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The Catcher In The Rye:An American State of Mind

The whitewashing of all that was corrupt and bad in human nature and society alienated many adolescents. The film Rebel Without A Cause created an impact on culture and society much as Salinger’s novel of a cynical adolescent who refuses to grow up and join the corrupt adult world. Both the James Dean character in Rebel Without A Cause and Holden Caulfield in The Catcher In The Rye show contempt and cynicism for society but neither champions a cause or offers an alternative. In his review of the novel after fifty years of being in print, David Castronovo explains the books impact on culture then and now:

The Catcher In The Rye has had cultural significance and staying power beyond its literary value. Salinger’s novel is about a lonely young boy who thinks there is something wrong with the world, something essentially dead and phony and disgusting about the arrangement of things. But unlike other protagonists, Holden has no unfolding destiny, no mission, and not even much in the way of dramatic moments. The familiar subject of lonely youth is conveyed with a managed incoherence, an attractive breakdown of logic that appeals to the confused adolescent in all of us.

The novel also serves as a how-to guide on avoiding becoming “square” and superficial like adults. To adolescents such advise was invaluable in the 1950s and today. Salinger’s use of a pointed slang helps keep the novel fresh and alive for teens in contemporary culture, but in the 1950s its impact was revolutionary. The post-war drive for material success in American society had created a world of phony, dead adults who only succeeded if they were as corrupt as the system which rewarded them. As Castronovo comments, “Holden offers advice for cant-free living. Be ‘casual as hell’ for instance, and never use the word ‘grand’. Catcher is, in a sense, one of the first manuals of cool, a how-to guide for those who would detach themselves from th...

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The Catcher In The Rye:An American State of Mind. (1969, December 31). In Retrieved 20:36, August 20, 2017, from
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