American Literature And Ways They Cultivate Their Own Methods Of Survival Within Their Societies

1484 Words6 Pages
Literary theorist Ihab Hassan discusses the different types rebel-outsiders in American literature and ways they cultivate their own methods of survival within their societies. A common outsider to which he refers is the lonely adolescent. As a character straddling the cusp of childhood and adulthood, the lonely adolescent navigates through a loss of innocence and disenchantment to come to terms with his own male identity, as well as establish his role in society and find purpose as an adult. J.D. Salinger’s novel The Catcher in the Rye follows anti-hero Holden Caulfield through a seemingly innocuous trip in New York City. Throughout his journey, Holden tries desperately to interact with others but often finds himself alienated; in this…show more content…
Holden’s compulsive lying creates a barrier of protection around him when he interacts with strangers. His cynicism and judgment of others is a front as well, specifically designed to protect him from the rejection of others. When people let him down, the sting of rejection hurts a lot less because he has already expected everybody to be “phony”—or more specifically, a vain, status-obsessed suck-up. By calling everybody a phony, Holden creates a safety net and justifies the way others treat him; this is his self-fulfilling prophecy. Holden’s constant decree of “phoniness” also unveils the purpose behind his journey in New York City: he is searching for authenticity and he finds that he can only locate it through the innocence of childhood. Holden suffers from physical and emotional displacement as an adolescent. He is constantly being uprooted from each private school he attends, never creating strong attachments that may keep him at a single school for a long period of time. He is bitter and emotionally stunted since the death of his brother, Allie. Though Salinger briefly discusses Allie, it is clear to the reader that his death has traumatized Holden. He is just coming to grips with the fact that no, life is not fair and that nobody can be shielded from the horrors of it forever.
Open Document