Catcher in The Rye.
Cultural Assumption One:
This is the sound of teenage delinquency in the 1950's,the beginning of the rock and roll era.
Adults degraded the views and interest of teenagers and there was nothing relating to teenage life available to teenagers. This made many teens angry and rebellion stared to stir, and then came the creation of rock and roll. This music was a release for the teenagers, something special for them. Through this music they could express their feelings and hear about and relate to the feelings of other teenagers. They felt empowered and rebellious, they wanted to be recognised and they took the chance when it came to make a big fuss about their generation.
Overpowered by the huge amount of post war babies and their families, teenagers where pushed to the side and marginalised. Not only where they ignored on the small chance that they are acknowledged they are belittled or degraded.
They participated in frowned upon or even illegal activities to gain attention from their parents and other authority figures, and they really did notice. Numerous new rules came out to try to rein them in, rigorous dress codes, curfews and social standards to conform to. These rules that dictated the teen's lives’ where enforced in many ways, multiple arrests took place, dances where shut down and curfews enforced. All throughout secondary schools and high schools teens where shown instructional videos about the values and attitudes that society believed they should have. Here is an example:
The society of 1950's America believed that every teenager was a delinquent. They did not understand the concept of teenagers and their interests and values, they belittled their beliefs or know how to interact with them. To try and eradicate teenage delinquency society went through two phases the first was marginalisation where teens began to feel ignored and excluded which was the trigger for the second phase of condemnation where teenage activates, interests and lifestyles and anything that unbalanced the status quo were actively frowned upon by the older generation.
In the novel 'Catcher In The Rye' by J.D Salinger is a voice for the condemned teens of the 1950's. The novel shows the enormous negative impact that the marginalisation and condemnation by society of teens had on aspects such as mental health, values and relationships.
They began to develop a destructive and rebellious attitude similar to the one of the protagonist Holden in catcher in the rye, they smoked, drank, stayed out late, vandalised, were violent and were part of gangs.
In the novel Salinger shows the impact that marginalisation and condemnation have had in his main character Holden, Holden suffers from depression and anxiety due to the lack of meaningful relationships he has had with his parents and other important people. He feels the need to put up a 'wall' of bitterness and hostility because he does not know how to interact with others.
Holden believes adults to be 'phonies' and 'put on' and he does not want this to happen to him, we wants to stay innocent and true to himself even though he claims to be 'the most terrific liar you ever saw in your life' he still believes he has not fallen pray to the cons of the adult world. He wants everything to stay the same, and example of this is his likeliness for the glass case displays in the natural history museum he visits which have continued to stay the same, unchanged since he was a young boy. He likes how these cases are 'frozen in time' because he can understand what is happening, new things confuse and scare him because he does not know how to deal with them.
Cultural Assumption Two:
Conformity and Social Class.
Conformity and social class where very important in the 1950's, when someone did not conform to societies standards represented trouble and disruption and the 1950's society did not like this because they were wary and anxious about the possibility of communism coming to America.
Conformity is when the entire community is expected to conform to certain standards, and "normalities" that have been accepted within society. Some examples include every person/family needing to purchase a car, which had recently become way more affordable due to mass production becoming a more common practice.
The erratic and rebellious nature of teens in the 1950's made the older generation uneasy because of their fears of communism emerging in their communities. They believed that the teenagers should conform to the standards society has set for them, be good, respect authority and your parents and be the person that your social class, age and gender determines you should be.
Catcher The Rye shows how many teenagers dealt with the pressure to conform to society, the way that Holden acts, the things that he does and the things that he says demonstrate this. An example of Holden’s rebellion towards conformity is his red hunting hat, he wears this to stand out and to be unique he also wears it backwards to represent his reverse morals to the accepted ones of society.
Social class also had a big role in the attitudes of 1950's America. Social class determined how you interacted with others in the community. It affected your job, housing and financial status.
While we can assume Holden is of a relatively high social class he participates in activates that are considered to be lower class, Holden still participates in them as if they were of his social class.
Cultural Assumption Three:
Mental health was very taboo topic previously to the 50's. It was believed to be incurable, but new treatments came into existance. Previously to this the discrimnation of mentally ill people had been very high while the understanding of them had been low. The introduction of new anti-psychotic drugs had lowered the amount of people that needed to be institutionalised and could live more independent lives.
Holden from has written the entire novel of Catcher in The Rye as a recount from within a recovery home, this activity is recommended by a phyco-analsist to help Holden cope with the trauma he has endured previously. Holden recounts how after his brother’s death he became even more distant from his family and never really got to properly mourn his brother’s death. During his recount he writes about his intense feelings of anxiety, depression and emotions. He frequently refers to him doing things repetitively and 'like a madman.' he exhibited unhealthy habits such as insomnia, compulsion and poor diet and lifestyle, which have been contributing factors for his institutionalisation.