The Catcher in the Rye Bringing you America’s most popular loner teenager since 1951
The Catcher in the Rye Author: J.D. Salinger Publication date: 1951, although Salinger was working on the novel for the last half of the 1940s, after he returned from his service in World War II.
The classic American family Family roles were fairly traditional in Salinger’s day: Dad was the sole provider and the head of the household. Mom was most often a homemaker – cooking, cleaning and taking care of her husband and kids.
And the kids? Education was much less of a priority than it is today. If the kids finished high school, college was a relatively rare option. – Getting a job and getting married straight out of high school were much more common. – How does this compare to your plans?
What changed? After World War II ended (1945), the old- school family structure and roles started to change a bit – Victorious war effort left the U.S. much more financially stable…people had money again! Woohoo! – And what do people do when they have money?
Spend it! In the late 1940s/early 50s, there were two consumer products that helped to create our modern concept of the teenager: – The television – The automobile
Hmmmm… So, how would an increase in TV and car purchases change American families? And more specifically, how would these purchases impact teenagers? – (insert brainstorm here)
TVs/Hollywood Advertising split Americans into demographics (men, women, old, young, teen, etc.) “Family time” changed Different shows appealed to different ages Attractive people – the pin-ups
1950s2000s Paris Hilton Robert Pattinson Marilyn Monroe James Dean
Cars More accessible + more affordable Detract from family Sense of freedom Images of “cool” Emergence of fast food Possibilities for drinking + sex
The new teenager So all in all, the 1950s saw the birth of “the modern teenagers,” as we think of them. Holden Caulfield, the narrator of The Catcher in the Rye, is arguably the first modern teenager of literature.
Key questions as we read Catcher: What are the pros, cons and responsibilities of each age group? Why does Holden have such a difficult time fitting in? What makes Holden so relatable as a narrator? Similarities/differences between Holden’s issues and the issues of today’s teens? What are Holden’s priorities? Why? How does J.D. Salinger use symbolism to help develop his themes over the course of the novel?