In The Catcher in the Rye, what are some of the societal expectations of that time? What symbols represent the lack of freedom?

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mstultz72 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In Salinger's Catcher in the Rye, written after World War II, American society wanted to break away from the Old World values (family defines the person), European influence (socio-economic status trumps the individual), and psychological limitations (we are repressed by guilt).  Holden attacks all three in the first sentence:

If you really want to hear about it, the first thing you'll probably want to know is where I was born and what my lousy childhood was like, and how my parents were occupied and all before they had me, and all that David Copperfield kind of crap, but I don't feel like going into it, if you want to know the truth.

Also, after the war, young men were expected to fight and win.  Holden refuses both.

Young men were expected to make money: Holden refuses to play the capitalist game, so he sabotage's his chances by flunking out of school, yet again.

Young men were not supposed to be obsessed with sex.  Holden was.

Young men were not expected to be pure artists (like Allie); instead, they were expected to be commercial artists (like D.B., out in Hollywood).  If you count the book as his art, then he is a pure artist, like his younger brother.

Read the study guide:
The Catcher in the Rye

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