1950s Teenage Delinquency

During the 1950s teenagers were seen as `delinquents` because of their rebellious behaviour and attitude. The term `teenager` had not been used before the late 1940s. During the 50s, teenagers were seen as having a culture of their own as they used different words, dressed differently and enjoyed different leisure activities. It was said that there would be 1 million juvenile delinquents by 1954. Behaviour that was associated with juvenile delinquents included conflicts between parent and child, dropping out of school, vandalizing buildings and other things and violent behaviour.  Two phases led to the rebellious culture of the 50s, these were marginalization and condemnation.  

Teenage Delinquency in the Catcher in the Rye

To demonstrate the cultural assumption of teenage delinquency, J.D Salinger uses the language technique of offensive language. Throughout the novel words such as damn, god damn, sonuvabitch and the use of Jesus Christ as a swear word were considered offensive words and were only seen as being used by  juvenile delinquents. Excerpts from the novel which show this include:

`I don't give a damn` Pg 5

"No reason. Boy, I can't stand that sonuvabitch. He's one sonuvabitch I really can't stand." Pg 13

Somebody'd written "Fuck you" on the wall. It drove me damn near crazy. Pg 108

Challenge of this Cultural Assumption

To challenge the cultural assumption of cultural assumption of teenage delinquency, J.D Salinger uses the theme of youth. This shown in following excerpt:

Boy!" I said. I also say "Boy!" quite a lot. Partly because I have a lousy vocabulary and partly because I act quite young for my age sometimes. I was sixteen then, and I'm seventeen now, and sometimes I act like I'm about thirteen. It's really ironical, because I'm six foot two and a half and I have gray hair. I really do. The one side of my head – the right side – is full of millions of gray hairs. I've had them ever since I was a kid. And yet I still act sometimes like I was only about twelve. Everybody says that, especially my father. It's partly true, too, but it isn't all true. People always think something's all true. I don't give a damn, except that I get bored sometimes when people tell me to act my age. Sometimes I act a lot older than I am – I really do – but people never notice it. People never notice anything.

In this excerpt, Holden is talking about how no matter what he does nobody ever notices whether it be something good or bad. This shows that teenagers are`nt juvenile delinquents they just feel that the only way to get attention is to do the wrong thing.

Comment Stream

2 years ago

1. The cultural assumption is teenage delinquency and is easily seen through the post. It is described clearly, but I would add in some more outlining about teenage delinquency.
2. The examples help to back up the cultural assumption; however, when doing quotes, I would put the entire thing into quotation marks, otherwise they might get lost in the explanation of the quotes themselves.
3. I can see that you use the theme of youth to explain how Salinger challenges the cultural assumption of teenage delinquency. However, while you explain it, I don't think you really link it back into the text.
4. I believe that you have linked the cultural assumptions back into the text and vice versa.
5. I can't see a link between Salinger and what you've written, sorry.
6. Similarities? We studied the same novel.