Catcher in the Rye
The Catcher in the Rye is set around the 1950s and is narrated by a young man named Holden Caulfield. Holden is not specific about his location while he’s telling the story, but he makes it clear that he is undergoing treatment in a mental hospital or sanatorium. The events he narrates take place in the few days between the end of the fall school term and Christmas, when Holden is sixteen years old.
Alienation as a Form of Self-Protection: Throughout the novel, Holden seems to be excluded from and victimized by the world around him. He continually attempts to find his way in a world in which he feels he doesn’t belong. As the novel progresses, we begin to perceive that Holden’s alienation is his way of protecting himself. He uses his isolation as proof that he is better than everyone else around him and therefore above interacting with them. The truth is that interactions with other people usually confuse and overwhelm him, and his cynical sense of superiority serves as a type of self-protection. Holden’s alienation is the cause of most of his pain. He never addresses his own emotions directly, nor does he attempt to discover the source of his troubles. He desperately needs human contact and love, but his protective wall of bitterness prevents him from looking for such interaction. Alienation is both the source of Holden’s strength and the source of his problems.
Belonging to the School Community/ a group
The school community's collective allegiance to the football team enables them to belong to each other: “Anyway it was the Saturday of the football game with Saxon Hall…It was the last game of the year and you were supposed to commit suicide or something if old Pencey didn’t win”. Pg. 2 (Pencey Prep is a school the main character, Holden went to)
The use of the verb, ‘supposed’, demonstrates the expectations of the community. The high modality of the verb, ‘suicide’ highlights the strength of their connection Holden’s sarcastic tone mocks their sense of belonging, thus segregating him.
“There was about three inches of snow on the ground (at Pencey Prep after dinner one night) and coming down like a madman. It looked pretty as hell, and we all started throwing snowballs and horsing around all over the place. It was very childish, but everybody was really enjoying themselves.” Pg. 31
This anecdote demonstrates a sense of belonging to peers in the school community. Plural pronoun, ‘we’ and the adjective, ‘all’ demonstrates the all-encompassing sense of belonging across the group.
“It wasn’t allowed for students to borrow faculty guy’s cars but all the athletic bastards stuck together. In every school I’ve gone to, all the athletic bastards stick together”. Pg. 37
The conjunction, ‘but’
Repitition of ‘athletic bastards’
The adjective and negative ‘bastards’
The repetition of the adverb, together’
Demonstrates the way in which individuals are connected through a common interest. Whilst, the negative connotations of, ‘bastard’, elucidate Holden’s negative view on this group of people and suggests that he does not belong to this group.
Holden’s Absence of Belonging
“Practically the whole school except me was there.” Pg. 2 Adjective, ‘whole’, in relation to the noun, ‘school’, juxtaposes against the personal pronoun through the use of the conjunction, ‘except’. This highlights Holden’s isolation from the community.
“I’d just got back from New York with the fencing team…I left all the foils and equipment and stuff on the goddam subway…The whole team ostracized me the whole way back on the train.” Pg. 3 Verb, ‘ostracized’, demonstrates Holden’s exclusion and the use of the adjective, ‘whole’, exemplifies the full extent of his exclusion.
“I felt so lonesome, all of a sudden. I almost wished I was dead….Boy, did I feel rotten. I felt so damn lonesome.” Pg. 42 Repetition of the abstract noun, ‘lonesome’ highlights Holden’s sense of isolation. The...
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