Essay, Research Paper: Catcher In The Rye

Literature: Catcher in The Rye

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J.D. Salinger’s novel The Catcher in the Rye depicts life in the fifties as
seen through the eyes of a disillusioned teenager. There is a vast difference
between the life of a real 1950s family and that of a typical family portrayed
through the television sitcoms of the day. The Catcher in the Rye is filled with
examples that demonstrate how different real societies are. In the fifties,
quaint and perfect families dominated television home-life. The mother or
“house-wife” on television was always perfect. She would always don a
housedress, frilly apron, and four-inch high heels, all this along with her
perfect makeup and hair. You could always count on your TV mom to be up at the
crack of dawn to make your breakfast. It would typically consist of eggs (sunny
side up, of course), sausages, bacon, toast, orange juice and of course, the
fresh, piping hot pot of coffee for TV dad (we’ll get to him later). She would
always have the paper ready on the kitchen table for dad and the kids’ (
we’ll get to them too) lunches would always be ready. When it came time for
the children to go off to school, and dad to work, mom would always be waiting
at the front door. She would give the children their lunches and a kiss on the
cheek and give dad his briefcase, a peck on the lips and a fond wave goodbye.
Real life moms were never quite that perky. For instance, when Holden was on the
train he bumped into Ernie Morrow’s mom. She had been to a party, alone no
less, which was a no-no for TV mothers. “She had these orchids on, like
she’d just been to a big party or something.(70). She struck up a conversation
with Holden and he proceeded to lie to her about her own son. Lying that much
was not something you would have likely seen very often on TV in the fifties.
Holden’s mother seemed to have a life outside of the home, too. “They
won’t be home till very late, mother said. They went to a party in Norwalk
Connecticut.”(210) That indicates that she was in fact not home. Through the
many episodes of “Leave it to Beaver”, it is fair to say that the Cleavers
never went to a late party in another state and left the Beav at home.
Television dads were very distinguished business people, with undisclosed
professions. The TV dad would always be in his suit and tie at the kitchen
table, coat and all. He always had the same briefcase and never brought anything
to work that exceeded the load of his briefcase. When dad got home from work his
idea of comfortable clothing was a dress shirt, dress slacks, tie and, of
course, a sweater. With his evening paper in hand, he would light a pipe and
prepare to deal with whatever’situation comedy problem’ his children were
experiencing. In reality, fathers weren’t always the perfect businessmen.
Though Holden’s dad was a well-established lawyer, Jane’s step dad was a
drunk.”Her mother and father were divorced. Her mother was married again to
some boozehound.”(42). Problems such as divorce and alcoholism were things
that were never dealt with in fifties sitcoms. The kids were perhaps (in the
words of Holden Caufield) the phoniest in the genre of fifties television. The
children on TV would go to school every day. They also got into ridiculously,
mundane problems like not listening in class or sometimes a little more
seriously: getting stuck in the cup of a coffee billboard sign. They always went
to bed on time and played every sport perfectly. During the fifties real
children had more serious problems, like being kicked out of expensive prep
schools. “So you and Pencey are no longer one.”(237), indicates that
Holden’s leaving Pencey seemed to be a big problem for him. “Daddy’s gonna
kill you.”(214) However, he just shrugged off his sister, Phoebe’s warning.
Another thing uncommon among television kids was the idea of going out and
getting drunk. “G’night, G’night, Sally baby. Sally sweetheart,
darling,” I said. Can you imagine how drunk I was.” Now, I haven’t seen
every episode of “Leave it to Beaver”, but I’m pretty confident that Wally
never went out to NewYork late at night, got drunk, and called his
ex-girlfriend. Although, I could be wrong. As one can see the ‘real’1950s
and the ‘TV’ 1950s were very different; just as Holden’s life in the
fifties was very different from the life of the Beav. Holden’s life was not
perfect, his life was very difficult at times. Bad things happened to him, and
unfortunately his mother was not perfect, she was human. There was a baby boom
and Rock and Roll was born; War was raging in Korea and young men and women were
going over to fight, some were never coming home. Veterans from World War II
were home and trying to make a living for themselves and their families.
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