The Themes of The Catcher in the Rye

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Considered one of the best novels of the 20th century, The Catcher in the Rye has affected readers around the globe since its publication in 1951. Its contemporary critics, however, gave the novel mixed reviews. Compared to the ideals of 1950s America, Holden Caulfield, the emotionally immature, extremely judgmental, teen-aged main character of “Catcher,” embodies the antithesis. Holden was an affront to the new social order, which demanded conformity and propagated the “father knows best” mentality. Americans, however, despite the postwar economic boom, remained suspicious of authority. In idyllic suburban neighborhoods across the country, while families huddled around their new television screens, people discussed their neighbors’ movements, made distrustful even of their closest friends by the “Red Scare”. The American Dream seemed like a golden ring just out of reach, leaving people feeling like they were going around in circles without a clear destination or purpose. With his sense of nostalgia for better times, his bleak perspective of the future, and his contradictory nature, Holden speaks directly to this sense of confusion at the world that Americans felt during the 1950s. The name of the novel is derived from what Holden describes as his “dream job.” Phoebe, Holden’s little sister, who has the uncanny ability to see right through his bravado and blasé attitude, asks Holden to name one thing he likes enough to actually do (Salinger 92-93). After quite a bit of

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