A classic theme in American literature is overcoming adversity. Salinger's Catcher in the Rye presents readers with a character who falls short of every tough situation he faces. J.D. Salinger uses Holden's rebellious experiences to link all teenagers in the 1950s and the 1960s together. Holden is unwilling to cooperate, socially and scholastically, which brings about mental and physical problems. His story resonates within the teenage community because he reveals likely challenges teens endure while bridging the gap between adolescence and adulthood. Through his failures, he motivates readers to step out of their comfort zone, forget their childish ideals, and take on the responsibility of maturity.
During the postwar booms of 1945, Americans felt secure and took on new challenges. Winston Churchill said, "The United States stand at this moment at the summit of the world." Much of America was lively, and according to Huck's Raft, "the postwar era was a period of rapidly rising real incomes, weekly earning of factory workers increased 50 percent, and millions of Americans moved from urban apartments to suburban ranch-style homes" (Mintz 275). However, many kids growing up during the baby boom faced situations that tortured emotionally. A black teen from Mississippi, Anne Moody, wrote, "I was fifteen years old when I began to hate people. I hated the white men who murdered Emmett Till. But I also hated Negroes. I hated them for not standing up and doing something about the murders" (303). Hate instills in the minds of Moody and Holden; both experience death and are painfully sensitive to it. Both of these characters have ties with the bitter truth and are hesitant of taking on more responsibility. Holden's problems arise from his lack of maturity. Holden tries taking responsibility as team manager of the fencing team, but overestimates the job. While on a subway to a match in New York, he forgets all the equipment.