THE Post-WWII era (1947-approx.
• The time period after World War II was an era
of change, something the main character of the
novel, Holden Caulfield, is not ready to accept.
To be able to truly understand the world in
which Holden lived, we must journey back in
time to the decade of the 1950’s.
A number of significant historical events relevant to
all people took place in the 1950’s. Here are just a
Opening of Disneyland
Launching of Sputnik  Cold War
Rosa Parks refuses to give up her bus seat  Civil Rights Movement
Polio Vaccine is created by Dr. Jonas Salk
Growing up prior to World War II, teenagers
were expected to pursue very particular paths
in life.
Males were expected to join the military or go out
and get a job in order to help bring in money for
their family or to take care of their future
Females were taught how to take care of the
household and prepare themselves to be a
dutiful wife and take care of children.
Also, teens had very little economic freedom,
independence, and input in decision making
prior to WWII.
 Education
was much less of a priority than it is
 If kids finished high school, college was a relatively
rare option.
•Getting a job and getting married straight out of
high school was much more common.
Teenage Life after WWII
 Many
things contributed to a new
lifestyle after WWII:
1. New cultural movements
2. New technologies
3. Better economy
4. Increased focus on education
 In
the late 1940’s/early 50’s, there were
two consumer products that helped to
create our modern concept of the
teenager: the television and the
More accessible + more affordable
Sense of freedom
Images of “cool”
Emergence of fast food
Possibilities for drinking + sex
Life in the 1950’s cont.
► For
the first time,
teenagers created
-high school dances
(sock hops)
-clothing trends (poodle
skirts and such)
-dance fads (the twist,
Mainstream Culture
-poodle skirts and sock hops
-hanging out by the jukebox
-being cool but also “fitting in”
-leather jackets
-riding motorcycles
• James Dean
• Marilyn Monroe
• Elvis Presley
Political climate
 The
Cold War
 Constant paranoia about another world
 McCarthyism—fear of communism in the
US (we will discuss this more next week
in connection with The Crucible)
 This state of unrest and anxiety can be
reflected in psychological problems of
people like the main character of Catcher
in the Rye, Holden.
J.D. Salinger was born in New York City in 1919.
Was upper middle class and attended private schools.
Excelled on the fencing team in high school, but
flunked out of academics.
Enrolled in a military academy where he began writing
He created Holden as a persona.
Was a notorious recluse later in life and was resistant to
having his book adapted into a movie.
Died in 2010.
 Holden
Caulfield, the narrator of The
Catcher in the Rye, begins the novel with
an authoritative statement that he does
NOT intend for the novel to serve as his
life story.
 Currently in psychiatric care, this
teenager recalls what happened to him
for four days last Christmas, which forms
the basis of the novel.
 The
beginning of the novel takes place at
Pencey Prep School in Pennsylvania.
Holden leaves Pencey and goes to
various places in New York City, where he
is from.
The Genre - Bildungsroman
 German
word for a “coming of age” novel.
 Coming of age novel = story of a sensitive
person growing up who is looking for
answers and experience.
 The goal for the character is maturity, which
is not reached easily.
 This type of novel often features a struggle
between the character and society.
 Immaturity
 Responsibility
 Values
 Conformity
vs. individuality
 Grief
 Alienation/Self-Protection
 Loss
of innocence
 Phoniness
Several shootings have been associated with the novel,
most famously John Hinckley, Jr.'s assassination attempt on
Ronald Reagan and Mark David Chapman's shooting of
John Lennon.
After the shooting, Chapman was arrested with his worn
personal copy of the book, inside which he had scribbled,
"Dear Holden Caulfield, From Holden Caulfield, This is
my statement.”
Catcher in the Rye, at different times, has been on the
“banned books” list and was not allowed to be taught in
schools due to graphic language and sexual references.
However, to many, Catcher is considered one of the three
“perfect American books” along with The Great Gatsby
and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.