Cultural Assumption 3:
Social Classes/ Conformity

Social Class refers to the way society is separated into sections of social and economic status.

Conformity refers to following the  rules and regulations of law set by society. It is behaviour in accordance to what is considered socially acceptable.

In the 1950's social class had a big impact on the way people lived and how there lives played out. This could be determined through your fathers reputation, your job, where you lived and even sometimes who you married. It consisted of an:

Upper class- being the rich people who owned large businesses and had quiet a bit of money to spare.

A middle class- which consisted of people who worked in office jobs, lived in nice houses and were quiet comfortable with money, however didn't have much to spare.

Lastly, a lower class- which consisted of blue collar workers which referred to mechanics, farmers people who worked in small retail businesses such as service stations, bakeries, mills and factories. They usually lived in small houses, with limited amount of money, with none to spare.

This video below shows how 3 different male babies from different social classes grew up, and how their lives played out.

In the novel The Catcher in the Rye, J.D. Salinger demonstrates the cultural assumption of Social Class/Conformity through his use of characterization. The character he uses to demonstrate this cultural assumption is his main character named Holden Caulfield.

Throughout the novel Holden expresses his dislike for the concept of social class and  conformity. Holden believes that people who do things to impress others or to live up to societies expectations are in his words 'phonies'.

Holden does not agree with the idea of conformity, and doesn't plan on living up to societies expectations. He doesn't believe that being seen with certain people should impact on who you are, nor should you spend time with people just to be seen with them.

Quotes from the novel that demonstrate this:

"Stop swearing"- they weren't expected to swear

"I didn't give a damn how I looked. Nobody was around anyway."- shows that Holden is challenging society.

"won't give him drinks" - they weren't expected to drink

"The best thing, though, in that museum was that everything always stayed right where it was. Nobody’d move. . . . Nobody’d be different. The only thing that would be different would be you."- challenging the fact that he didn't want everyone to change for society.

"I think if you don't really like a girl, you shouldn't horse around with her at all, and if you do like her, then you're supposed to like her face, and if you like her face, you ought to be careful about doing crumby stuff to it, like squirting water all over it."

"You don't even know if her first name is Jane or Jean, ya goddam moron!"- His challenging the fact that Stradlator is only going out with this girl to be seen with her, not because he likes her. He doesn't even know her name.

He challenges the assumption of social class by using the language technique of a metaphor which states "life is a game, that one plays according to the rules". He uses this to express to us that in society if you don't follow expectations, don't do  what society tells you to do and don't follow the rules, your considered a loser and left with nothing.

He challenges this through Holden by saying that they shouldn't conform, they shouldn't follow societies rules and they shouldn't go out with people just to be seen with them.  J.D Salinger is telling us that we shouldn't live up to societies expectations on the way we are supposed to live. This is why Holden is always calling people fake and phonies, nobody has any sense of individuality, everybody just follows what everybody else does what society expects of us. J.D is challenging the idea that adolescence isn't just another word for learning to be fake.  

Comment Stream

3 years ago

Again I really like your blog. You assessed the cultural assumption straight away and you explained what it was straight up which made it very easy to read and understand. The background information that you gave on social class was a very good idea as it gave us more information about the cultural assumption. The examples were very well picked as it backed up your opinion on social class and conformity really clearly. You have linked your cultural assumption to context as you explain the roles of being in high class, middle class and lower class. You have stated that J.D. Salinger is telling us that we shouldn't live up to societies expectations and live how we are supposed to live, which is telling us that he is not agreeing with the assumption.