To what extent can society be blamed for the isolation in the lives of the protagonists of J.D Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye and Albert Camus’s The Stranger.
Word Count: 4,283 words.
People who dare to make a unique stand, people who don’t fit into the social rules and norms of the world, are rejected by the circle of Society. Society allows those who fit comfortably into its circle, obeys the regulations it creates and follows what everyone else in the group does. Being outside this circle made by Society is not only a challenge, it has become nearly impossible to do so all these years. As time passes by, society narrows its thoughts even more, and the space of the group descends with time, and those outside the circle, are the ones who remain isolated.
In J.D Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye and Albert Camus’ The Stranger, the protagonists, Holden and Mersault chose not to follow what society had destined for them, and followed their own route. When this route betrays them, and society pushes them into further isolation and despair, they realize the importance of being accepted in the circle of society.
I would like to explore as to what extent society can really be blamed for isolating these characters, and whether it is society’s fault or the individual who suffers in adjusting with the way the world works, and to reflect upon the conflict between the individual and society.
The Protagonist’s Individual Isolation___________________Page 6
Society’s Relationship with the Protagonists______________Page 7
Symbols and Metaphors to portray Isolation______________Page 10
Isolation is the state of being alone and not being surrounded by anybody. In a world consisting of six billion human beings, it is impossible for someone to spend their life devoid of people around them. Someone could be sitting all alone in an empty room, and yet not enjoy loneliness and isolation, and there could be someone struggling with millions of people around him, and yet could suffer an isolated life. Such is the rule of isolation. Physical detachment does not define isolation, as the isolated are detached from the three main functions of a human being: the heart, the mind and the soul. Isolation brings along sorrow to some beings and relief to others. Nobody can define isolation as either a positive or a negative feeling, as there are some who frantically pursue isolation and some who rapidly veer away from it.
It is as good or as bad as not accepting the norms of the world, not following the tide that the others create and not feeling comfortable in other people’s comfort. It is about the desire to create something that stands out of everything, yet something that stands completely true to the person itself. The troubled souls are those who isolate themselves from their problems, the circumstances and the attached sorrow that comes with it. They conveniently decide not to embrace reality and delve into fantasy and illusion in pursuit of happiness, acceptance and satisfaction.
Some people enjoy embracing other people, combining themselves with their pain, celebrating their sorrows with other people around them and slowly fanning their untouched insecurities and inner fears and surrounding themselves with as many people possible. Whether or not, either way cannot be termed right in its approach, as it destroys and disrupts the usual way of living as manifested by a stronger power called God. Anything done in extremity or out of necessity or forcefulness will disrupt the usual way of living. The stronger power called God wants everyone to live life according to the wide boundaries he has set. Society wishes everyone to live according to the narrow boundaries it has set. Society diminishes natural boundaries by a great distance, and humans are supposed to live and die in that cubicle.
The protagonists in ‘The Catcher in the Rye’ and ‘The Stanger’, being Holden Caulfield and Mersault respectively, have chosen to cross those boundaries by a great distance, and thus, have isolated themselves from the world.
In J.D Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye, the protagonist Holden Caulfield is a lonely teenager studying at a prestigious school in the United States of America, and it is his hesitance of accepting the fact that children eventually grow up and with time, and that immaturity leads to maturity, which pushes him into isolation. He isolates himself from the world of adults and primarily remembers them for their negative qualities. While indulging in conversation with adults, he constantly seems to digress away from the topic or veer into talking about irrelevant and unimportant details about them, and this proves the disinterest that lies within him for the older generation. His attachment with people who aren’t with him anymore also states the fact that he values what is lost and doesn’t pay much importance to what he actually possesses. His insecurity is proven by his obsession for constant movement and not settling down in a certain fixed place. He also wishes how he could sync fantasy and reality together, and detach himself from the usual norms of society. It is his obstinacy to embrace the absurdity of reality and dreams of a living life as a recluse.
Whereas, in Albert Camus’s The Stranger, the protagonist Mersault is an existential and isolated character who is affected by none of his surroundings, however extreme they may be, and doesn’t wish to delve into thoughts or express his opinions for any reason. He merely suffices everything with slight nods and mono syllabic responses and thus, can be termed impassive Humans mostly function carelessly to the meaninglessness and absurdity of their condition. To the contrary, sometimes, some people go through an awakening and realization that life is purposeless.