Interpretations of 'the Catcher in the Rye'

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Different readers will always take different interpretations of a text depending on a variety of contextual factors. Political, religious and social values that dominate different eras will sculpt ones understandings of the messages portrayed in a novel. A New Historicist take on J.D Salinger’s novel, “The Catcher in the Rye” will warrant different opinions to that of a Feminist approach on the themes presented. Holden’s self alienation, reluctance to growing up, conform to societal stereotypes and his interactions with others convey underlying messages that will be interpreted through historical context and gender roles from modern 21st century perspectives.

An issue explored in the novel is Holden’s disinclination to conform to the rigid expectations dictated by institutions in a very conservative post war society. This theme is addressed throughout the text but is first introduced through Holden’s inability to adhere to any school policies. “some hot shot guy on a horse jumping over a fence. Like as if all you ever did at Pencey was play polo all the time” His skepticism towards the conformity the school represents is suggestive of his aversion to the stereotype poster boy. This bitterness is the grounds to his self-alienation. The red hunting hat he purchases is symbolic of this. “I swung the old peak way around to the back… I looked good in it that way” It demonstrates his need to differentiate from those around him. In addition to this, Holden is extremely resistant to growing up. He delights in the innocence of childhood and therefore the company of his younger sister Phoebe and all that she represents. “I wish you could see old Phoebe in that suit my mother bought”. The use of the undefined second person includes the audience in the endearment he feels for her. A modern audience will have an open mind due to the increasing secularism in society. From a new historicist perspective, we can see that Holden is severely misunderstood by his...
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