A Discourse of the Alienated Youth in the American Culture: Holden Caulfield in J.D. Salinger's The Catcher in the Rye

  •  Samira Sasani    
  •  Parvaneh Javidnejat    


The post-war American society has been depicted in numerous literary works of the American authors among which, J.D. Salinger's The Catcher in the Rye is of significance due to its depiction of one of the most dominant discourses of the period and onward, the alienated youth. The Wars inflicted upon the members of the society an intrinsic wound, the indelible sense of alienation in relation with the world around. The vulnerable youth in particular is a population exposed to such a dangerous phenomenon. Employing Kenneth Keniston’s theory of alienation presented in his influential book, The Uncommitted: Alienated Youth in American Society (1965), this paper focuses on Salinger’s timeless novel, The Catcher in the Rye (1951) to excavate the symptoms of the alienated youth in Holden Caulfield, the protagonist. In so doing, specific elements would be detected in the American youth; namely: the distrust of commitment, pessimistic existentialism, the feeling of contempt for the self and the people around, aesthetic quest, the fragmentation of identity, the refusal of adulthood and socialization, facing different social problems, the fear of death and having experienced traumatic incidents early in life. The results would show the inevitable probability of any single adolescent suffering from alienation. That is to say no matter what cultural background the youth come from, he or she would eventually inflate with the osmosis of realities of the world around and would resort to the destructive bubble of alienation just as Holden did in The Catcher in the Rye.

Keywords: post-war America, alienated youth, Holden Caulfield, Kenneth Keniston

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