Conformity and Social Class in the 1950's
Conformity- compliance with standards, rules, or laws & behaviour in accordance with socially accepted conventions.
America had recently won WWII, this meant America looked quite good to the rest of the world and wanted to uphold and maintain this view
The main reason conformity was regarded so highly during the 1950's was because the war had just been won by America and they were keen to keep up their reputation.
Conformity throughout the 1950’s was very important to society. Everybody had a place ( social standing ) and their own roles within that status. Conformity was the rules people had to live by to be considered successful. The average, normal teenager during the 1950’s was meant to be thoroughly focused throughout their schooling (and graduate obviously), participate in certain social events and had strict guidelines on how to eat, dress, talk and act etc, but these guidelines differed for every social class.
In Catcher In The Rye
We see Holden Caulfield’s frustrations within society and the idealism of conformity through examples like ‘The game with Saxon Hall was supposed to be a very big deal around Pencey. It was the last game of the year, and you were supposed to commit suicide or something if old Pencey didn't win’. This hyperbolic statement reflects Caulfield's distaste in the celebrations of Pencey’s team and highlights how Caulfield feels that conformity is a farce. The language technique used for this example is the use of a hyperbole, an exaggeration that highlights the cultural assumption.
The author is challenging the idea of conformity, the concept that everyone has to reach certain points in life to be considered successful, by characterisation. He uses Caulfield to display how he feels about social classes and conformity in the real world. Through Caulfield's character we can analyse that the author sees the idealism of conformity as fake as the word ‘phony’ is used an astonishing 51 times. This displays the language technique of repetition, but is also shows Salinger’s frustrations at everybody, even people he though were above this concept (e.g. teachers) follow the rules of society and are just like everybody else. This means they are therefore phonies as well.
Through Caulfield's character we can see J.D Salinger challenging conformity .
This can be seen when Caulfield's says..
"You ought to go to a boys' school sometime. Try it sometime," I said. "It's full of phonies, and all you do is study so that you can learn enough to be smart enough to be able to buy a goddam Cadillac some day, and you have to keep making believe you give a damn if the football team loses, and all you do is talk about girls and liquor and sex all day, and everybody sticks together in these dirty little goddam cliques." This highlights Salinger’s concepts of WHY everybody needs to follow these rules of conformity to be considered successful.
From the text we can infer that J.D Sallinger challenges this conformity in order to make the reader question why such a thing is enforced, why MUST we play by these ‘games’. Why can’t everybody be true to themselves and express their feelings without having to keep in mind what Is socially expected of us, why are we playing these ‘Games’ and conforming within society.