May 21, 2013 The Gifted Catcher According to Erik Erikson, gifted children tend to spend their adolescent stage in a search for identity and a group of friends to fit in with. In Tracy L. Cross’ article “Gifted Children and Erikson’s theory of Psychosocial Development,” she states that Erikson believed gifted adolescents hide who they truly are and underachieve in order to fit in with others and seem like they are just like the rest of society. The adolescent stage, Erikson says, is a stage between the mind of a child and the mind of an adult. Adolescents show signs of childish behaviour but also expect to be treated as adults, which applies to the main character of The Catcher in the Rye, by J.D. Salinger, Holden Caulfield. Holden, who was a very gifted child, spent most of his teenage years trying to fit in as an adult. However, his mind was stuck between a child’s and an adult’s, and sometimes, he made very childish mistakes. Erikson also states that adolescents spend most of this stage searching for their identity. This also applied to Holden because of the fact he is alone and detached from the rest of society. He tries to fit in with others, but realizes he is nothing like them. To the people that do relate to him, Holden runs from and tries to shun out because he is trying to run from himself. Quoted from Tracy L.’s article, “Erikson stated that the adolescent mind is essentially a mind of the moratorium- A psychosocial stage between childhood and adulthood.” (1) Holden Caulfield, main character of The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger, is the perfect example for such a statement. Near the beginning of this story, Holden gets into a fight with his roommate in Pencey Prep, Stradlater. The fight was started when Stradlater hinted at the idea that he had slept with a girl, Jane, who Holden clearly has feelings for. Upon hearing this, Holden throws a punch at Stradlater. Stradlater obviously fights back and bruises Holden up. After Holden's face is bloody, Stradlater stops and gets off of him. In an attempt to be helpful, he tells Holden to go wash his face. However, of course Holden is bothered by the fact that Stradlater won. Instead of taking his help, Holden tells him to "go wash [his] own moron face." (Salinger 45 ) This action show that Holden acts like a child. Even as a teenager, Holden has a very childish side that he cannot get rid of. As much as he tries to act like an adult, he ends up portraying certain actions that prove him otherwise. An adolescent stage is not only a child's mind, but also an adult's. Teenagers are constantly trying to be treated as adults, even when they prove they are only children. One day, Holden was in a hotel elevator, where he met a man, Maurice. Maurice asks whether Holden wants a prostitute or not, and Holden jumps at the opportunity to be a man, and says yes. (Salinger 90) Of course, showing that one can do adult actions does not mean that one is an adult. However, that is what the adolescent stage is. It is between a child and an adult, and teenagers struggle with finding who they are with. When Holden orders the prostitute, he is showing signs of adult behavior. Even if his intentions/outcomes were completely childish, this action shows that Holden could act like an adult and as a child. Throughout this novel, Holden manifests this behavior in different ways, and sometimes can't even realize it!
Erikson also believes "Gifted adolescents develop a sense of self through various interactions with different groups of people." (Cross 1) Holden proves this very statement to be true. One day, Holden decides to call up his old friend, Carl Luce. Carl is older than Holden, and obviously much more mature. As soon as they both sit down for a drink, Holden begins to ask Luce questions about his sex life. Luce doesn't want to talk about this topic and warns him a few times. However, of course