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Maturity and Youth: Connection in “For Esme, with Love and Squalor”

By: Helynna Lin, V Form

 

Maturity and Youth: Connection in “For Esme, with Love and Squalor”

In J.D.Salinger’s novel, The Catcher in the Rye, the rebellious teenage protagonist, Holden Caulfield, leaves school and wanders in New York City, trying to resolve his hatred towards the ingenuine, superficial adult world and his nostalgia of youthful innocence. The theme, conflict between youth and maturity, is continued in Salinger’s short story, “For Esme, with Love and Squalor.” The story takes place in an English town where American soldier Sergeant X prepares himself for battle and meets Esme, a 13-year-old girl who has recently lost her parents in war. They have a good conversation, at the end of which they promise each other to exchange letters. After D-Day, Sergeant X experiences a mental breakdown and loses the courage to live, but the arrival of Esme’s letter brings him strength to continue living. In this story, the wartime and battlefield are representative of the dark sides of society, and the two characters are symbols of adults and adolescents. By describing the connection between Esme and Sergeant X, Salinger proposes that youth and maturity can resolve one another’s struggles and fight against the downsides of society. (more…)