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Alienation in The Catcher in the Rye

4 Pages 907 Words February 2018

In The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger, Holden Caulfield tells of the events that happened to him near Christmas of last year. The theme is alienation. The setting, the plot, and the symbols show alienation.
The use of setting helps to create the theme of alienation. New York is one of the places where alienation occurs. G.S. Amur notes that Holden battles isolation and his mental stability in New York (343). When someone laughs at night in New York, people can hear it “for miles” (106; ch. 12). Holden notes that those nights make a person feel “lonesome and depressed” (106; ch. 12). New York becomes a place of alienation when Holden starts to feel alone and dejected. Edwin Bowden claims New York consists of “repulsive people” that Holden wants to escape but finds that the same kind of people lives everywhere (95). Holden talks to Sally Hayes about how he dislikes living in New York because there are people that scream and introduce people to “phony guys” (169; ch. 17). New York becomes a place of alienation when Holden wants to escape it because he hates the people there. Therefore, New York is an example of a setting that develops the theme of alienation.
The theme of alienation becomes evident at Pencey Prep. Malcolm Bradbury notes that a person sees Pencey Prep as a school that ministers “to the needs of society” to prepare “boys for their social roles” (346). Bradbury also states that Pencey Prep is a school known for its “culture of dormitories, dating, bull-sessions in which the boys compare sexual experiences” (346). Pencey Prep is a place known for guiding “boys into splendid, clear-thinking young men” (4; ch. 1). Because Pencey is so well known, Holden feels alienated. Bowden claims that Holden runs from the “imprisonment” of the world he lives in to find “the life of uncommitted freedom” (95). One night Holden gets into a fight with Ackley and leaves Ackley’s dorm room (66; ch....

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