Conformity in America Using Catcher in the Rye as the Example

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The United States in the 1950s

The United States of America experienced a peaceful decade in the 1950s. As the nation became stable and individuals began to act normally, the population started to become more uniform. With the booming economy, many Americans moved into the middle class. The state had a ruler and stable politics. As a result, America's birthrate increased, people relocated to the suburbs, and the construction sector saw a boom in business. This harmony and profanity were accompanied by a conformity-based society.

Holden's Non-Conformity

The older and younger generations had to abide by ingrained societal conventions that served as a code of conduct. In the book Catcher in The Rye, Holden portrays a non-conformist character to the society, culture, and values. Throughout the book, Holden refers to people who seem to have conformed to the system as "phony." He refuses to play by the rules and refers to his colleagues at school, Luce, his teachers, and other adults as "phony." He also hates the movies and Hollywood as he plans to escape to the west. In another instance, Holden got an expulsion from school, yet this was his third school. He refuses to conform to the school system and exhibits delinquent behavior, yet he is very bright according to the conversations he had with old Spencer and Mr. Antolini. Holden, unlike other teenagers, desires to be a catcher in the Rye in a period where his age mates were trained to be corporate men who would climb the corporate ladder and be successful.

Holden's Unsettled Behavior

Holden expresses his discontent in the codes of conformity that exist. He is a teenager but engages himself in what would seem to be atrocious activities such as smoking, drinking, and paying women for sexual pleasures. Holden expresses unsettled behavior unlike other teenagers, for example, the teen decides to walk out of school at midnight, but instead of going home to his parents, decides to check in a hotel. He also does not tell his parents how he dropped out of school and instead walks to the teacher’s house in the middle of the night. His behaviors are non-conformist; usually, a child would not go to sleep at a teacher’s home in the middle of the night after deciding to drop out of school.

Breaking the Code of Conformity

Furthermore, Holden breaks the code of conformity as he converses with strangers. For instance, when he meets with a parent at Pency and has conversations about her son and on the taxi, he tries to make small talk twice, asking where the ducks in the central park go to during winter. Holden expresses discontent in the uniformity in the society as the teenager is not shy to talk about sexuality and does not care whether his beliefs on the matter are the same as others. He seems to be in consistent conflict with his friends and acquaintances.

Holden's Non-Conformist Lifestyle

Holden’s overall lifestyle seemed to question the norms and the culture of peace and conformity that came after the war. He dropped out of school, something that was discouraged to enable the country to have an intellectual workforce and technology for the industrial boom that the country was experiencing just after the war. The author is also non-conformist, as he published his novels in the 1950s and was able to write about controversial issues such as sexuality, employment other than corporate, school dropout, and underage drinking.

July 07, 2023
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