The Catcher in the Rye Cultural Assumptions

For more information about The Catcher in the Rye- Click the title for a summary.

- Taylah Hayes

Cultural Assumption 1
Teenage Delinquency in 1950's

A teenage delinquent, can refer to an adolescent or a minor who disrespects the rules, acts irresponsibly, recklessly, carelessly and/or participates in illegal activities. Basically, a teenage delinquent is someone who is rebellious and goes against rules and regulations in society.

Teenagers smoking

In the 1950's teenagers were starting to rebel against the rules, be more secretive, more private and sometimes more disrespectful. Teenagers at this time were starting to break away from the societies expectations of how they should act and behave. The older generations didn't know how to react, therefore they started making new rules and regulations, which were stricter and harsher. More was expected of teenagers, making them feel left out in society. They also had little say in the decisions that were made against their actions, which were made by the older generations. Due to this, teenagers rebelled more, breaking even more rules. Which was just the beginning of teenage delinquency.

This clip shows what teenagers in the 1950's got up too.

In the novel The Catcher in the Rye, J.D. Salinger demonstrates the assumption of Teenage Delinquency through his use of characterization. Holden Caulfield is the main character who can be described as a delinquent through his actions and behavior.

He dropped out of a number of schools because he thought the students were "phonies". Due to poor academic performance Holden got expelled from a school in Pennsylvania called "Pencey". Throughout the book he can be labelled as a delinquent through his continuous and constant smoking (under-aged and was considered socially unacceptable),asking for alcohol (under-aged and was considered socially unacceptable) swearing (in those days words such as "god damn" and "hell" were considered swear words) and he is always lying and making things up to mess with people which proves that Holden Caulfield is being described as a delinquent.

Examples from the novel that describe that Holden is a teenage delinquent include:

"I lay on my bed and lit a cigarette. You weren't allowed to smoke in the dorm, but you could do it late at night when everybody was asleep or out and nobody could smell the smoke."

"smoked another cigarette. It tasted lousy. I must've smoked around two packs since I left Pencey."

"Then I tested to see if my breath stank from so many cigarettes and the Scotch and sodas I drank at Ernie's."

"I can drink all night and not even show it, if I'm in the mood"

"I'd probably go down to the can and sneak a cigarette and watch myself getting tough in the mirror"

"There wasn't anything to do except smoke and drink."

"Just to stop lying. Once I get started, I can go on for hours if I feel like it. No kidding. Hours."

""That's all right. We can smoke till they start screaming at us"

These are just SOME of the quotes that demonstrate teenage delinquency through Holden Caulfield.

J.D challenges the idea that every teenager was a delinquent by presenting the idea that maybe they were just lonely and misunderstood. He makes the reader think that maybe teenagers only misbehaved because they wanted attention, as they felt left out, and lonely due to societies rules.Throughout the whole book Holden is talking about running away and escaping from his school which he got expelled from, however certain scenarios prove that maybe Holden was just lonely.

Throughout the whole book Holden attempts to make connections with a number of people however, he fails miserably due to his inability to believe that other people are capable of being genuine and are not all "phonies". In the end, Holden always ends up alone.

J.D. Salinger is challenging the idea of teenage delinquency because he personally believes that it is unfair and inaccurate to be labelling teenagers as delinquents for their actions and behaviour against society.

Comment Stream

2 years ago

I really like your blog. It outlines the cultural assumption you chose straight up and it describes Teenage Delinquency very clearly. I believe you chose great examples and you have plenty of them, they show the cultural assumption that you chose. In your blog I identified one element which was character but maybe you could add another in for your essay. J.D. Salinger is clearly stated as the author and it is shown how he test the cultural assumption.