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The Catcher in the Rye

by J. D. Salinger

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Discuss the themes of The Catcher in the Rye in relation to its publication era.

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I would say that one of the pressing themes of the novel is the idea of phoniness and how exterior appearance drives social interactions and one's vision of self.  This is evidenced in Holden's own demeanor toward those he considers "phony" and how he views the "established" and "respected" institutions as hollow and disingenuous.  While society deems them so, Holden goes to painstaking ends to disprove such a judgment.  In many ways, Holden's critique of his social setting is also one of the time period.  The 1950s, the post- war America, was driven by the pursuit and achievement of the externally determined "American Dream."  The ability to display a level of material wealthy and display all the trappings that went along with it became the primary motivation within many Americans.  The dialogue to explore insufficiency in the governing institutions, to express dissatisfaction with hollow pursuits, and to identify where insincerity existed simply did not exist.  In Holden and the novel, one sees where this dialogue is introduced into a setting where it was absent.

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