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Example research essay topic: J D Salinger Catcher In The Rye - 1,505 words

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In The Catcher In the Rye, J. D. Salinger describes many of the events, which occurred in his life as a maturing adolescent in the 1950 s. The main character, Holden Caufield, is an extremely complex character. His obsession with sex and money, demonstrates the mindset that existed during the 50 s. The new consumer culture encouraged people to be materialistic.

Although Holden is not a materialist, he does spend money without thinking. It does not seem important to him that he has designer clothes or the most expensive cars; however, he does make it seem necessary to disburse his earnings. During the 1950 s, people were so caught up in the consumer culture that there was no importance in what they purchased, as long as they continued to do so. Holden is more than a cynical 1950 s rich kid at an impersonal and pressure-filled boarding school. The flaws of life fester inside of him and therefore he tries to shield himself from them. By doing so, however, he ignores the positive qualities of his life.

Holden is an innocent adolescent desperately searching for a way to connect with the world that will not cause him pain. Holden also represents the lives of teen-agers during the 1950 s as unsupervised, different and distinctive. His casual attitude about his grades and his willingness to roam the streets of New York without a set itinerary show how the lives of teenagers during the 50 s had dramatically changed. Although people were conforming to a certain perfect identity, during the 50 s, many teenagers were beginning to rebel against their previous, straightedge stereotype and form their own way of thinking. Holden s obsession with sex also represents a teen-age way of thinking in the 1950 s. The old fashioned social rules of America forced the younger generation to repress it sexuality.

This factor plays an important role in Holden s story. All in all, Holden is just a normal, screwed up kid. In my opinion, we all have our own problems, with which we deal with everyday, and Holden is no different. He is an intelligent and sensitive boy, yet has a cynical, jaded voice as he narrates his story to us. Because of his cynicism, it appears that Holden longs to live in a new, innocent world; free from the hypocrisy and ugliness his current world holds. The ugliness of his world is described using Spencer s sick room, Ackley s pimples and Stradlater s secret slovenliness.

His search for an innocent world also carries a strong, moral conscience. This is evident when he invites Ackley to go to the movies with him and another classmate, Mal Brossard. Holden disguises his true self in order to protect himself from the adult world he fears. His hunting hat, which appears numerous times in the story, is a symbol of Holden protecting himself from the outside world. He uses it as a security blanket for warmth and comfort.

Whenever he wears it, he claims to not care what others think of him. Holden s strong relationship with his younger sister also depicts his attempts to hold onto his childhood. By being with Phoebe, Holden is able to forget about the ugliness he sees in the world, and happily continue his. Like any growing adolescent, Holden s environment and past experiences have shaped the person Holden is during the novel. The death of his younger brother, Allie, constantly torments Holden. He fights to hold on to his youth in order to live for himself and for his brother.

Also, the cynicism with which he avoids expressing his feelings throughout the novel may be a result from Allie s death. Although Holden acts like he is older and more mature than his actual age, it is simply a disguise to hide his true desires to remain young. For example, when he goes out and tries to buy drinks but is denied, he never truly attempts to argue with the bartenders, he simply agrees with it and continues his night. The Catcher in the Rye is a chronicle of Holden Caufield s nervous breakdown, yet Holden never directly comments on it. At no point in the story does he even directly say that he is having a nervous breakdown; he simply describes his increasingly desperate behavior without much explanation. The author, J.

D. Salinger cleverly manipulates Holden s narrative to signal to the reader that there is more to the story than what Holden admits or describes. Throughout the novel, Holden exhibits a number of behaviors that might indicate a troubled mind: running through the snow to Spencer s house, writing Stradlater s English composition about Allie s baseball glove, attacking Stradlater for joking about Jane Gallagher, leaving his dorm room forever in the middle of the night, and yelling an insult down the hallway on his way out. Holden s frantic loneliness and constant lying further the implication that he is not well mentally or emotionally.

As Holden tells his story, he never seems too concerned with his own behavior or that of those around him. He often seems angry, but rarely discusses his feelings. Although my knowledge is of the decade of the 60 s is extremely limited, I believe if The Catcher in the Rye had been written during that time period, it would be extremely different. The conformity of the 1950 s provided Holden with something to rebel against. People were never themselves in fear of being different and mocked for their distinctiveness. The explosion of the 60 s provided a free environment where people were no longer sheltered and could live their lives freely.

Holden would no longer have to search for meaning in his life among the fire of the 60 s. His world would not be ugly and hypocritical, but peaceful and happy. The security he searches for throughout the novel would be found at his fingertips. The phony people he intensely despises no longer exist. The age of adolescence was prolonged, and would therefore help Holden develop a strong sense of himself. Throughout the novel, he fears the crossroads between childhood and adulthood; the 60 s would enable him to remain and adolescent until he felt he was ready to become an adult.

If Holden were to be helicoptered into Lincoln-Sudbury, he would be even more miserable than he was in the novel. Adolescents today are overly concerned with their appearance and how others perceive them. They constantly try to change themselves in one way or another in order to please someone else. The raging consumer culture has taught the youth of America that if you want to popularly survive in this country, than you need to own multiple material possessions and discard your thoughts and ideals. Your status is no longer based on the quality of your life, but the quantity of your life; how many cars you own or how grand your house is.

Mostly every student at Lincoln-Sudbury is a phony in one way or another. Of course, there are the Ackley s and the Stradlater s at LS, along with many other people Holden would consider to be phonies. As much as Holden would despise the LS community, it would not be too fond of him either. The LS society today, especially adolescents, reject anyone or anything that is different from its own way of thinking. Granted, the community of LS is starting to be a little more open-minded to diversity, there are still many young adolescents who fear uniqueness. Personally, I do not know if I would be attracted to Holden as a friend.

There are parts of me that say I would, but I am not positive that it is for the right reason. Deep inside I feel sorry for him. I cannot begin to imagine the pain he feels because of the loss of his younger brother, and the fact that he keeps all that pain bottled up inside is even more disturbing. If I had to choose, I would much rather be his friend than his enemy, but I do not know if I am a strong enough person to deal with the issues that Holden holds deep within himself.

When I first read this novel, my freshman year, I could not figure out for the life of me how the ducks related to the book at all! Now that I have read The Catcher in the Rye again, with a more mature mind, it seems to me that the ducks symbolize a heightened awareness Holden has for his surroundings and his inability to express that awareness to those around him. Also, Holden s memory of Allie s death and the image of the duck pond relate to one another. Holden does not believe in an afterlife, he considers himself an atheist, and now he is troubled by unexplained disappearances; first the death of Allie, and now the disappearance of the ducks. Holden fears the idea that people and things just vanish, as Allie did.


Free research essays on topics related to: catcher in the rye, holden caufield, nervous breakdown, younger brother, j d salinger

Research essay sample on J D Salinger Catcher In The Rye

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