Modern Society’s Demands Essay

1074 words - 5 pages

Modern Society has set certain standards that they expect everyone to conform to, but in The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger Holden Caulfield is used to show what happens when humans do not conform to society’s wishes. J.D. Salinger uses Holden Caulfield to tell some of his own story and to show the consequences of not conforming to society and how society will eventually force everyone to conform. Salinger subtly points out may of societies demands, such as growing up and understanding sex. Holden refuses to give into society and will not grow up because he formed an unfounded definition of adulthood. Conformity plays a large part throughout the novel because it eventually leads Holden into a mental institute because he cannot and is not willing to conform to all of society’s demands. J.D. Salinger uses a young Holden Caulfield to show the affects of self-alienation, that people cannot run away from the inevitable, and how sexual identities affect humans in a society where conformity is expected.
Modern society demands that humans form friendships, which is echoed by Salinger through Holden’s lack of friends and irrational decisions. J.D. Salinger uses Holden to show how self-alienation affects human being and the people around them. Critics of the book have said, “Holden is an outcast like Huck Finn, and like Huck he tells his story in his own idiom, Holden's voice is not merely a virtuoso recreation of contemporary adolescent speech” (Sandock). Holden is considered an outcast because he refuses to solidify a friendship with anyone but at the same time Holden always wants to be around humans. Salinger uses Holden to stress the importance of friendships and how they keep humans sane. Holden’s lack of friendships has led him to consider suicide and committing murder. After Maurice, a pimp and elevator boy, came into Holden’s room and stole five dollars, Holden got an obscene idea: “As soon as old Maurice opened the doors, he'd see me with the automatic in my hand and he'd start screaming at me, in this very high-pitched, yellow-belly voice, to leave him alone. But I'd plug him anyway. Six shots right through his fat hairy belly” (Salinger 104). The message that Salinger sends by making Holden self-alienated is that everyone needs friends, and this idea has been further solidifies by the number of murderers who are friendless. Holden’s self-alienation causes him to believe that it is possible to hold onto his childhood forever.
Society demands that humans grow up and conform to the world which Salinger models with Holden’s aspiration to stay a child. After losing his brother Allie to Leukemia, Holden comes to the conclusion that growing up means that he is going to die. Holden’s idea that about growing up is changed as he grows up because he starts to believe that growing up means becoming a phony: “It is, in Salinger's Manichean universe of child angels and adult ‘phonies,’ the only moral alternative—otherwise all is corruption” (Baumbach)....

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