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To what extent do the authors of The Outsider and The Catcherin the Rye suggest that society pressures individuals to fit in and conform to society's mores?

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Introduction

PES ENGLISH STUDIES 2003 CRITICAL ESSAY To what extent do the authors of The Outsider and The Catcher in the Rye suggest that society pressures individuals to fit in and conform to society's mores? SACE ID: 333961W Albert Camus in The Outsider and J.D Salinger in The Catcher in the Rye suggest that society pressures individuals to fit in and conform to its mores. Salinger chooses to narrate his novel in the form of a bildungsroman, a rights of passage novel that depicts his protagonist, Holden's, transition from adolescence to adulthood. In contrast, Camus writes his novel in order to record the events leading up to, and the last days before, the execution of his main character, Meursault. Through the employment of settings, characterisation and endings, both authors imply that society's pressure on the individual to fit in plays a major part in both of these climaxes. The importance of setting is established in both texts to impart the idea that society pressures individuals to fit in and conform to its mores. Throughout The Outsider, Camus illustrates society's pressure on the individual through his setting as seen by the uncomfortable and suffocating heat of Algiers that Meursault must endure. The presence of this heat during the funeral procession, when others judge Meursault for his lack of care and emotion towards his deceased mother, and the court trial where others criticise Meursault for his lack of explanation for the murder of the Arab, implies that the presence of heat symbolises society's oppression and judgement on a nonconformist. ...read more.

Middle

I said no."5 Nevertheless, the notion that society desires to categorise people and fit them into certain sections of the social order is still apparent when the Magistrate dubs Meursault as "Mr. Antichrist"6. Similarly, Holden resists society's pressures to categorise him as part of any religion and instead he chooses to call himself an "atheist"7. Holden's contempt for society's categorization of people is also apparent when he comments how he is "crazy about The Great Gatsby"8, a novel that criticises the corruption of the American class system in the decades after the First World War. 1. The Outsider, Published in Penguin Books, 1983 PG. 92 2. The Outsider PG. 93 3. Catcher in the Rye, Published in Penguin Books, 1958 PG. 62 4. Catcher in the Rye PG. 65 5. The Outsider PG. 68 6. The Outsider PG. 70 7. Catcher in the Rye PG. 89 8. Catcher in the Rye PG. 127 CUMULATIVE COUNT: 883 WORDS This idea of society categorizing people also translates to real life, as seen by the recent questionable rescue of the female American soldier in Iraq, an incident where the facts seem to be ignored in order to satisfy the public's view of her being classified an American hero. Throughout both texts, the authors portray the individual's decision either to agree or refuse to conform to society's beliefs in order to show the extent of society's pressure on the individual to fit in. ...read more.

Conclusion

As a result of D.B's choice to give into society's pressure, Holden labels him a Hollywood "prostitute"19 and categorizes him as a "phony"20, someone who betrays individual moral beliefs in order to take on those of society. This is contrasted to the character of Mr. Antolini whom Holden uses as a role model for how not to become a "phony", seeing that he has not conceded to society's pressures and hence does not attempt to hide or change his cluttered apartment, older wife or the fact that he is a "heavy drinker"21. Camus also presents this idea where society seeks to pressure Meursault into at least developing a rational explanation for the murder of the Arab, one that Meursault cannot offer. As a result of his reluctance to give into society's pressures, Meursault is sentenced to death in what the author describes as a "debt owed to society"22, a very different fate from what may have occurred had Meursault shown remorse. This prominent idea that society pressures individuals into the actions they take is also seen in other novels such as Fly Away Peter. In this novel, society's demands cause the main character Jim to give into the pressure on young men and enrol in the Australian infantry to fight on the World War One battlefront, only to die in battle. 18. Catcher in the Rye PG. 94 19. Catcher in the Rye PG. 1 20. ...read more.

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