Twenty First Reader Is Always on the Side of the Outsider

Topics: Meaning of life, The Reader, Absurdism Pages: 6 (2215 words) Published: May 12, 2013
The twenty-first century reader is always on the side of the outsider.

By comparing and contrasting appropriately selected parts of the two novels you have studied for this question, show how far you would agree with the ciew expresed above. Your argument should include relelvant comments on each writer’s methods and relevant contextual material on the twenty-first century reader.

Reader reactions vary enormously with personality, society and morals. The personality of the reader will dictate the extent to which the reader engages with outsiders such as Holden and Mersault. Whereas the society that the reader lives within ordains the reader’s interpretation of what it is to be an outsider. Ultimately it is the morals, products of both personality and society, each individual holds which influence whether any individual reader sides with the outsider.

For a twenty-first reader, living in a pluralist society, eccentricities and idiosyncrasies of individuals are generally more accepted and such things do not define an outsider in the modern world. Salinger’s use of first person narration depicts Holden Caulfield as an outsider from the outset because of his repeated singular “I” and the absence of collectives such as “we” even when Holden is in the company of other people. The use of such enclaves encourages a true and personal renditition of the inner teenage voice. According to Costello this “authenticity” is revealed in the idiosynchrasies of Holden’s ‘inside’ speech patterns (that do not feature in his direct speech) such as the use of fragmented comments and the informal repetition of expletives such as “goddam” and “bastard”. Repeated phrases surrounding such expletives like “goddam phony bastard” induce a fondness from a sympathetic modern reader. Although swearing is still used in the ‘traditional’ sense of cursing, it is becoming a more tolerated style of speech and does not provoke censorship it did at the time of The Catcher in the Rye‘s publication. Introductions of The Catcher in the Rye by school library boards into mainstream education after such controversy over the books blasphemes and expletives alone acknowledges the conversational style’s appeal to younger readers. The teenage voice appears to be accessible and familiar and thus increases the likelihood of an adolescent reader “sid(ing)” with the outsider. The informal, direct address of Salinger’s episodic narration also spans an age of readers who find the assumption of a relationship with Holden due to the use of “you” and the retrospective narrative, that so often transforms into a stream of consciousness, more believale, and so are more likely to “side” with him.

However, like the typical contemporary 1940s reader, particular morals held by a twenty-first reader could disapprobate siding with Holden because of such a writing style. His informal language, where swearing and blasphemes frequent much of his unstructured voice, could offend many readers regardless of their surrounding society and in fact Catcher in the Rye is still censored in many American schools today despite its critical acclaim. Ironically, and with a laughable hypocrisy, such outrage at expletives is also seen in the character of Holden himself, “I saw something that drove me crazy. Somebody’d written “Fuck you” on the wall”. Holden’s fury at this expression could have the power to bring those readers alienated by the informal use of “bastard” with the revelation that Holden does have moral standards. His rage to this, as seen in “I kept wanting to kill whoever’d written it... kept picturing... how I’d smash his head on the stone steps till he was good and goddam dead and bloody” paradoxically shows Holdens respect for others in that he recognizes the use of such language to others is offensive to most people. But yet again Holden’s explosive, hyperbolic reaction has the power to alienate a twenty-first reader. Whether his reasons fo such a reaction can be admirable, the...
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