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Holden And Society

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Holden and Society

J. D. Salinger's notable and esteemed novel, Catcher in the Rye, reflects the hypercritical views of a troubled teenager, Holden Caulfield, towards everyone around him and society itself. This character has a distinguished vision of a world where morality, principles, intelligence, purity, and naivety should override money, sex, and power, but clearly in the world he inhabits these qualities have been exiled. Holder desperately clings to and regards innocence as one of the most important virtues a person can have. However, he son becomes a misfit since society is corrupted and he yearns for companionship, any kind of connection with another to feel whole and understood again. Ironically, despite his persistent belittling and denouncing of others, he does not apply the same critical and harsh views on himself.

In Holden's eyes, society has influenced people to lose themselves. He is outraged by how easily citizens would bend to the ways of society to fit and prevail in it. He claims his own brother, D.B.--a talented writer--sold out his potential to Hollywood. In his mind, D.B. could be viewed as a prostitute that would sell himself, or his services, to whoever was the highest bidder. Ernie is too portrayed in such a way as D.B. is, as the accomplished and gifted pianist was depicted as using his talent to gain fame and money. Holden found himself disgusted by Ernie's corniness and the way of showing off his talent when passionately playing the piano to entertain as well as amazing the public. Stradlater also is represented as someone that sold out, not by his talents, but by his appearance. Holden angrily referred to him as a real hot-shot for taking advantage of his looks to get any kind of favors done. Disappointment, anger, and frustration filled Holden's heart as he saw these people giving away their innate abilities for something that would not last forever; fame and money.

Holden's inability to fit into society brought on hatred to it, and instead of admitting he too was at fault, he criticizes all the people in cliques on account of their fakeness and dishonesty. To begin with, he finds himself disliking Pencey as a school since its motto claims that it molds boys into upright, respected members of society. However, Holden soon declares that the school is hypocritical since it does nothing to achieve their motto and as a result, most boys end up remaining the same people as they once came to school and for some it shaped them into crooks (which Holden will not stand for). Another group he heavily criticizes is Catholics, not because of their religion, on the contrary, he still believes in the doctrine of the bible, Jesus, and so forth; but because he believes most Catholics seem to always want to find out if you also are one of them. If not they exclude those who do not practice their same religion. Holden refers to this as if Catholicism and their followers are similar to a clique, one he cannot join. Finally Holden finds himself all alone, a misfit, as he still refuses to bend to society's way and become a "phony" like everyone else.

Regardless of how much Holden reprimands others for being pretentious and ostentatious, he is not far from receiving criticism as well. He sees people around him selling out their talents such as D.B. using his writing skills to write screen wrights and live of in a life of glamour in Hollywood, as well as Ernie earning admiration and a living by playing the piano at a club, and he condemns them for following what society asks of them. But it is my belief that he is really jealous of them as he lacks their potential and yearns to eventually find that latent and dormant talent that will make him stand out and be admired by others. Holden even scrutinizes Ivy League boys for being snobbish and taking advantage of what they have, and yet again he is a hypocrite since he knows he will never be able to compete in the same level as any one of them. Holden uses criticism as a way to hide how envious he feels towards others as he lacks an essential trait that would make others accept him and let him fit in.

Although Holden claims he cannot stand hypocrisy in others, he still is unable to follow the same criticism on himself



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