Conrad’s life, Phoebe is helping Holden discover some of his problems. Phoebe is the one person Holden could trust in his life. Although she is only ten years old, she is strong enough to tell that her brother needed her. Jeannine gives Conrad the confidence needed to tackle many problems. She lets him solve his problems independently and does not get involved where she is not needed. Phoebe, however, protects her brother as though she is responsible for him. When Holden’s parents come home, Phoebe stows Holden in the closet so that their parents do not discover him. The girls have one similar effect on the boys; Jeannine and Phoebe make the boys feel needed. When Jeannine is crying about her mother’s new relationship, Conrad says he has “never felt so strong, so needed.” Phoebe refuses to let Holden leave for the West to show how she needs him. When she meets Holden, she simply states, “‘I’m going with you.’” Without these females in Conrad’s and Holden’s lives, recovery and problem searching would have been very difficult.

The people in the novels Ordinary People and The Catcher in the Rye change the thoughts and actions of the main characters, Conrad and Holden, dramatically. Without their brothers, their parents, and their female friends, the main characters would never have changed into better people.