"Catcher in the Rye"
Cultural assumption 1

Teenage delinquency in the 1950s

* In the 1950s teenagers were starting to question everything.Because WWII had ended in the mid 40’s people had a greater sense of freedom and time to start questioning what the point of everything was. Teenagers were a bit different too. They now had the time and money to questions the values presented to them, especially in city areas.  Because many families were in the middle classes and had more disposable income, they also had more possessions. But this didn’t mean that families were spending more quality time together as is shown by Holden's poor relationship with his parents.

* The word ‘teenager’ was created in the 1950’s due to the huge population of kids in this age category and because teenagers started to be more independent and free.

* J D SAlinger paints the main character, Holden Caulfield, in 'Catcher in the Rye' as a teenage delinquent. Holden looks, speaks and acts like a delinquent.  His clothes are not like the ‘normal’ clothes worn by teenagers. E.g. he wears his hat backwards. He swears a lot and uses words such as “goddamn” and “crumby” he also uses a lot of slang such as “chew the rag”–meaning to chat and “bucks”–meaning dollars. Holden also fights, smokes and “flunks” out of school.  All of these things are acts of rebellion against the expectations of adults.

* Salinger uses the themes of Anger and Loneliness to highlight Holden's inability to connect with society, including his parents and teachers. Holden is angry at the world and acting out in the only way he knows how as he.  His hatred eats away at him and leads to his mental breakdown and admission to a mental institution. His actions are seen as being delinquent and typical of a teenage delinquent but were probably more about his mental health problems.

* I think Salinger challenges the cultural assumption that teenagers are delinquents and shows through Holden that there is heaps more going on inside a teenagers head but they were often ignored and most adults didn't know how to relate to them in a post war America.

*Salinger uses the symbol of falling in the novel to highlight Holden's downward spiral.  Mr Antolini, an old English teacher of Holden  says that Holden's behaviour will lead to 'some kind of terrible, terrible fall'.

Comment Stream