What is the ideology of Holden in The Catcher in the Rye? 

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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I think that Holden offers a system justification ideology in Salinger's work.  His upholding of the Status Quo is a reflection of how he is right and it is the world, to a great extent, that is wrong.  His strict standards voiced on issues of "phonies," the in-authenticity of conformity, as well as his mistrust of society, in general, are all examples of the lengths to which he goes in order to justify his own Status Quo perceptions.  This ideology is placed into stark contrast in trying to appropriate his love for Phoebe into this schematic.  Holden's main element of suffering and his own internal alienation that he experiences is because he struggles to authenticate his ideology of system justification in light of his love for Phoebe and the feeling that something is lacking in his being.  It is here where I think that Holden becomes a symbol of how system justification ideologies struggle in the face of individualized differentiation of being in the world.  The system justification ideology that Holden and others uphold work for a while and to a great extent in terms of assessing the broad strokes of consciousness.  Yet, when individuals seek to apply such ideologies to their own being and the nuanced conditions with it, such sweeping and generalizing ideologies are challenged.  This causes a sense of existential crisis and emotional chaos in the individual, which is where Holden ends up moving toward by novel's end. The conclusion of the novel does not quite tell us where Holden is both literally and ideologically in terms of his position towards system justification.  His affirmation, or negation depending on one's point of view, of trusting another could be an indication that Holden has not really abandoned his ideology of system justification in terms of the defense of the perception of his Status Quo.

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The Catcher in the Rye

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