Catcher In The Rye
Cultural Assumption #1
Teenage Delinquency

Did you know that the term 'teenager' had never before been used until the 1950's? Or that teenagers were practically excluded from society due to their rebellion and the on the limits of their freedom?

1950's teenagers were quite similar to the teenagers of today. The similarities included: the desire for sport amongst people (mostly in school), experimentation of dating and sex, listening to their own type of music in which parents most likely did not agree of, and the rebellion. However, once the two different time periods (50s & present time) are fully compared to one another, there are seemingly a lot of differences. The major rules and restrictions that were placed upon the 50s teens were outrageous.

The rules included:

1. Obey Authority. - Don't ask questions. "A child was to be seen and not heard." Children weren't treated as if they were people, they were treated as if they were another species.

2. Control Your Emotions. "Anger is a violent emotion" If you misbehaved you weren't normal.

3. Fit In With The Group. - Don't stand out, conform in your actions and appearance.

4. Don't Even Think About Sex.

The rules all revolved around trying to be 'normal' and 'fit in' with society. Examples included, wearing your hair long or wearing Levi's was not normal and listening to rock 'n' roll or reading comic books was not normal. People struggled to obey these rules anyways as if they didn't then they would've faced 'unpleasant consequences' from society or even their peers. Girls were having sex and dating with almost every guy in school to be popular.  Boys did want to get laid, however, the thing is that they would prefer to marry a virgin.

Dating Rituals & Etiquette

{for girls}
• When someone asks you out, it’s polite to give an immediate answer.
• It’s only proper to introduce your date to your parents.
• Don’t apply makeup in public.
• At a restaurant, it’s ladylike to tell a date what you want for dinner, so he can order for you.

• Don’t humiliate guys by trying to pay for a date.

{for guys}
• It’s poor form to honk the car horn to announce your arrival; call for her at the door.
• Ask her parents when they want her home — and make sure your watch works.
• Real gentlemen open car doors for girls — or any door, for that matter.
• It’s chivalrous to walk between her and the curb.
• Bring enough money along.
• No kissing on the first date.

Rebellious Culture

There were two phases in which triggered the 'rebellious culture'

  • marginalisation - where the teens were marginalised by the adults who didn't care for their different values, there was hardly anything that was specifically targeted to teenagers like television shows. They had felt disenfranchised. That was until they started discovering music that related to their life, their world. They were excited, hungry for recognition of their generation, once it came they grasped it and momentum built as teenagers started developing their own style and also becoming a new target on the market.
  • condemnation - due to all this outburst of teen recognition came disapproval. This resulted in active condemnation of teenagers by parents and local authorities.  School dances were shut down, rock'n'roll records were banned, and students were expelled for a mass breaking of rules.

The adult generation did not approve of the values and lifestyle choices of the teens, and were doing something about it, setting new rules, restrictions and prohibitions. For example, boys would be expelled from school if their hair touched their ears, girls weren't allowed to wear pants and boys weren't allowed to wear blue jeans, any talk about sex was taboo and could be punishable, and the parents fear of their daughters if they adored  black rock musicians which would lead to racial commingling.  

Adults in the 1950s wanted to give their children more opportunities and a richer life. With no more depression and the rise of prosperity, adults could spend more while less responsibility and pressure was put on the teen. With less responsibilty and more support from their parents, teens were able to do more things such as go out with their friends more often, buy food more, buy more clothes, and buy more new music. With all this, teens also became much more independent by not asking their parents for permission to do things and just doing them with their own authority, especially if they had their own cars. Teens began to attend school dances, make hair fads, and make clothing trends. As for music, parents believed the new trend of music, rock n’ roll, was corrupting their children.  They thought that rock 'n' roll was the cause of juvenile delinquency.

Language Technique

This supports the 1950's cultural assumption of teenage delinquency of smoking and swearing among teenagers in order to appear tough.

Yes, J.D. Salinger does challenge the chosen cultural assumption in previous chapters and chapters after that.

He does this by pulling in other characters into the scene e.g. Holden offering characters cigarettes and the way they act in response. (When he offers a cigarette to Ernest's mother)

He challenges it in the novel so we may get a better understanding of how society 's reaction to teenagers - smoking and swearing was in the 50s. Especially swearing since it was highly offensive. For example, Goddam was very offensive and yet its a word that Holden repeats over and over.

Also the fact that Stradlater goes out on a date with Jane (who Holden used to like), but wasn't even sure if it was her name. He kept on calling her Jean. Stradlater was most likely just dating her so his social status will increase. I mean like it isn't high enough? He only dated her just so he's still 'relevant' and hasn't gone M.I.A or something of the like.

The specific language technique I had chosen from the novel was alliteration.  The example I chose was, "We can smoke till they start screaming at us".  (Chapter 8, Page 30)