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The catcher in the Rye

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Introduction

Although The Catcher in the Rye is set in the 1950's, societal norms and values did not differ much from todays. The 1950s are generally remembered to be times of conformity, and times that bore a highly materialistic generation that indulged in consumerism. Like many writers prior to and following him, J.D Salinger exposed the values and ways of society by introducing a character that was alienated from society in order to clearly depict the culture of the time. From the very beginning of the novel, it is clear that Holden is different. The fact that Holden does not join the rest of his school for a football game is the first clue of his separation from the society. Throughout the novel, Holden's kindheartedness, sensitivity and no-nonsense attitude contrast with most of the other characters and help give a general picture of society during the 1950's. All throughout the novel, Holden uses the term "phony" to characterize people around him who seemed or were superficial, materialistic, shallow, hypocritical or afraid to be true, honest or different. ...read more.

Middle

While out with Sally at the theater, Holden is introduced to a "friend" of Sally's and immediately is disturbed by the superficial quality of their conversation. "Then he and old Sally started talking about a lot of people they both knew. It was the phoniest conversation you ever heard in your life. They both kept thinking of places as fast as they could, then they'd think of somebody that lived there and mention their name."P.127-128. Here, Holden is once more troubled by the people around him. Specifically, he is surprised that people never stop trying to make themselves seem bigger or more important than they really are and is annoyed at the fact that neither Sally nor her "friend" saw anything wrong with their conversation or what they were doing. This here highlights his difference in morals and beliefs with those of the society and once again shows the pathetic characteristics of the people of time. Another aspect of society that Holden avoided and actually detested was materialism and consumerism. Although Holden does mention that he is wealthy and does spend money, he tries to be as humble as he possibly can. ...read more.

Conclusion

Pg 198-199. This quote confirms Holden's feelings towards the corruption of society and helps the reader understand that depth of this disgust. Not only does Holden repeatedly mentions and implies his want for separation from society, but here, Holden wishes to be both deaf and mute in order to stop hearing the voices of society that truly bother and disturb him and in order to not be obliged to even respond. Although this is only a dream, it is clear to the reader by the end of the novel the dissatisfaction Holden feels towards society, and the resentment he feels towards people who are not true and honest and who's first priority is fame, money, and the material world. Whether a reaction to a conversation or a way of life, Holden seriously is disturbed by the way people around him behave and act. He does what he can to keep himself away from the increasing corruption of society. The clear contrast between Holden and the general society that is depicted in the novel gives the reader a comprehensible description of both groups. ...read more.

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