Countless Perks of Being a Wallflower.” The story follows

Countless modern novels deal with the theme of
growth and adulthood, one such popular example being “The Perks of Being a
Wallflower.” The story follows the protagonist as he wavers between the line
that separates adolescence and adulthood, just like Holden Caulfield in J.D.

Salinger’s 1951 classic novel of teenage angst and rebellion “The Catcher in
the Rye.” The final scene of the novel finally puts an end to Holden’s journey,
as he watches his younger sister grab for a gold ring on a carousel. The gold ring
plays a crucial role in the book as it symbolizes maturity and demonstrates the
inherent risks in the transition to adulthood; Holden’s reaction to the gold
ring is in strong contrast to earlier in the novel when he dreamed of
preserving childhood innocence.

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In the last and arguably the most important
scene of the novel, Holden watches as his young sister Phoebe risks her safety
by reaching for the gold ring in order to win a prize at the carousel. By
portraying children dangerously reaching for it, Salinger points out that there
are certain risks one must undergo to reach adulthood. Gold is a symbol of
wealth, a quality that all adults desire strongly; Phoebe reaching for a gold
object creates a stark contrast between her childlike innocence and the impurity
of the adult world. The gold ring that sticks out next to the carousel
symbolizes maturity and adulthood that all children aboard the carousal will
eventually approach. As all children do, Phoebe views the gold ring as a
“prize” and her curiosity propels her to “keep trying to grab for it.” The
carousel acts as a symbol of innocence and is almost identical to the image
Holden has of children in the rye field falling over the cliff. Holden is “sort
of afraid Phoebe will fall off the goddamn horse” and into the chasm that he
calls adulthood. However, instead of intervening, Holden allows Phoebe to risk
her safety, remarking that he has to “let them do it, and not say anything.”


The gold ring serves as an important moment of
enlightenment for Holden. He finally realizes that aging is inevitable and that
a “catcher in the rye” cannot exist in the real world. “If they fall off, they
fall off, but it’s bad if you say anything,” Holden says, implying that losing
innocence is part of growing up. Previously in the book, Holden’s
misinterpretation of the poem by Robert Burns led him to think that it was his
duty to prevent all children from falling off the cliff. His own inability to
negotiate the chasm that separates him from childhood made him overly protective
of children. Refusing when Phoebe offers him a ride, Holden now lets the
children roam free in the field and for the first time acts as an adult
watching them from afar. Although Holden still appreciates innocence, he is now
willing to accept the reality of maturity, and slowly lets go of his tie to
childhood. The song that plays at the carousel- “Smoke Gets In Your Eyes”-is a
song about overcoming loss that is reminiscent of Holden’s situation. Even the
red hunting hat, a symbol of his individuality, does not protect him any longer
when Holden gets “soaking wet” from the rain. At the start of the novel, Holden
was bitterly complaining about the weather that was “freezing his ass off.” Now
despite standing under the cold rain, he feels “so damn happy”- a proof that
Holden has changed.

The gold ring symbolizes maturity and signals
the end of Holden’s fight against change. As he sits experiencing the happiest
moment of his life, Holden understands the risks of growing up and accepts the
world for what it is. This is incongruous with Holden’s previous opinions in
the novel. Holden’s fear of growing up made him want to hold on to the cliff
that he sees as innocence, which was really his blindness and inability to
accept the adult world. The gold ring successfully concludes the story and
starts Holden’s journey as an individual taking a brave stride into adulthood.